Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How we see the rest of the world.

A while back I read a piece by David Wong that hit the nail on the head; at least for me. This is not a rehash of the 2016 election, it's a piece on how each side in this divided nation sees the other. The truths the author communicates are so apparent to me, and yet are unrecognizable to many on the other side of the divide.

"Nothing that happens outside the city matters!" they say at their cocktail parties, blissfully unaware of where their food is grown. Hey, remember when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans? Kind of weird that a big hurricane hundreds of miles across managed to snipe one specific city and avoid everything else. To watch the news (or the multiple movies and TV shows about it), you'd barely hear about how the storm utterly steamrolled rural Mississippi, killing 238 people and doing an astounding $125 billion in damage.
But who cares about those people, right? What's newsworthy about a bunch of toothless hillbillies crying over a flattened trailer? New Orleans is culturally important. It matters. To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. "Are you assholes listening now?" 

I empathize with the author in many ways.

I was raised in the vast ocean of red America; on a cattle ranch in rural, Northern California. You know, the other California. The one without the sandy beaches and Facebook millionaires. In fact, the three room school I attended from first to eighth grade had just over 50 students K-8th. My graduating class was 8.

I have drawn a paycheck as a working cowboy. I can still rope, ride, and work cattle. I can weld, operated heavy equipment of all kinds, and in a pinch, I could build you a very basic house.

These days however, I work on a university campus in the tech field. Davis is a dark blue island in that red ocean of inland California. Along with all the skills, and experiences I gained on the ranch, I can also fusion-splice fiber optic cable smaller than the size of a human hair.

I am at home in the smallest cafe or backwoods bar in the middle of nowhere, talking to a diesel mechanic, school teacher, or oil field worker. I am also perfectly comfortable in a 26th floor office in San Francisco talking to a CEO about a million dollar project management proposal. I'm also cool with hanging out in the LBGT center on campus talking to someone with half their hair shaved off and the other side colored blue and pink.

If you are cool to me, I'll be cool to you. And even if you're not cool to me, I'll probably give you the benefit of the doubt, you might just be having a really crappy day.

Other than my views on the Second Amendment, I was quite liberal when I was a young man.

I'm not sure how, given my background and rural upbringing, I developed my outlook on those around me. Maybe I was just excited to meet anyone new. After all, my nearest friend lived from grade school lived miles away.

To me, people are just people. I take each individual as they come along. Well, at least I try to have that outlook. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of grouping people into "them" categories, but I try hard not to.

My point is, I know both sides in this divided nation. They are all just people. Some I agree with politically, some I do not. Some are racists, some are prejudiced, some are hopelessly ignorant of the way the world works, and some are so stuck in their "us" vs "them" mentality, it's hard to have an honest conversation with them.

Now, I know those of you on the left will read that last part and be thinking, "Ahah! I knew it. You just admitted those rural hillbillies are bunch of bigoted homophobes." While you folks on the right will read that and think, "Ahah, I knew it. You just admitted those hipster, social justice morons are close minded and prejudiced."

Guess what? You are both right, and both wrong.

Here is what is happening, at least the way I see it.

We use the most extreme examples of behavior to make the case, both for our side, and against the other side. We get stuck in our own cocoons of media and friends, where we become isolated from hearing what is happening in the rest of the world. Just look at your Facebook feed.

Before the election, the Super Trumpers would post click-bait articles labeled "Hillary get destroyed by a veteran" or Hillary fans would post "Trump supporter gets owned by The Daily Show".  It was, and still is, the primary focus of the media. Give them what they want.

We tend to avoid news that is contrary to our views. We 'Hide' people who post stories on Facebook we disagree with, or we just 'Unfriend' them. We dismiss articles or essays if we disagree with the headline without ever reading the piece.

The simple fact is, we don't want our opinions challenged, let alone changed. We don't want to admit that we might be wrong. Again, let's not be thinking, yeah, you guys over on the other side just don't get it, I'm talking to you too. I must include myself in this as well.

If I read a piece written by a person on the far left, I immediately start picking apart their premise, their facts, and their points. I am not reading the piece to understand their point of view, I am reading it with the idea of defending my own point of view. That is a mistake.

I should be trying to understand where they are coming from. Do they have a point I never considered?  It doesn't mean they are right, maybe they're full of beans. I just want to know how they came to their opinion. Look, if we don't start to understand the other side, even when they are wrong, maybe especially when they are wrong, we are not going to talk about important things. Again, this is a huge mistake.

The easiest way for people to engage with those they disagree with is in a binary, I'm right - You're wrong attitude. It protects us from what we fear the most: Being wrong. That is our blind spot. It is where our reactive brain jumps in, and slams the door on any well thought-out opposition to our way of thinking.

When we look at every major news story from 'our side' without trying to find out what the truth is, that's when we stop thinking and just go into that Good/Bad, Right/Wrong mode. This is the mode most of the noisy people on your Facebook feed are stuck in.

We will  keep reading our side's slant on the coverage and look for stories that point to how 'right' we are. This is called confirmation bias. It is an easy trap to fall into, but it is dangerous if you are unaware it is happening to you.

As a nation, if we keep using the most extreme examples to define the other side, we will not see the flaws in our side, and that is even worse. At least we hold a little influence over 'our side'. They should, in theory, listen to the people who vote for them, give them money, and support their political goals. Well, this is how it should work.

Why do we point to the extremes? Extremes are sexy. Extremes are attention getting. They are what leads every newscast, every newspaper headline, and what drives most of our political discourse. Very seldom do I ever get into discussions about what is going to happen when our historically low interest rates go back up. No one seems to know, or care, the amount of interest we pay each year on the 21 trillion dollars of debt will soon be more than we spend on the entire defense budget.

No, what I get when I talk politics is, Trump is a racist. or everyone who supported Hillary is a communist. Trump Good, or Orange Man Bad. That is our world today.

This why conservatives look at a young, socialist like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and think, "How stupid are the people who voted for her?" They can't understand the reason she was elected. They don't understand the district she represents. The NY 14th Congressional District is the Bronx and Queens. It  has a 29% Democrat advantage in party registration. It is deep blue. Think of it as rural Wyoming in reverse.

The people in that district are city people. They use government transportation everyday. Chances are someone in their house or a family member works for the City, State or Federal government. Someone in their family is probably signed up for some sort of subsidy or assistance program. They look at the government as a part of their lives. They want it do more for them, and make things better for them individually.

You are not going to win the democratic primary in that district by talking about balancing the budget or working with Donald Trump to get legislation passed that might help your constituents. You are going to win by going as far to the left as you can without calling for outright communism. AOC is giving the people what they want, or at least what they think they want.

