Friday, July 24, 2015

From Star Wars to Minions

One of the great joys I have being a father is watching my girls experience the same kind of excitement I enjoyed as a kid. Tomorrow I get to experience another one of those events. We are taking the girls to their very first movie in a theater.

I'd be lying if I said they haven't seen a gazillion bazillion movies already. (Note: I'm not sure if "gazillion bazillion"  is a real number, but my girls seem to use it a lot.) It is a little sad that it has taken this long for them to get to experience the pleasure of watching a movie on the big screen. Maybe a little more so for my six year old than her four year old sister.

I am fairly certain that the first movie I ever saw in the theater was Star Wars. Using a highly complex mathematical equation involving my birth year, the year Star Wars was originally released and the fact that my folks probably took me to see it at the discount dollar movies, I was able to determine how old I was when I saw my first movie in a theater. It was in the afternoon of the day I turned four years, six months and eighteen days old. (Saying "about four and a half years old probably would have sufficed.)

In all honesty, I may be off by a year or so and I'm really only about 94% sure it was actually Star Wars that I saw first. I am however certain that I remember the most vivid details from walking into that theater for the first time. I remember not knowing what to expect and then just standing there with a mix of shock and awe when I first saw the big screen. For any youngsters (younger than 40) reading this, you have to realize that we didn't have 50" televisions back then and Beta and VHS were only a few years old at that time and not exactly found in every home. Seeing a movie meant that it was playing on tv....the 13" black and white box on the bookshelf. (For those of you who only know about Netflix, Hulu and the like, there were also these things called commercials that we had to wait through between scenes.)

In trying to prepare my girls for the awesomeness of seeing the ginormous screen (yes, another word my girls taught me), I've just been saying the screen is as big as our house. They just seem to stand in dumbfounded awe as they try to imagine it. It's going to be great seeing their expression when they see the real deal.

My wife and I have had our reasons for waiting until now to take them to a theater: Sound and light. Or, more accurately, very loud sound and the pitch blackness of the theater. I won't claim to understand the mix of fears my girls have. They'll see a vicious, barking great dane the size of a house (or movie theater screen) and say, "Oh look. A puppy." A few seconds later they will run in terror from a bee that's twenty feet away. Of all their fears though, loud sounds has seemed to top the list. (The darkness probably wouldn't be so bad without the sound factor involved.)

For tomorrow, we're hoping to put the girls' fears aside, take a leap of faith and hope for the best. In the end, if anything is going to put a damper on the experience, it will probably be potty breaks in the middle of the movie. I'm not looking forward to missing any of the movie taking them out because I have a feeling it's going to be a pretty funny movie. We'll see how it goes. Until next time....

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why is it called middle age?

I'll be honest right up front...I'm not sure what really classifies as "middle age" any more. I think I'm getting pretty close - if I'm not already there. Is 41 years old considered middle age? The thing that got me thinking about this is that I have recently started looking at middle age as a combination of two things: Age and Technology

I recently saw a post on Facebook that said something like, "Don't complain about your parents' struggling to understand technology - they did teach you how to use the potty." That sums it up pretty well in my book. (Just be glad I chose not to write about the one I saw comparing how we start and end our lives wearing diapers.)

I have had the pleasure of helping my dad with a number of technological issues this past week, (Sorry to throw you under the bus Dad. FYI- You're NOT the only person who asks for and receives help from me in this arena. You can also ask the REAL tech gurus at my work - I ask LOTS of tech questions that probably seem silly to them...and frustrate them.) I probably got a little frustrated during our tech repair sessions (Dad might place the level of frustration a little higher on the scale.), but in the end, I'm glad I could help. I just kept thinking about how he had the frustration of teaching me to use the potty.

For the record - the way my Mom always told it anyway - I apparently barely learned to use the potty before starting preschool. The pushing (no pun intended...well, maybe a little.) that finally worked was Mom telling me she was just going to teach me how to change my own diaper. She also added that I would be the only one doing that - so she wouldn't recommend it. (A little fear of embarrassment goes a long way.) Whatever. It worked. It's even worked on my eldest daughter on occasion....but now I'm getting off on a tangent...

Back on track - I can appreciate the training and learning process all the more now that I am in the middle. Middle age. Middle tech knowledge. However you want to look at it.

I get to experience teaching my two little girls things and being frustrated when they just don't do it or give up too soon. We're past the potty training stage (thankfully), have one of them riding a bike without training wheels (and the other not too far behind) and now we're working on swimming lessons. I plan to visit with my Dad in the next few weeks to see just how I did on all those things. I think the swimming is frustrating me the most, but to be realistic, I grew up in Texas and had an in-ground pool in our backyard. I'm pretty sure I was swimming shortly after walking.

Now I have the joy of helping/teaching my Dad (and others...) about how to use their technology. There is also a lot of fixing technology involved as well. I do have to say that once I learned how to access the computers in question remotely (a newer tech skill of my own), life got a lot easier. Then again, it does make the smartphone and no internet connection issues that much more frustrating because I CAN'T login to a computer remotely to fix them.

The scary part to me is that my little girls (ages four and six) can already pick up my phone, unlock it with the "secret swipe", open the Netflix App, select a movie, select the right input on the tv, cast the movie to the tv via the Chromecast plugged into the HDMI port and sit back and watch. That means the girls will very likely catch up to me in the technology skills department in about six months. You hear that Dad? My girls will probably have to help me with tech before I reach 50. That should make you feel better.

