Sunday, October 08, 2017

Day of days

Today, my son is getting married.

That is a strange sentence to write. He is our oldest, and while he's 24, I still think he's very young to be getting married. To which he reminds me that's two years older than I was when Dawn and I were married.

His bride Ana is a wonderful young lady. Kind, caring, and lovely both inside and out. They are a great match for each other. She is a detailed, orderly person and keeps Steven on track. Steven is rock solid for her and is always there to support her.  They are great together.

It's a strange day for me as I do not have job to do. Out here in our area, I'm usually the one officiating the wedding. Not today. Today I get to take it all in. They have decided to have their pastor Brandon officiate the wedding, and I'm all in favor of that. Ana has guided Steven back to a stronger connection with his faith, along with her family, the entire worship team, and staff at The Rock of Roseville. This is a very good thing.

I see many families dragging their kids to church. It usually doesn't turn out well in the long run. It's great when they are young, but when they approach high school, it can become counter productive. If you are forcing them to church on Sundays, all they are looking for are the flaws in the people there, and all they are listening to is their internal dialogue about hypocrisy and judgement.

Their faith has to be their own. You cannot transplant your faith into their souls, as much as we would like to. They need to connect with God in a way that's meaningful to them. It may be through another church, it may even be a break from church and time of self reflection.

I am so grateful to Ana and the entire Haines family for helping Steven reconnect with Jesus. It's been a tremendous blessing.

I'm still trying to digest the fact that my boy is moving out and moving on. It's going to take some getting used to.

Being my only son, we share a pretty close relationship. We share the same love of music, movies, books and a strange sense of humor. We are both introverts, and need time to think things over.

I may need longer than usual to come to terms with this new chapter in our lives.

Not sure what I will say today when I get the chance this evening. It's hard to put into words how proud I am of the man he has become. About how I am so confident he will be a great husband for Ana. How much I love him.

I'm going to miss our breakfasts together. I'm going to miss seeing him around the house. I'm going to miss him asking me questions. I'm just going to miss him period.

I am such a proud father of the groom today.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Letter to Abbie

(A surprise letter I was supposed to write to my daughter for her senior year class trip to the redwoods)

Dear Abigail,
Is there anything worse for you than to read a personal letter in front of a group of people? Well, just think, only 10 more months and you will not have to see these people again, unless it’s on a voluntary basis.

There were probably quite a few heartwarming letters read tonight, I’m sure this one will not be as good, but I’m going to write it anyway.

In every graduation, commencement, wedding, or even funeral, we often hear how wonderful the person in question is or was. When it comes to family, our biases seem to run deep. Our kid is the cutest, smartest, most wonderful kid in the world. All families say that, and most mean it, but it can’t be true. Where do all the average, and less than average people come from if everyone is so amazing?

I write this letter in all honesty. Without exaggeration, or embellishment. You are truly amazing. You are.

You are intelligent.
Intelligent in a way that may not show up on a test or in an easily measured metric. You have real world experience. You have been exposed to the adult world for some time now. You work in it, you are surrounded by it. You know what is expected of you in this grown up world. You know the value of hard work. Not just the monetary value of work, but the satisfaction of seeing a job through to completion and understanding the consequences if it does not get done right. This will give you a leg up when you get out on your own.

You are kind.
I don’t think I’ve ever had to reprimand you for being mean to someone. I understand that you can be a pain in the butt for some of your teachers, but deep down inside you don’t like mean people and would like everyone to get along. You can hold a grudge, and that is something you will get better with as you get older. You will realize that in the big scheme of your life, the little, petty, crap you will come across can simply be ignored and forgotten.

You are beautiful.
Not just in the way God made you, but as a complete human being. Unless you are being Crabby Abbie, then you’re not so cute. There are people who spend way too much time, money and effort trying to make themselves look a certain way; you don’t have to. You beauty is natural. Your smile and your personality brighten a room when you walk in. You should smile more often.

You are very focused.
That is a good thing, but it can have certain drawbacks. Never let your ‘To Do List’ overwhelm your capacity to stop and enjoy the little things. A sunrise, or a sunset. Quiet time alone with God. A five minute conversation with a friend. The roar of the ocean. Stop and take it in. This life goes by fast, don’t miss the good stuff.