The same thing happens on the other side. When progressives look at Trump all they see is an angry, racist, bigot who lies all the time, and wants to turn back the clock to the 1950s. They see all his supporters as outright racists, or at least closet racists. They cannot fathom any reason at all why anyone with a brain could ever vote that man.

Rural and suburban America sees Donald Trump a little differently.  They are not government-centric voters. Their only interaction with the government is when they pay taxes, go to the DMV or have to wade through the mountains of paperwork to get a building permit for that new redwood deck in the backyard. These people look at government as a necessary evil. Something to be avoided.

This is 180 degrees from a working, single mom whose child gets a free taxpayer provided lunch at school, lives in a subsidized apartment, gets Home Energy Assistance Program; Utility Bill Assistance through a government subsidy, and is enrolled in a few different types of public assistance like SNAP. Now, I do not mean that most people in that district live that way, but chances are, you know someone or have a family member in a similar situation.

It all comes down to the lens you see government through.

When Trump does something, anything, both groups look at the event through their respective lenses.
As Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons likes to say, they are watching the same movie on two different screens.

Lets say Trump signs an executive order rolling back an Obama era order about the Clean Water Act definitions. The progressives go nuts. To them, this just proves that Trump doesn't care about people, and doesn't mind if the water is poisoned, as long as his big-business friends can make more profit. Also, Putin must have ordered him to this anyway.

To the Trump supporters, big government is bad, and any Obama regulation is probably terrible anyway. If you live in the country or work around farmers, you know how far the EPA was stepping over the line. To them, Trump is just making it easier to grow the economy and make more jobs for America. Same movie, two different screens.

Look, I don't have any answers to this predicament. Well, maybe just one. As much as you will hate it, you need to start calling fouls on your team.

When the president does, or tweets, something that is stupid, or it's an outright lie, call him on it.  Mr. President, that kind of tweet, or that decision is not helping your cause, which is my cause. I wish you would stop it. You will find that when you call balls and strikes on both sides, you will earn a bit of respect from your progressive friends. Just a tiny bit, but it's a start.

What is even better is you can now go up to your progressive friend when Nancy Pelosi does or says something stupid, and ask them if they think what she said is okay. "Do you really want stand behind her statement, or do you wish she had not said it?" You can ease into it, "I know you still like her, but that is really a dumb thing say right?" Don't beat them over the head with it, but just get them thinking that 'their side' is not 100% right all the time.

Then go back to holding your side accountable.

We all want to 'win' the argument. Sometimes we want to win all all costs.

We start calling people terrible names, personally berating friends, and if you're mad enough, just being a straight up asshole. That isn't winning anyone to your side. In fact, that just confirms to them what kind of person makes up the other side.

It's easy to play the 'Whatabout' game with people. What about when Obama did this? What about when Bush did that? It rarely changes anyone's opinion.

Let's start a dialogue with people. Let's try to imagine how they think. Why do they believe what they believe? Then let's ask them.

There is a catch. You will have to do a lot more reading and watch a lot less cable news. 

Hey, it's a start. 


Monday, March 25, 2019

You'll live through it. I did.

Look, to be fair, I remember in 98' driving back home from a job down in Livingston and listening to the Starr Report come out on KFBK. All the juicy details of the Lewinski affair, the cigars, the lying under oath, White Water, The Rose Law Firm records, etc, and thought, there is no way Bill Clinton is going to remain president. It can't happen. Well, I was wrong.

The big difference between now and then, the media was on Clinton's side. He's a democrat, and so are they. All the stories were, Oh, c'mon, it's just lying about sex, and some super shady real estate deals in Arkansas, and super shady Cattle Futures trading with Hillary, no big deal, let's move on. That's where Moveon.org came from, in case you forgot.

This time, it was different. The media, including half of the conservative media, hate Donald Trump. They don't just dislike him, they hate him with the intensity of a thousand burning suns.

Hillary was supposed to win. Hands down, slam dunk. There was no way, just no way, Trump was going to be President.

On election night, millions of people were stunned. None worse than media. The Russian collusion theory was floated out there by the democrats almost immediately.

Hey, it was a close election. 70,000 votes in three states swung the election to Trump. It must have been the Russians they thought. I mean, nobody could have voted for Trump on purpose right?

So, the media/democrats went on this crusade to gets the goods on Trump, and his puppet master Vladimir Putin. They were going to get Hillary in that Oval Office at all costs. This would not stand.

I'm sure Donald Trump has broken some campaign finance laws. It's just the way things are done they days, Even President Obama was fined $400K for his violations. And you don't get to be a billionaire real estate tycoon without some creative interpretations of tax laws, zoning laws, and greasing some palms along the way. The man is also a reprobate when it comes to his personal life. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.

All that said, with the lowest unemployment on record, 3.1 GDP growth, trade deals being renegotiated in our favor, and ISIS crushed, the world and the nation are humming along right now. Much to the chagrin of the media/democrats. The Mueller Report was the key to impeaching Trump and getting a democrat in the White House in 2020. Heck, the House still might impeach Trump. There's a huge power struggle going on inside the democratic party right now.

So, if you're a democrat and you just can't believe Trump is still going to be your president, take a deep breath. It's going to be okay. I lived through it, so will you.

I understand why you're so upset. You listened to the media/democrats for two years talk about Russian Collusion and now, Mueller found zero.

On the bright side, never underestimate the destructive power of Trump's ego. With this exoneration, he might think he's really above the law now, and start doing some over the top illegal stuff and get caught. I'm think there's a 1/5 chance of that. However, if you guys double down on this, and impeach Trump, say hello to four more years of your worst nightmare.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

10 rules for twentysomethings.

I just came back from a college graduation party for a young lady I've known since she hit the ground. Jaelyn earned her Bachelors Degree from Chico State and we are all very proud of her. Her party was held at the Western Yolo VFW Post in Esparto. 100 plus people from the Capay Valley and her friends from school.

It was raining outside, so inside the hall was crowded, noisy, babies crying, kids running around, Bill's dog Precious scooping up anything that hit the floor, it was kind of crazy. But for us, basically it was perfect.

Her mom asked if I would say a little something before we ate, and she wanted it to be focused mainly on all the young people gathered there. I wasn't sure what to say. Heck my own kids barely listen to me, but I thought I would give it a try.

A few of these I borrowed from my favorite book 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson, but most are my own. Everyone actually quieted down, and so I gave them about two and half minutes worth. I hope they found at least one that resonated with them.

10 rules for twenty somethings:

1. You’re young, which means your body works great right now, but you don’t know that much. You are going to wrong. A lot. That’s okay. It will teach you to rethink what you ‘know to be true’ and ask, “How could I be wrong?” This question will save you a lot of time, toil, money and looking foolish.

