Monday, February 28, 2011


I guess I could start with my favorite "how women think" joke, but I will resist for the sake of brevity, and my own personal safety. Say what you will, but the reason these jokes are funny is they are based, in some part, on reality. Women think differently than men do. Go ahead and start writing your letters to me now, but deep down you know it's true. I'm not saying the way women think is better, or worse, it's just different. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality.

I am not saying there are no exceptions to the rule, there certainly are. They are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. However, in most cases, women are wired to "feel" more in their thinking than men. Most men are wired to stay on a linear thinking path, a little more detached from their emotions. Except House Speaker, John Boehner, that guy cries all the time.

If you are already on the second paragraph of your hate-mail to me, just listen for a minute. It's not about intelligence, it's not about ability, it's about how our brains are wired. I have met, worked with, and worked for, some brilliant, strong, successful women. I have also met, worked with, and for, some men who were dumber than a sack full of hammers.

My point is I understand how most men think; I'm one of them. Women on the other hand; I have no clue. Dawn, my wife of 22 years, God bless her, can attest to this fact. Now, add preadolescence to the mysteries of the female mind, and I am so out my league it's not funny. This is where my daughter comes in.

There is a pretty big gap between our children, Steven is 17 and Abbie is 10. Steven and I have a close relationship; we share similar interests in music, guitars, sports and most other things. Abbie is her mother's daughter; they are two peas in a pod. I call her my wife's mini-me. They even look alike, which is good news for my daughter, and they have many of the same personality traits.

They are the true animal lovers of our household. Abbie and Dawn can spend all day out in the barn with the horses. While I love all the critters on our place, being raised on a cattle ranch, their charms have worn off a bit for me. I have the scars to prove it. The closest Steven wants to get to our cows is sitting down at the dinner table with a bottle of A1 steak sauce.

Our family schedule has always been crazy. Being a co-owner of a small business, Dawn has worked on Sundays for many years. Abbie would usually go with her to our business at Gibson Ranch Park in Sacramento. They spent most Sundays together from the time Abbie was a baby. Steven and I would usually go to church, go shooting, watch football, or just hang out together on Sundays. This fall, all that changed. When the park closed this August, we moved all of our animals back home. For the first time in years, I have been able to spend the whole weekend with the entire family. It has been very cool, but we have had to adjust to the new routines.

One thing I am learning about parenting is its ever changing job description. I was getting pretty good at being the game-watching, question-answering, ball-throwing, chauffeur guy. Now I am the ATM/dispenser-of-wisdom-to-be-ignored guy. At least I am for my son. For my daughter, I am not sure what my direct role is, other than being someone to snuggle with on the couch, being the lifter of heavy things, and being the one going outside to find out what made that loud noise at three in the morning

Spending more time with Abbie has been very educational for me. Still, if the kids are doing separate activities, I usually take Steven and Dawn usually takes Abbie. I guess it is just a natural mother-daughter, father-son thing, but I am going to make an effort to change that.

As a father, spending time with you daughter is a big deal. I have spoken to many women whose fathers were not present in their lives growing up, even when they lived under the same roof. It can have a terrible effect on a young woman's self image, and the way she relates to men as she grows into adulthood.Boys and girls need both parents fully involved in their lives. I should be just as involved in Abbie's volleyball as I am in Steven's music.

I have my work cut out for me because Abbie is into everything; softball, volleyball, piano, 4-H, and about a dozen other activities. Steven is into music. Playing, recording, editing, the boy loves music and wants to make a career out of it. They are very different individuals. Both have different talents and distinct personalities. While I can relate to Steven easier, I once was a 17 year old male, I have no idea what it is like to be a pre-teen girl. I guess I'll just have to be the best dad I can be for her. The first step is just being there.

I don’t think I will ever understand Abbie the way I might understand Steven, but that's not what's really important. I’m supposed to love her for the person she is, the person she is growing into, and to be there for her no matter what.

I'm trying to do just that, but I need to try harder.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I can't hear you

I discuss and debate politics quite often, maybe too often. Over the years, my views have changed as I read, learned and participated in the world of politics. Growing more conservative in my views over the past twenty years or so, I have had plenty of practice debating, defending and rethinking what I believe. This is a good thing. Some of the greatest insights and discoveries I have made came by this process.

Socratic questioning is one of the best ways to uncover how you came to believe what you believe, and whether your beliefs are logical. After all, what good are beliefs you really don't understand, and cannot defend?

Having political discussions at work usually consists of me debating everyone else. That's fine. The truth is the truth, and facts are facts no matter how many people are saying you are wrong. That’s the issue I have the hardest time with. When you debate people who "feel" and "believe" something using their own set of assumptions, along with their own personal facts, the debate breaks down.

When you talk about federal spending and spending cuts with a person who thinks half the budget goes to the pentagon, you are in for a long, frustrating conversation. When you point out that Medicare will be broke in a few short years, the person you're debating says the solution is to put everyone on Medicare and eliminate private health insurance. Oy vey.

To quote the warden in Cool Hand Luke, "Some folks, you just can't reach."

Sometimes, the folks hardest to reach are those supposedly on your side. A great example of this was the first draft of budget cuts proposed by house Republican leaders last week. After winning in November on a platform of cutting 100 billion from President Obama's 2011 budget, the House leadership proposed 32 billion in cuts. Many conservatives hit the roof, myself included.

You don't understand they said, the budget year is almost half over, and the 32 billion was all we could cut right now, blah, blah, blah. Seriously? 32 billion is a rounding error when you are looking at a 1.5 Trillion dollar federal deficit out of a 3.8 Trillion dollar budget. When the stuff hit the fan in Speaker Boehner's office this week, the leadership magically found the 100 billion in cuts they promised.
Now, that is a really big number right? That is going to make a huge dent in the deficit right? No. Let me explain.

If, and that is a big if, the house gets their 100 billion in cuts, the deficit for this year will go down from 1.5 Trillion to 1.4 Trillion. It is like having congestive heart failure, being 150 pounds overweight, and your doctor telling you to lose that extra 150 pounds or you are going to die. Losing 10 pounds in a year is a start, but you should be losing much more, much faster. At this rate it will take another 14 years to reach a balanced budget, let alone reducing our overall debt.

I'm sure even the ten pounds is too much weight to lose for some groups. The SEIU and NEA and every other public employee union will be fighting these reductions tooth and nail. I’ll bet you will soon hear radio ads in scary voices telling you the Republicans are trying to balance the budget of the backs of "X". You name it; teachers, the elderly, children, police and firemen, polar bears, we just can't afford these draconian cuts, call you representative now!

At least that is what they'll say. Just remember, in 2006 the entire federal budget was 2.6 Trillion dollars, with a deficit (the difference between what the government takes in taxes and what they spent) of 249 billion dollars. Ah, the good old days. President Obama's 2011 budget is 3.8 Trillion with a budget deficit of 1.5 Trillion dollars. What the Republicans in the house are asking for is to cut the budget from 3.8 Trillion to 3.7, and the deficit from 1.5 to 1.4, isn't that horrible?

How will the federal government manage?