You have everything you need to succeed.
There are many ways to measure success. If you watch too much TV or stay glued to your phone, it's easy to have society define success for you. Nice house, cool car, a loving family with 2.3 kids. If that's what you want, great. If not, great. Define your own success. What is important to you? Do that. You know how to work hard, you are honest, and you are kind. Those three things will bring you success in any endeavor. If you want to get a Master's degree in business or if you want to live on the road as horse trainer, or any number of things you have never even thought of yet, you can do it.

Don't worry about what you want to do with your life; you're young. Do lots of things. If you want to try something, try it. Go full tilt at it for two years with all your heart. If it doesn't work out the way you wanted, you will still be smart, kind, beautiful, focused and in your early twenties. Then try something else for two years. If you don't like where that road is taking you, find another road. If it doesn't work out, well, you know the rest....

You are a remarkable young woman. Know that.  Know it down to your toes. I am incredibly proud of you and I hope you have the best senior year you can imagine.

I love you, Dad.

Friday, July 07, 2017

How to become the right amount of dick

Yes, I am going to use the word dick in the piece. Sorry if it upsets your delicate sensibilities. If it really bothers you, substitute the word poohead, or very assertive person, or whatever you come up with. However, very assertive person is a pretty subjective, but everyone knows when someone's being a dick.

This concept has been rolling around in my head for a decade or so, but I never heard it spoken in a way that connected with me. This complex concept need a catchphrase. Something short and relatable; something people could easily understands.

I heard this catchphrase two months ago while watching a PBS show at 4:00 in the morning. I won't bore you with the details of sleep deprivation due to fracturing your patella, but let's just say four hours of sleep was about average back then.

The show is called Roadtrip Nation. It's about three young, college aged people traveling through the country, talking to people who are successful in the fields the travelers are studying. In the episode I watched, they meet Ben Kaufman, a guy who started his first million dollar company at age 19. He's a funny, driven, all or nothing kind of guy. The kind of guy I'd enjoy spending a day with. He's also the kind of guy I would probably strangle if I had to spend four days on a road trip, stuck in a car with this guy.

When asked by the three college students what's the best general advice he could give them, he paused and said, "I'm probably going to get in trouble for this, but.... find the right amount of dick."

You could see the strange smirks on the student's faces, as they tried to figure out what he meant.
He went on to say there are three kinds of people; some who are not enough dick, some that too much dick, and those who are the right amount of dick.

He explained those who are not enough dick go with the flow, they let the world bully them around and tell them what direction their life is going to go. Then there are those who are too much dick. They might be successful, but no one wants to work with them because they're abrasive and arrogant. In the middle, you have people who are the right amount of dick. These people fight for the things they believe in, care about the people around them, and pick their battles, knowing when to let the small stuff slide.

That is such great advice.

When I was younger, I was not enough dick. I went with the flow, I let people plan and run my life. After being out on my own and succeeding on my own terms, through my own efforts, I became more confident in myself. That self-confidence is crucial in finding that right amount of dick. I knew who I was, and that knowledge gave me permission to be a little more of a dick.

If your self-confidence is low, it's hard to stand up for yourself in business, in relationships, or in any aspect of your life. It also works the other way. If your self-confidence is low you can try to make up for it by being too much dick.

So do you have to be an old guy like me to find that right combination of assertiveness and diplomacy? No, I don't think so. I believe you can find this self-confidence by knowing yourself. I mean, really knowing yourself.

Self-awareness is the key to self-confidence. You have to strip away the layers of BS you tell yourself. About your past, about the way you think the should work, and get down to the real you.

Are you a good person? Do you constantly hurt other people's feelings? Do you do the same wrong things again and again? Are you trust worthy? Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you think about other people's situations before you act or speak?

This is a no excuse zone. It's not a "What I'd like to think of myself as" assessment, it's a "What do I do in real life" assessment.

If you've never done this kind of real self-assessment, this kind of looking at yourself from the outside like a stranger would see you, then you should do this immediately. You might have some very interesting, very honest conversations with some close friends and family.

If you come up with a good, honest self assessment, you can then look at how much of a dick you are.

If you are a not enough dick, you must become more assertive. Start by saying no to things that are not a priority. Don't give an explanation, just say no. It's hard, but you can do it. Stand up for the people and things you believe in. You are the person in charge of your life. No one else is going to care about your happiness the way you will. Being even a little bit of a dick may be something you never thought was acceptable. But it's okay to be the right amount of dick. Not all the time, and not with malice, but embrace it and move on. You'll be a lot happier.