2. Your parents are not stupid. They may not know how to Snapchat, but they’ve been through some really tough times and made plenty of bad decisions. You should listen to what they have to say. It may save you some heartache down the road.

3. You don’t have to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life right now. But you have to move forward, towards a goal. Sitting idle for a week, can easily turn into a month, then a year, then a decade. Right now, you may not have money, but you do have an even more valuable asset: Time. Spend it wisely.

4. Try something you really think you will like. Go after it 100% for two years. If you fall face first, you will have learned a valuable lesson. Failure isn’t permanent, in fact it’s necessary to learn and grow. If you fail at something, you’re still young. Reassess and go after something else at 100% for two years. If you fail. You’re still young.

 5. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. A penguin cannot be a giraffe, so be the best penguin you can possibly be.

6. Make friends with people who want the best for you. Toxic people will keep you in one spot like an anchor.

7. Don’t chase happiness. Happiness is a fine thing. So is love, success, pleasure, money and even fame. But they will not sustain you when the crisis of your life hit. And believe me, crisis are just waiting in line to smack you when you least expect it.

8. People are a bag of snakes. All people, including you. Know this, and try to understand the darker side within yourself so you can control it, or it will control you.

9. Reality smashes everything that isn’t true. Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie.

10. Take God seriously. Even if you don’t believe a word in the Bible. Those beliefs that built the last 6,000 years of western civilization should not be dismissed out of hand. The ideals of individual human rights, taking care of the orphan, the widow, and the poor, being held accountable to someone outside of yourself, that the rules apply to both peasants and kings alike, that you should tell the truth even if it cost you everything. All these ideas spring from belief that there is something larger than ourselves out there. Live like you believe in God, even if you’re not sure.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A sea change in helping people. Including yourself.

If you are on Facebook, and who isn't these days, you will see many inspirational quotes. Some are funny, some are insightful, some are crass, and some are quite frankly, just dumb. Many of these quotes are typical of the "you're perfect just as you are" type of self-help that has become popular over the past few decades. 

Here's the problem with that type of help. It's a lie. 

It makes you feel good to tell someone they are perfect just as they are, but only for a short time. It makes the recipient feel good, but only for a short time. Even as you say it, and even as they hear it, both your brains know it isn't true. 

Trying to live your life based on something you know isn't true will eventually, and perhaps quickly, put you on a collision course with reality. Reality is a cruel master. It does care about your feelings, your good intentions, your wretched past, or your wonderful plans for the future. Reality smashes all things that are not true. 

I understand the motivation behind the  "you're fine just as you are" type of help. It's based on compassion, and compassion is a good thing, up to a certain point. After that, compassion can turn into enabling. Enabling bad or destructive behavior,  is never a good thing. 

So, what is the best advice you can give someone struggling with life in general, or with a specific issue? Tell them the truth. At least the truth the way you see it from your perspective. 

This advice is harder on both parties in the short term, but it leads to clarity. Seeing the situation clearly, free of distortion, is much better that camouflaging the problem with kind words. 

It is going to be messy, know that going in. You will hurt their feelings, but maybe their feeling need to be hurt. They will become defensive, and start listing the top-ten reasons why this situation is not their fault. Maybe you just unearthed the true problem. Maybe their view of the world is the real problem. Maybe it's a lie.

We should be able to look at ourselves and give this same critique. What are we doing emotionally? How are our relationships? How is our health? What is our plan for the future? What truth are your denying?

If we have no real answers for these questions, we are not living a life based in truth. We might skate by for a while, a month, a year, even a decade, with serious, complex problems in our lives. Given a choice, we will choose not to see, let alone deal with these problems in a realistic manner. Again; Reality smashes all things that are not true. It's just a matter of time. 

When that friend comes to you, with their latest breakup story, and how they will never find true love, and there are no good men/women left in the world, you will have a choice. I would start the conversation just like that. "Do you want me to tell you again  there is nothing wrong with you, and that guy/girl is stupid for not seeing how wonderful you are, or do want me to tell you the truth or as close to the truth as I can see it?" 

This may take them aback. They may be counting on you to prop them up, to tell them everything will be alright if they just continue to believe in themselves. They may just be searching for that dopamine release that comes from hearing comforting words, even if those words are lies. 

The truth is, they are not perfect, and they never will be. Neither are you. No amount of success, money, love, safety, or fitness will make us perfect. We are all flawed. Some of us are more screwed up than others, but baring a severe mental health diagnosis, we are all capable of becoming better versions of ourselves. Even if just a tiny bit better, if we try to see the truth.

To borrow from my favorite book at the moment, Dr. Jordan B Peterson's 12 Rules for Life; and antidote to chaos.    Rule #4 Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.  

Check out more of his work. He has thousands of hours of his University of Toronto lectures on YouTube, along with many interviews. 

One of the themes he comes back to time and again, is answering this question: How do you make you life better?  By not making it worse! And brother, we are experts at doing just that. 

"Start by stop doing something, anything, that you know to be wrong."  

Okay back to people with problems, which is all of us by the way. I I used to tell people going through terrible situations, some of their own making, some not, that everything would be okay. I'm sure they felt better right then and there, but eventually they must go back to the real world and the problem is waiting for them.  

Many times, things would not be okay, or at least not okay in the way they wanted. In the end, there is only reality, only truth.

In the last few years, I try to tell them the truth, no matter how it makes them feel at the time. If they need to break down and cry, I will give them a shoulder and let them know I'm there for them without judgement. If they ask my opinion, if they want the truth, it is my duty to tell them the truth. 

I have told people going through a bad break up, "This is going to hurt. You will get through this in time, and the pain will subside in a while, but it is okay to feel heartbroken right now." If they are in the middle of a job loss, or the loss of a loved one, they need to know that they are at a turning point. Things will never be the same. Things will be different from here on, and it's up to them to respond in the best way that works with their new reality. 

If they really screwed up their lives, or the life of someone they love, they need to know that. The reason you're in this spot is you created this world, this hell you now live inside.  You need to figure out how you got here so you don't repeat the same actions, or make the same decisions that created this hell. 

This advice may seem cold-hearted. It may seem like your just throwing more weight onto the shoulders of someone drowning. Just remember what I said about reality. 

Kind words and self esteem will not cure the disease you were just diagnosed with. Kind words won't keep your home from being foreclosed on if you just pretend the bank notices are just going to go away. Getting your soul crushed, and then choosing the same type of boyfriend/girlfriend who is assured to repeat this process is pure poison. In short, you need to recognize the truth and act on it. Sometimes you need help. 

Someone in your life needs to have the courage to tell you the truth. You also need that same courage to look upon your own through that lens. Can your life stand up to reality? What problems are you sweeping under the rug? What are things you know to be wrong that you continue to do? 

Are you getting closer to the truth, closer to dealing with the world the way it truly is, or are you just getting better at hiding from it? If you are seeking the truth, if you are trying to become just a little bit better version of you each and every day, that is enough. Press on. 

To close I will leave you with this. At the beginning of the day ask yourself this question. What am I going to do to make myself a better version of me? Then do it. That way at the end of the day, you can answer this question without regret. Am I one day closer to becoming a better person, or am I just one day older?

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

How to win going forward. Which side will learn first?

(I originally wrote this as a draft shortly after the 2016 election. I kept coming back to it, but never really finished it. I have updated the piece after the midterms.)

There's something people, especially pundits, are not talking about in the deconstruction of the 2016 presidential and now the 2018 midterm elections;

Abortion and guns.

Both have been hot button issues for a long time and will continue to be effective wedges for both sides in the foreseeable future.

When you ask people on the left what they stand for, what is most important to them, you will get a pretty predictable laundry list of issues; Free healthcare for everyone, free college, free housing, a fifteen dollar minimum wage, gender neutral bathrooms etc. Talking with some of my more liberal friends, especially women, of all the feel-good, hopey-changey things that makes the progressive left more appealing to them, it comes down to one issue. For many of them, that issue is Abortion.

Abortion is a core issue for women; on both sides. Yes, there are women on both sides of this divisive issue. Not that you would ever know that by listening to the news.

For those who see abortion as purely the matter of a woman's personal choice, there are others who look on abortion as the killing of a human life. Both sides are entrenched in their beliefs.  The pro-choice side can point to Roe v Wade and say it's the law of the land, but that doesn't change the fact that abortion, especially after the seventh or eighth week, stops a beating heart.

For many women who identify as feminist, the idea of abortion is very close to a religion for them. Those who are ardently pro-choice see any threat, any restriction on abortion, as heresy. Abortion on demand, at any time, up to and including the moment before the birth of the baby, is a woman's right, and she has the only say.

Now, some women I talk to say they are open to at least some restrictions on late term abortions. Unless there is a documented, medical reason that threatens the physical health of the woman, they think third-trimester, or late-term abortion, is wrong. However, they are leery of the slippery slope of restrictions that will put more and more limits on that choice, until abortion is only legal under a very limited set of circumstances.

I think this 'legal until the second or third trimester' stance is actually the general view of most women, and men for that matter. They know in their hearts that late term abortion, especially partial-birth abortion, is wrong. It's wrong when it's done for sheer convenience, or because the woman changes her mind in the last weeks or days of her pregnancy.

Bottom line; they think abortion should be safe, legal and available, but they are open to some restrictions on late term or partial-birth abortions as long as the restrictions stop there.

Anyway, that is my take on what I have heard. It's a very complicated issue.

If I had to guess, I would say abortion is probably the one issue that can influence the 15-20% of women who are usually non-political. They don't follow politics, in fact they probably hate politics, but they know they want to keep abortion legal. If they can be made to feel that right is under attack, they will show up at the polls. This is where Planned Parenthood, and the multi-million dollar abortion interest groups, come into the equation.

We saw this play out in the Kavanaugh hearings. Things got nasty because the left saw Kavanaugh as a direct threat to abortion-on-demand laws. Everything else, including the Christine Blasey Ford testimony was just theater. I hate to put it that way, but it's the truth. That confirmation vote was about abortion.

Now 15-20% of women make up a sizable group of voters. A group that size would swing an election from a toss-up to a landslide if you could motivate them to your side. If you could persuade them into voting for your candidate, or just get them to sit out the election, you have changed the race.

Could Republicans learn to soften their message on abortion? Could they start talking to those who would be willing to listen? It's a possibility.

For Democrats, this is a weakness. For Republicans, it is an opportunity.

Here is basically the flip side of that coin: Guns.

As a life Member of the NRA, a certified firearms instructor, and someone who follows every court case involving the second amendment, I am out of the mainstream. I understand that.

So to say that second amendment issues are important to me is an understatement. However, I know I am an outlier. Most gun owners just want to keep their guns, be able to keep this right for their children, and make sure criminals can't easily get their hands on them.

As in the abortion debate, there are people who live and breathe this issue, and others who are just interested only when they think it will affect them personally.

They really don't understand anything about assault rifles, other than they are scary looking and seem to shoot a billion bullets a minute, thanks to Hollywood and the media. Many of these soft second amendment supporters are on the peripheral of the fight. They can be moved into action by the NRA telling them 'the other side' is coming for your guns.  They are convinced that when Democrats say "common sense gun laws" they think it's double speak for gun banning and outright confiscation in the future. I would also say that this group is about 15-20% of the electorate.

Could the Democrats start talking about guns in way that eases the fears of this 15-20% Could they start talking to those who would be willing to listen?  It's a possibility.

To Republicans this is threat, to Democrats this is an opportunity.

So here are a few possibilities as I see it; whoever learns to assuage the concerns of either of these two groups will win at the ballot box for the next generation. Going further to right if you're a Republican, and further to the left if you're a Democrat is going to leave the middle wide open.

This is both exciting and frightening, on both sides.

What if republicans went out to speak with single women, with whom abortion resonates so deeply, and said this;

"We need your help. Can we speak to you about the best way to bring down the number of abortions in this nation? Can we talk to you about your fears, your concerns about keeping abortion legal, and work out a plan where we try to make abortion a rare, but legally protected choice in America?

I know we are not going persuade all of you. I want to speak with those of you who want to make sure your daughters will continue to have this right going forward, but who also see partial-birth abortion as a terrible thing. Something that must be stopped unless there is a very real threat to life of the mother.

Can we stop the fear mongering around this issue? Can we have an honest debate about partial-birth and third trimester abortions?"

Sincerely, (Republican turning a blue state red)

I think this is an argument that would swing many of those in that 15-20% of the electorate who vote around the abortion issue. Even if the republicans could get 5% to switch sides,  that would be a game changer. If they could learn to speak to those women who like the idea of school choice, pro-economic, pro-growth policies, but let them know the Republicans are not the town council from Footloose looking to establish their own moral code on America, they would win big. They could even win bigly.

Conversely, what if Democrats said to gun owners, especially the fastest growing segment, women gun owners, and said this:

 "We are not going to take your handguns away. We don't want to keep you from lawfully owning a firearm. If you pass the background check, and get the proper training, carrying a handgun for self defense is something we can support. We don't want the Wild West, but we acknowledge your right to self defense. We understand that the world is a dangerous place. We just want to make sure criminals don't use firearm to hurt others.