If you are too much of a dick, take a look at how you see the world, and how you see yourself.  Ask yourself; do I have to be right every time? Do I have to have things my way all the time? Do I have to live in a world where everyone and everything is my way or it's automatically wrong? If so, you are going to be awful lonely at the end of your life. You might even be very successful, but you are going to burn through jobs, coworkers and/or employees at a blistering rate. You will consistently run through friends, alienate family, fight with your neighbors, and have an ever growing list of people I used to like, but now I can't stand. But it will be okay, because you'll be right!

So, here is the question I want you to ask yourself. Am I the right amount of dick? At home? At work? In all aspects of my life?

If you asked your family or coworkers/boss/employees this question and they answered honestly, what do you think they would say?

That balance is out there folks, you can find it. But you have to know where you are on that dick scale to start. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The sorting alley.

For all you city dwellers out there, please bear with me.

If you have been around a cattle ranch for any amount of time, you have sorted cattle. By sort, I mean taking a large group of critters and dividing them into smaller sub-groups. Mother cows and calves in one pen, bulls in another, weened steers and heifers in their own separate places, etc. To do this you need one of two things; A well built sorting alley that has been logically designed with that purpose in mind, or a set of pens, and a few really good horses, and cowboys who know what they are doing.

Both will work, and while I do love to watch a good hand on a finished horse work cattle in an alleyway. To be honest, I would rather have a welded pipe sorting alley, with heavy duty Powder River gates that swing both ways, hang straight and shut tight with one hand.  (I just read that line back and it sounds a bit dirty; oh well)

With a sturdy, well designed sorting alley, I can grab anyone with a pulse, an above room temperature IQ, and go sort cattle. If they can understand two words: In and By.

I'm not sure if In and By are universal terms in feedlots, auction yards and corrals across America, but they seem to be. I like using them because you can't mistake the two words, even with a Texas, Australian, or any other accent.

If you sort off a cow and send it down the alley, you yell "IN!" the person swings the gate into the alley, blocking the alley and opening the first pen. The cow will see the opening and 95% of the time will just trot into the correct pen. If you yell "BY" the person keeps that gate closed, moves to one side of the alley, to leave plenty of room for the cow to go by, and it trots by the gate and down the alley to an open pen.

You may ask yourself, what happens the other 5% of the time? Bad things. Bad things happen.

These bad things happen when cows decide against the path of least resistance and chose their own path. Their path usually involves pain, bent pipes, broken boards, broken bones, scars, black eyes and funny/horrific stories you tell you buddies at the bar. I have a few stories that involve the line, "so after he flipped me over his head, there I was, upside down in the crowding alley hoping the bull wouldn't come back to finish the job."

We sort cattle for a specific purpose. To separate calves from their mothers when It's time to ween them. To give a certain group a specific vaccine or treatment. Sometimes we sort them into groups because we want all the same kinds going to one place, to the sale yard for example.

The worst thing that happens in the sorting pens is after you worked all day to sort a few hundred head of cattle into the groups you want them, and someone forgets to latch a gate. Or the cattle break down a fence and they get mixed back together. (it just gives me a shiver to think about it)

So why are we talking about cows? Sorting cows is easy to understand. What about people? Well, we sort people in everyday life too. I don't know why we do it, I just know we do. Everyone does. Yes, even you and yes, even me.

I think it might be a product of our evolution. When we see someone, walking down the street, next to us in line at the store, in the elevator as the doors close, our brain asks the question; Friend or foe? Am I going to be safe with this person or is there a danger here? From the beginning of time, if you were bad at picking out dangerous people, your bloodline was killed off.

You were smashed in the head with a rock, or stabbed with a sharp stick, all the while thinking, hmmm, they seemed friendly enough.

That kind of friend or foe mindset is foreign to most of us these days. Unless you are police officer, a soldier, a night shift guy at the convenience store, or just live on the street in a bad part of town, the chances of you bumping into real life-threatening danger is remote at best. But we still sort people all the time.

One of the easiest ways to sort people is simple; do they look like me? If they do, there's a better than average chance they are kind of like me, or at least share the same set of basic values I do. If they don't look me, or dress like me, or speak the same language, the easiest thing to do is to assume they are not like me. If they are different from me, they go into the "not quite sure about this guy" pen before I add them to the 'people like me' list.