We want a nationwide, instant background check before you can pickup your firearm. We want to make sure the thousands of firearms laws on the books right now are enforced. We want to try to find a way to ensure people bent on the slaughter of innocent lives can't get their hand on the means to do so. We want to ban Assault Rifles and outlaw Hi-Capacity magazines. No civilian needs an AR-15.

I know we are not going persuade everyone. I also want to reaffirm, that we as Democrats, acknowledge your right to keep and bear arms. If you safely keep a gun in your house for protection, we want you to know we respect that. In the end, we need your help to try to make harder for criminals to hurt people with guns."

Sincerely, (Democrat turning a red state blue.)

Now, I can give you chapter and verse on why instant background checks won't bring down the homicide rate in America, but that is a discussion for another day. It's the criminals doing criminal things, not inanimate objects that are the problem here. Where I live in California, we have an Assault Weapons Ban, Standard Capacity (Hi-Cap) magazine bans, Universal background checks, 10 day waiting periods, purchasing licenses, ammunition restrictions and every other feel-good gun control legislation known to man. We still have mass shootings and gun crime because (Surprise!) criminals don't follow laws. It's why they are criminals.

The Democrats will surely demand an "Assault Rifle ban" even if this would only be symbolic. There are around one and a half million AR-15 style rifles in America. The Democrats are not going to knock on a million doors and confiscate them, that is how you start a second civil war. This is where they should tread lightly.

Just by acknowledging the right of legal US citizens to own a semi-automatic handgun, you diffuse the anxiety of a large portion of gun owners who are not 'gun nuts' but who want to protect their families with a 9mm Glock. Especially single mothers. Change those minds, and you change elections.

Do you think these two messages would resonate with voters, especially swing voters? I certainly do.

Here is the rub. The entrenched sides on these issues will point to a long history of republicans trying to outlaw all abortions, and democrats trying to outlaw all types of firearms.

The reality is neither of these cases will be made a central focus in the next election cycle.

Both sides are still largely funded at local, state, and federal levels by special interest groups. Your local congress member is subject to a big primary fight if they don't toe the line when it comes to these issues.

If you live in a dark red state, or congressional district, you will need that A rating from the NRA or National Shooting Sports Association to keep your seat.

If you live a dark blue state, or district, you will need that A rating from Planned Parenthood or NARAL to keep your seat.

I don't think the balance of power is going to shift anytime soon because of the deep polarization in the American electorate. How many pro-choice republicans, other than our current president, can you name? How many pro-second amendment democrats can you name? With the House in Democrats hands, and with the Republicans pickup a solid majority in the Senate, it is going to be even harder for either side to reach across.

Whoever figures this out first will dominate for a generation.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Masking our Dark Side

How many versions of "You" are there?

It may sound like a strange questions, but no matter how hard we try to think ourselves as "One" as "I", or "Me", we hold within us many different versions of ourselves.

Most of the time we do this for expediency, or to go with the flow at work, or to manage our way within whatever environment we find ourselves.

Here are a few of mine;

There is the "Work Me" who is very polite, who doesn't curse (much, or only in front of the right people) and is known to be one the reliable people who gets things done. This me is always early, and helps diffuse conflicts between various factions in our workplace.

There is the "Church Me" who is basically the same guy as the "Work Me", but with less cussing.

There is the "Home me" who gets into his recliner after pretending to be "Work Me" all day and watches sports or movies or some terribly boring show about the perils of Keynesian Economic Theory in the post Cold War world. He may have a Bourbon with dinner, tries to help out around the house, and does most of the cooking and shopping.

There is the "Up the Valley Me" who officiates all the weddings and funerals for my friends and neighbors. He's the guy who plays bass and sings classic country songs in Tommy Covington's shop gathered around the wood-burning stove in the winter. He's the guy who loves shooting and teaching people how to shoot. He's also the guy who can ride horses, rope calves, and brand cattle, although I don't get much chance these days.

There is the "Drinking Me" who only escapes from his inner bondage once every few years.  (I think it's been over a decade since his last sighting, so that guy may be gone for good, but you never can be sure) He's responsible for all my good stories. Stories about challenging everyone in The Palomino Room in Red Bluff to a fight at the Bull Sale, and "borrowing" a police car out behind The Stag in Woodland.

There must be a few more versions of me that exist, but I can't think any that I put on for public consumption.

Now, which one is the "Real Me"?

I can't be certain. Maybe none of them. Maybe all of them.

There is one part of me that no one knows, and I don't talk about. The dark part of me.

If we are honest, we would all admit to having a dark side. It is inside every single one of us. How do I know? We are all human beings.

We all have the capacity for true evil inside us. Yes, I said evil.

Now, I don't care if you are atheist, agnostic, or a rattlesnake-handling Pentecostal Preacher, you know deep down its true. You might call it by a different name, but there is a darkness in the human heart capable of doing horrible things to other human beings.

You might scoff, but evil is never far away. In fact, we are surrounded by it. We catch a glimpse of it in the mirror each morning. Yes, it's you. I am talking about you.

You might say, "Whoa, whoa, pump the brakes. I'm one of the good guys!" No.  No you're not. Neither am I.

To quote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,
"If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” 
The fact that we are capable of evil is a universal truth. It's so true, it frightens us to even acknowledge it even exists.

We like to think we are all "Good" people. Yeah, we have a few rough edges, but deep down we would never do anything really bad. Well, maybe and maybe not.

We all think we would have been the German citizens who stood up to the Nazis and fought in the resistance. The overwhelming odds are you would have been standing right next to your neighbors in the Wehrmacht goose-stepping into Poland, or working at the Henschel and Sohn factory turning out Tiger tanks.

Again, Solzhenitsyn knew this all too well.
"Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."
If you don't, or won't, acknowledge that dark side of yourself, that evil within, you can't recognize it when it starts creeping into your thoughts, and then into your actions, and then into your daily being.

This is one of the things that's really harming our kids today. They have these terrible thoughts, they have these dark desires, especially in their teen years, and they think they are the only ones.

They think they are broken. They think everyone else is "normal" and they are screwed up. It would be better if we all had a new kind of talk with our kids when they hit puberty. 

We need to change the Birds and the Bees talk to include this darkness.

"Son/ Daughter now that have these hormones running around in your body, you are going to start thinking some things, and if you're not careful, doing some things, you never imagined a year ago. You are going to be dealing with some crazy stuff. You might think there's something wrong with you, but it's probably just your body and your brain trying to regulate all this new stimulus."

We need to have some very weird conversations with our kids. If we don't, we risk letting them deal with these intense emotions using a brain that will not be fully formed until they reach their mid twenties. 

However, no matter if you're fourteen or forty, the same fist step is realization and recognition. Being self-aware is crucial. Understanding what makes you who you are is a skill you must develop.  

Can you look at yourself as an outside observer? Can you step back and see yourself for who you truly are?

It's a hard thing to do, looking honestly within ourselves. So, we hide that dark side from the outside world. We hide it behind polished, and varnished versions of ourselves; Our masks.

One look at our online profiles shows how we create these masks.

We only post the very best pictures ourselves. We touch up, filter, and crop to present the best version of us. Heck I know I do it. I've deleted a few pictures where my gut was hanging out, or my bald spot was showing.

I mostly post picture of me doing fun things, or eating delicious looking food. My online life looks pretty damn good. In fact, it looks a little too good. It's not that my online life is not real, it is. It's just not true. It's not the "Real Me". Who would want to look at that? 

Pretending to be someone else all the time is exhausting work, and over time, it creates tension.

That tension between who we pretend to be and who we really are, especially if that dark side has control of us, is a ticking time bomb. That struggle between who we want to be, and the dark side we are fighting against can be a life or death struggle.

We know we want to act a certain way, or get control over a destructive habit or vice, but when we fail, we usually fail in private or inside our own homes. This creates shame, self loathing and usually misplaced blame on others or just the world in general.

This cycle will grow worse until one of two things happens; the situation blows up in a public setting where you can't hide it any longer, or you get professional help to deal seriously with that evil that has taken over more and more of your life.

If you have that dark side tamped down in your life; good for you. Keep it there.

If you see it growing, or showing up in places and relationships where it had not surfaced before, take action. Today.

You must be brutally honest with yourself. Honest about your past, how you see the world, and how you see yourself in it.

A great tool I found for this was a website selfauthoring.com

It's only $30 and it gives you a structured setting to write about your past, present and future. It was set up by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson who is one of my favorite authors and has thousands of hours of his Psychology lectures on Youtube.

If you don't have the cash, take out a 99 cent notebook and start writing about your past. The things you did right, the things you did wrong. Then, how are doing today? Again, the things you do right, the things you do wrong. Finally, take a look into the future.

Those things you can control, those dozens of daily choices you make, if you make the right choice, where would you be in 2 years, or 5, or 10? Conversely, if you fall back to those bad habits, into letting that dark side of you take control, where will you be in 2 years, 5, or 10?

This gives you two very different scenarios. Two alternative paths to go down. Each one of them is within your control. One is a heaven, a better place to be in the future. The other is a hell. A terrible place you know you could easily be if you don't start making the right decisions. 

It all starts by admitting you have a dark side. The bad news is that dark side real, and it is dangerous. The good news is, once you can recognize it, you can start defeating it. You can gain control. You can keep in it's place.

It may pop up once in a while with an inappropriate thought, or some crazy desire or fantasy, or even a dark, brooding scheme of revenge. However, this time you will be in control.

If you've done your homework, you will know where this thought came from, and what made it pop up. You will recognize it for what it is. You will see it as a choice. A step closer to the heaven you are trying to reach, or a step closer to the hell you know you must avoid. You must make the right choice.

If you've read this far and you are in a very dark place, reach out for help. 

If it's three in the morning and there's no one to talk to, call a local suicide hotline. Yolo County has one. www.suicidepreventionyolocounty.org/ or call 530-666-7778 you can even send a text.

I had the opportunity to meet with them at a fundraiser. They are great people. Reach out. Get help. Start your journey towards your heaven and away from your hell.

Monday, June 11, 2018


I sat there looking at my phone in disbelief.

No way. Wow... No way.....
This cannot be happening.......

I guess I should start with a little background. I have had three fathers in my life.

That's two more than the standard, so let me start with the one with whom I share a name; Walter Joseph Lucas.

My father was 50 when I was born, so you could say he was late to the game when it came to having children. My sister Lisa is two years older that I am. I knew my father had been married twice before, but the few times he did talk about it were very brief. He would just say his previous wife did not want to have children and he did. It seemed reasonable enough.

Even into adulthood, I never pushed him to tell me more. He had a very complicated relationship with his own family. He was born in 1915 on a ranch near Lockeford Ca. His father died when he was 18 or 19 and he had to take over the responsibilities of running the family ranch. I'm sure he did all he could for his mom, but there was definitely some bad blood between he and his siblings. I only know the little he told me about his family, and I don't know their side of the story, so I cannot judge what really happened.

My father was two generations older than me. He rode a horse to school, and milked thirty cows by hand before and after school. His life was work, money and family, but mostly work. He could not get into the Army during WWII because he was deaf in one ear. He worked in the shipyards at Mare Island, building PT boats during the war years.

By the time I came into the world my father was a successful rancher, real estate broker and owned a land leveling business. He had an extraordinary work ethic and drive. I can best describe him as a combination between John Wayne and Donald Trump. Just imagine that for a moment.

Starting off on our ranch in Clements, our family seemed to be on the move most of my early years. We moved to a ranch on the John Day River near Mitchell Oregon when I was a toddler.

He tied me onto my first horse when I was two years old, and sent me plodding off down the dirt road to the bunkhouse where the cowboys lived. My mom said the snowfall that winter was the biggest in decades. You could ride a snowmobile over the corrals without touching a post. That was enough for her. Somehow, we ended up back in California, in Orland. That's the first house I can remember, but we were soon on the move again to the tiny town of Oak Run, north east of Redding.

I loved Oak Run. My father had wheeled and dealed his way into a big ranch there. It was several thousand acres of red dirt, lava rock and oak trees, but it also had a few hundred acres of good bottomland where we could raise hay.

The ranch at Oak Run was a giant playground for me. There was a lot of work, but my father never seemed to drive me like I'm sure his father drove him in his youth. Those were different times. That drive came out of sheer necessity.

I learned to operate the ranch trucks and tractors when I was old enough to reach the pedals. I fed cows, cut hay, and helped irrigate the fields. But only when I was asked or I wanted to. It was not forced labor to be sure, but there wasn't a lot of laying around the house either.

I was turned loose much of the time. In the summers, I would leave the house after breakfast and sometimes not come back until evening. We always had dogs on the ranch, lots of them. They were my constant companions since I didn't have any bothers. Lisa didn't see the enjoyment in damming up streams, throwing rocks, or chasing frogs down at the creek all day.

As I grew older, I was given more responsibility, and expected to do more. By twelve I was gathering cattle in the summer heat, driving Caterpillars, clearing brush or skidding logs. Most of these things were semi-dangerous for a twelve-year-old kid, but I survived.

My father had a way of teaching that could be summed up by the old Nike slogan: Just do it. He never took the time to patiently teach me how to do anything; he just put me in the seat and told me to do it. Drive this D-8 Caterpillar, clear this brush off these hills, I'll be back when you're finished. For a kid, it was equal parts excitement and terror, but that's just the way he was.