Now I can already hear you now saying, "No, that's just you racist hillbillies, I don't judge anyone by how they look." That my friend, is pure manure. I guarantee I can put you in a situation, no matter your race, creed or color, where that 'friend or foe' mechanism will be working overtime as you try to navigate your way back to familiar surroundings.

I guess we are a product of our environment to some degree. If all you see around you are people who look like you, it's easier to think of everyone outside of that environment as "Them".

Them, they, those people; basically people who are not like you.

Sometimes it goes far beyond what we look like. I know plenty of people whose skin, hair and eye color are the same as mine, but we don't share the same world views, political views, religious views, or any number of different views.

It is easy for me to sort these people into their own 'them' groups. Liberals, socialists, conservatives, lunatics, Trump supporters, etc. Once someone puts you into a group, it's hard to make your way out. We keep those pens shut tight. We all do it.

The one and only time we met, you may have said something that put you into one of my groups, and there you will stay until we meet again.

It's kind of a harsh reality, but we all do it to a certain extent. If I see a Hillary sticker on your car, you are immediately sorted into the Liberal group. If I see an Obama 08' and 12' and Sanders 16' sticker on your car, you move to the Socialist group. It works both ways too. If you see my NRA Life Member card when I buy lunch, you will sort me into the Crazy Gun Guy group. (and I'm not saying you would be wrong either)

Now, I know many friends who voted for Hillary, and I even if I do sort them into the Liberal pen, it doesn't mean we can't be good friends. It just means I need to have them screened for other mental illnesses. I kid, I kid.

One of my friends, who I worked with for years, is an African American fellow. We spent many, many a swing shift hour talking about our shared faith, our divergent political views, and race relations in America. We don't agree on everything, in fact, we have spirited disagreements about quite a few things. All that being said: I love that guy. He is a good dude. He is one of 'my kind' of people.

The strange thing is, I've known people for years, people who look like me, talk like me, dress like me, and probably share most of my political views, who are not 'my kind' people.

They are not interested in the world around them, they are not interested in ideas, and they certainly are not interested in looking inward at themselves. They are closed minded. All their problems are caused by someone or something outside their control. They are victims of all sorts of forces aligned against them.

I guess if there are any lessons to be learned, it's that we all sort people. Sometimes it's a necessity, based on the situation. Most of the times it just our brain working in the background yelling IN! and BY!

I know it takes a conscious effort, but we should get to know people a bit more before we sort them into a pen they may not belong in. I know I need to work harder at that.

How many friends have I passed up, or not engaged with because they looked or thought differently than I did? How many poisonous people have I let into my life because we they looked like me and shared similar views on a certain things?

In today's political climate, sorting people seems to be what we do first. I wish we wouldn't. I will try to be better at this, or at least open the pens a lot sooner and let them find their way to where they belong.

Happy Mother's day

This time of year, everyone talks about how they have the best mom. I am here to put and end to this slanderous chatter. You can't have the best mother. That title belongs to my mom, Alice.

She is the best mom because she raised me and my sister, and we are awesome. Actually, I am awesome, and my sister is quite a bit above average, but falls short of awesome because she doesn't have dimples and is a far inferior dancer.

That being said, mom is the best because she had to put up with us, and she didn't kill us. This is an enormous accomplishment in itself. I may have to give just the slightest edge to my sister here because she was rarely in trouble, where as I was constantly into all kinds of mischief and chicanery.

Alice is a great cook. I'm not embellishing here, this woman can flat out cook. Ask any of my friends who spent time at our house over the years and they will say the same. Her chicken cacciatore is wonderful.

She is also a cross between Dr. Phil -only much less creepy- and Mr. Rodgers, with less sweaters. My mom has given me some of the best advice I have ever received. Even when I did not listen to it, she was right. She taught me how to be kind, how to care about others, and how to believe in myself.

She loves music, especially Elvis. She always had those 8-track tapes playing on the seemingly endless road trips we used to take with dad as he was looking for ranches to buy, sell or lease.

Iv'e never seen her throw a fit in all my years, and I gave her plenty of reasons to do that very thing. She did snap a wooden spoon on my backside once, but she only got mildly flustered and went to the kitchen where she kept a braided riding crop on top of the fridge and that gave me the chance to escape.

All kidding aside, my mother is a remarkable woman. I could not, and would not, ask for a better one.

Happy Mother's Day Alice, I love you dearly.

(PS, since you live up in the dinggles, you're getting an Amazon card)