He would also let me skip school to go to the Shasta Livestock Auction in Cottonwood on Fridays. I would spend the day running around the sorting pens, while he was in Ellington Peek's office doing business. He would also let me go on business trips with him. I would sit quietly at a table full of businessmen and listen to million dollar deals be made. It was a unique experience for a young man. However, some of favorite times were in his old blue Jeep Cherokee where he and I would go 'check the cows'.

I loved my father, as most sons do. I loved him despite the fact that mine was very flawed, like all fathers are.

My father was an alcoholic. Ever since I can remember, my father drank, a lot. He was a maintenance drinker. He was never falling-down drunk, and he was never hung-over. He would always get up at 6:00 the next day ready to work. Back before computers and cell phones, business was done by telephone. After dinner, my father would start making his business calls. Every night, he sat at the kitchen table, talking on the phone and having several large 'hi-balls'.

We went through stretches where things would be fine for a time. Then, if the cattle prices or real estate market would go down, the stresses and pressures he put on himself would start to boil over. It was very volatile around our house, but then again, my father seemed to live in a constant state of chaos.

In the late 70's my father's ranching business started to take off. I remember the bankers from Bank of California sitting at our dinner table asking my father how large of a credit line he wanted. They were just giving money away, and they were taking my father's word he had the cattle to cover that amount of credit. All with a wink and nod. (Think of the housing bubble in 2008)

He bought a new ranch in Lakeview Oregon. He bought new pickups, horse trailers, semi-trucks, hired more cowboys and a mechanic. We even built a pool and a new addition to the house. It was a good time for our family. Well, until it all came crashing down a few years later.

He was always in conflict with the neighboring ranches, including one actual range war complete with sheriff's deputies, a helicopter and me standing in front of a gate with a lever action rifle to make sure the neighbors didn't push their cattle out of that gate onto the road.

My father made and lost several fortunes in his life. He never seemed to find a balance he could reach. He always wanted more; he always wanted to move forward, never content with where he was. My father was a complicated man.

He loved us kids, but he couldn't stop drinking. He had my life planned out and expected me to take over his 'empire' when the time came. But he spent almost no time teaching me how to do it. He was hard working, but had a soft heart. He could also bend a rule, or outright break it if stood between him and his business success. He never talked about his own feelings, and rarely how he felt about you, unless he has been drinking. Even then it was 50-50 propositions. You were either the best kid in world, or a huge disappointment.

Much like I described him as a combination of John Wayne and Donald Trump, many people loved my father and thought he was a great guy. Others thought he was a son of bitch. I think, in the end, they were both right.

After another lost fortune, our family ended up here in Yolo County. He bought a house with 20 acres after the bank took back the ranch in Oak Run, and he went to work leasing ranches and running steers and heifers for other ranchers.

He stayed in the real estate business, and never letting well enough alone, he took my mom and my sister's interest in cutting hair and turned that into a business. He opened a beauty salon in Vacaville for my mom and sister to run while he had his real estate office next door.

I was in college and discovering the world outside of ranching, hay bales, and cattle. In other words, I was have a great time.

It wasn't until I met my future wife that my interest turned back to the ranch. She loved it out there. Being a city girl, she couldn't understand why I didn't want to ride horses if I had the opportunity. To me horses meant work, and 14-hour days gathering cattle in the brush from sunup till sundown. Why would you want to ride them for fun?

We both were going to school at American River College, but I was still a year from getting my associates degree, so when my wife transferred to UC Davis, I went to work for my father running cattle. We lived on a ranch my father leased in Dunningan. I think I made $600 a month plus the nine hundred square foot house we lived in. Those were good times.

However, like all things cyclical, the good times are always followed by tough times, and that came in 1991. My father was again overextending, and planning as if the good times would always be good. He hated paying taxes, so for every dollar he made in the cattle business or real estate business, he leased a new ranch, or built new corrals or helped my wife and I buy a place of our own. Our house was just about complete, and with my father's help, we had just made our first annual balloon payment on the new place.

One day he was in Sacramento at a deposition, not surprisingly, he was being sued by one of our neighbors for some semi-shady way he sold their ranch, when he felt sick. He came home and stayed there for a while before my mother convinced him he had to go to the hospital.

I was irrigating the alfalfa at my place when I got the word he was headed to the hospital. He sat in the ER at Woodland Hospital for three or four hours while the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with him. By the time a new doctor came on and decided he was bleeding internally, it was too late. He had an aneurysm of his aorta. They air lifted him to UC Davis Med Center. They performed surgery to repair the tear in the aorta, but he had lost too much blood and died the next day.

Not that there is ever a good time to lose a parent, but it could not have come at a worse time for our family. The cattle market was heading into a decline along with the real estate market. Loosing not only my father, but also my employer and the person who had engineered my life, was a huge hit. Even though I had my real estate salesman's license and was working on my father's ranch, I had let him make almost all my decisions for me. He was running the show, and now he was gone.

I was very immature for someone in my position. At twenty-five, I should have been ready for this day, but I wasn't. Not by a long shot. I went through the motions of gathering the cattle, and trying to help my mom figure out if we should keep the leases on the ranches. In the end, with all my father's bills and past due taxes, we had to sell everything, my house included, and start over.

At the time, all you see are the problems, all you feel is the pain, all you want is to have things put back the way they were. That isn't going to happen. You have to move, you have to go forward, you have to grow.

15 years later, I was working in the technology field, something I really liked, we had two children, and I was making a good living. My mom and sister were living in North Idaho and my mom had a met a man.

This is where I met my second father, Paul.

Paul is a so much different from Walt Sr.

He is soft spoken and kind. He's a patient, caring man, and he is very happy with the life he has. He is content, or at least at peace with his place in the world. Paul is a contractor, although he's retired now. He's a hard worker, but doesn't chase the almighty dollar at all costs. He likes to read, and loves working on his classic cars. He is interested in the world around him. He is self-aware in a way my father never was.

I could not have picked a better person for my mother to marry. He loves her dearly, and she has found someone to love without having to deal with the whirlwind of chaos and volatility.

Living sixteen hours away, I don't get to see them as often as I would like, but I have never worried a moment about my mother since Paul entered her life. He is wonderful, and I owe him more than I can say. He is the perfect second father.

So wait, I thought you said this was a story about three fathers? Yes, I'm getting to that.

Shortly after my father passed away, my mother told Lisa and I that dad had two sons with his first wife, long ago. He had told her not to tell us kids, but now that he was gone, she thought the time was right. She didn't have any names, just the little my father had told her.

This was fascinating to me and it started me on a long journey to find my lost relatives. Ancestry was a new service, and I signed up looking to see if I could find my lost half brothers. I had no luck. I tried to find his first wife, but without her maiden name, you cannot find birth records and such with the counties involved.

I think I solved the mystery a few years back when I found a census record of my father living in Stockton with his first wife Zelda, her mother, and two small children with different last names. So, I think those kids were my father's stepsons, and would be no relation to me. A bit anticlimactic, but the mystery was solved.

Enter the new DNA registry 23andMe.

I had always heard from my father that he was mostly Irish with some French from my grandmother. My mom is full Portuguese, half from the Azores and the other half from Portugal by way of Brazil.

I wanted to see how true that was and signed up. A week or so later a package arrived. I followed the instructions and spit into the little tube, sealed it up and mailed it back. They said it would take about 6 weeks to get the results.

I didn't think I would find too many surprises, but being a huge history buff, I thought it would be cool to be able trace my heritage. I received an email saying my results were in and I logged on and looked at my DNA make up. Nothing too startling. I was 28% British/Irish, 25% Broadly Northwest European, and 35% Iberian, (Spain/Portugal) with the rest a mash up of mostly European make up.

This tracked almost exactly the way I thought it would. Oh well.

I had traced my father's family back to Prince Charles County Maryland in 1731 through Ancestry, and I thought there may have been an American melting pot, genetic wildcard thrown in there somewhere. But it turned out I'm just a plain old American white guy.

I had told my mom about the 23andMe findings and she wanted to know why I was so interested in it? I said I found it fascinating to know for sure where you come from. Knowing what part of the world you came from, tracing your history and such.

I thought that was the end of the story.

A few days later I received an email from 23andMe asking if I wanted to search for my DNA relatives. Sure, why not. I clicked the link.....Oh boy....

I looked at the page for a minute and reread it a few times just to make sure.

I have two half-sisters.

No way. No. Way.

I clicked on their names and looked at their profiles.

No way.

How could this be? They must belong to dad, but when were they born? I found a link to send them a message. What do you say? Hi, I'm your long lost half brother, where did you come from?

I sent each one a message. I had so many questions. I asked if they knew my father, and did they know about my sister and I?

Pam was the first to respond:
 ”.... Tracy and I now know how we are half sisters through information told to us by our mothers when we were young adults. I'd be happy to connect if you want to solve this mystery for yourself. It is just because our parents really wanted us to be born, and all they did to arrange for our arrivals. I was born in 1961. Tracy in 1967. It will benefit us all to know the health and genetic data. So glad to find you. :)"

Wait? What?

I was a little slow on the uptake here just because it seemed so strange. With Pam being born in 61, that was before my mom and dad were married, so no foul there, but Tracy was born in 67, two years after me. Why would our all our parents really want us to be born? I could see my dad having a bit of fun, but I'm pretty sure my mom would not have been okay with my father out populating the planet.

Like I said, it was staring me in the face, but I hadn't put it all together.

I sent both a message saying it looked like my father was a bit of a scoundrel. I think Pam and Tracy had a correspondence between each other and decided to have Pam spill the beans:

"Well, not a scoundrel actually. I don't want to shock you, but since you are over 50, I think you can handle it. When I was 14, I found out that my father (my legal father) was not my biological father. Before my parents married, he had a vasectomy. It couldn't be reversed. My parents really wanted me, so they went to a specialist in San Francisco who arranged for a sperm donor. All they knew was he was a medical student who was healthy and had a great health history and already had a family and children. I was never to have known. Back then, the secrecy was thought best for the child being conceived. At 14 when I chose to sever my ties to my father, my mother told me the truth of my paternal creation. I didn't know about any of you, but always thought that this medical student may have made several donations. Lol. I met Tracy last year through her daughter making a connection to me. We were both stunned. Tracy found out from her mom about the medical student on her 22nd birthday. She is still very close to her legal father, so she is cautious about making it known because she doesn't want him to feel bad. So was your legal father a medical student? Tracy and I don't know if you were from donation like us or if our parent’s donor was both your legal and genetic dad. Sorry for the shock if you didn't know." 

Wow..... No way.

was shocked.

So the only man I ever knew as my father was not my biological father.

No flippin' way.

As I sat there staring at my phone, I felt a rush of different feelings.

This changes everything.

Then again, it changes nothing.

My father will always be my father. He raised me, for better or worse. It was surreal to me that a man from my father's generation would use a donor to have children. He was nothing if not a man's man. With all his success, all that money, there must have been something missing. There must have been a huge hole in his life he needed to fill with children. It made me wonder about those two stepsons he had with his first wife, and how it must have hurt to lose them when they were divorced.

My head was swimming, but it was late and I went to bed with lots of different thoughts rattling around. What was I going to say to my mom? Should I even bring this up? I had to. It was just too much to let go. Besides, my mom did nothing wrong. She did something extraordinary to bring me into this world. The doctors had instructed her not to tell me about my biological father. She kept the secret for over 50 years. She did it out of love, and that is a great reason.

The next day I called my mom in the morning. We spoke for a while and then I told her the story that Pam told me. The story of Children's Hospital in San Francisco, and the donor, and the instruction not to tell us kids. When I finished, I asked, "So, do you have anything you want to tell me?" There was a bit of a pause, "Well, I would say that my story is the same story you just told me."

We talked about dad and her not being able to have children, and the special clinic at Children's hospital was the cutting edge for the 1960s. It was very expensive, but it was their only hope of having children. My sister was conceived the same way. Mom said she never really thought about it about it after a few years, and didn’t think it was important to tell us after dad died. We were going through enough turmoil at the time.

The fact that I signed up for the DNA tests out of pure curiosity was something they couldn't have even imagined back in the 1960s. If I had not spit in that little tube, I would have never known about my biological father.

So, the real question is: Now what?

What does it change? Like I said before; it changes everything and it changes nothing.

Walt Sr. will always be my father. He raised me, he showed what it was to be a man, to work hard, and he showed me you can do more than you think is possible. I will always love that man.

So what about my biological father? Do I want to know more about him? Yeah, I guess so. I would like to see a picture of him, and see if I look anything like him. I would like to know something about his personality, his temperament. Those kinds of things.

I'm sure he never imagined DNA testing, and that three strangers would someday find each other through an ounce of saliva. I wonder if he would want to know how we turned out?

So many questions.

In the end, I am glad I know. I am also glad my mother and father went to that specialist in San Francisco. I am here.

I have a wonderful family, a wonderful life, and memories to last me a few lifetimes. I am hoping to get together one day with my half sisters; that would be cool. Hey, 23andMe is a new company, not many people have signed up, there may be more of us half siblings out there. I always wanted a brother. (Sorry Lisa, love ya)