The moral of this long-winded, rambling, tangent-taking story is to have a little patience. Be patient when you're training your kids as they are developing their new skills. Be patient when you're helping your parents on the ever changing technological advancements they are being forced to learn years after they thought class was dismissed. Have fun. Teach somebody something....patiently. Until next time....

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to nag properly

Although I get the greater majority of my content from my girls, this post was inspired by my wife. No, my wife is not a nag. FAR from it. In reality, she is so considerate of others and has such a strong dislike for confrontation that she suggested I write a post about how to encourage someone to reach their goals. Having been married to her for some time now, I understood that what she was really asking was how much she should be encouraging me with my health goals. (I'm not failing, but I could be doing better.) I just decided to throw the "nag" term in there because she's so concerned about not wanting to nag me about my goals.

Somewhere along the line, you have probably heard about SMART goals. You may even use them on a daily basis already. For those of you unfamiliar with them, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. That works so well for setting goals, I thought we could use an acronym for properly nagging someone else to attain their goals. I think I came up with a good, strong acronym just for this purpose.... WEAK nagging. Seems legit. You want to nag, but not too much.

This post will walk you through the steps for WEAK nagging. You will learn WHEN to nag, how to ENCOURAGE them, how to ACCEPT your differences and what you need to KNOW about their goal.

When to nag
Learning when to nag is probably the hardest part to figure out because it is so vital to get it just right. Nagging too soon comes across as overly pushy and unrealistic. Nagging too late will appear as if you've just decided to play a game of "I told you so" and take over the process. It's a lot like a game of stoplight without anyone telling you red or green.|

I didn't realize it was so tough for my wife to understand when to nag versus when to let it slide. It shouldn't have surprised me because I never really did tell her. And to be completely honest, I don't have a middle ground. I'm either happy to comply with a suggestion or I'm snappy because I feel like I'm being pushed. (That's all me...probably another goal in there somewhere.)

I gave her an example to hopefully set a "template" of sorts to help her decide going forward. I used a food example because that's the most obvious every day example. I explained to her that if we're eating a basic mac n cheese dinner and I'm on my third bowl, that would be a realistic time to mention portion control. On the other hand, if we're having enchiladas (one of my favorite meals that we almost never have) and I'm going for plate number two, maybe cut me a little slack for a "special occasion." A lot of it is in the timing and in picking your battles.

Encourage them
Yes, I know. Encourage is just a fancy schmancy word for nag, but I should probably use it at least a few times in this post. Nagging is fun to do and especially fun if you're on the receiving end, but it doesn't really work without a little encouragement. Don't jump right into encouraging though. You first need to understand what you are encouraging.

Rule number one. Encourage what THEY are trying to accomplish, not what you think they should accomplish. I'm not saying you shouldn't set the bar high. I'm saying that the bar setting should have been done before this whole process started. When you are nagging to their expectations, you will have better results for your nagging efforts.

Rule number two. Encourage them to ask for help if they need it rather than constantly offering unsolicited advice. (That can borderline on "real nagging" pretty quickly.) Most people don't like to ask for help so encouraging them to speak up when it's wanted goes a long way. Don't forget to actually help if/when it's asked for.

Rule number three. Encourage them by acknowledging their small wins along the way rather than pointing out their near misses (losses). Being negative doesn't usually motivate someone to do better next time.

Rule number four. (Caution: For expert naggers only) Forget rule number three sometimes. Why call it how to properly nag if you can't point out some of the losses in a clearly sarcastic and playful manner. In my house that would be something like my wife saying, "What - you couldn't finish the WHOLE carton of ice cream? It was only a brand new carton." Just have fun with it whenever you can, but know your audience!

Accept that they are not you
This one is extremely important for people who happen to be goal crushing professionals nagging possibly reluctant, less goal driven individuals. When it comes to health goals anyway, this would explain my wife and me pretty well. She's the run every morning, eat sensible meals, doesn't wake up at midnight nearly every night to have a sandwich kind of gal.

Me on the other hand.... I have good intentions and reasoning behind my health goals, but less excitement about achieving them than I should. I want to lower my blood pressure and not have a heart attack before my girls graduate high school...or grade school for that matter. My problem is that I don't really care enough about how I look on the outside to have the daily visual reminder of my lack of six-pack abs encourage me.

Know the person you're nagging
In the end, if you really know the person you're nagging, then you can throw all these tips out the window. Have a free-for-all until you find what works. Knowing their personality will let you know how and when to do all the steps above.

For me, an eye roll or serious "talk" about my health will put up my defenses because I feel like a failure. (Sorry, some of my emotional side was leaking out there - someone wipe that up.) Because I'm a joker, I respond better to a comment like, "Hey tubby! Can you pass me the salt when you're done inhaling that bite?"

Well, once again, I've gone and rambled on far too long. Or maybe I haven't?? Technically, no one has ever nagged me about my posts being too long. Of course they've never nagged me about them being too short or too infrequently published either. I'll stop while I at least feel like I'm ahead. Until next time....

Monday, July 13, 2015

Now why dont he write?

Now why don't he write?
I'm sure many of you have been sitting on the edge of your seat in suspense wondering "Now why don't he write?" Some of you may recognize that phrase from Dances With Wolves. It was from a scene while Timmons was giving John Dunbar a ride out to his new post out west. During their trip westward, they came upon the remains of an individual out on the prairie. Timmons looked to Dunbar and said something to the effect of somebody back east saying "Now why don't he write?"

I'd like to say that the reason I haven't written is due to the 4th of July holiday weekend and being busy with summer related activities, but it's actually something more trivial. I've been "forced" to watch Netflix. Over the past few weeks, a number of new seasons were released for some of the tv series I follow on Netflix. The most recent being Hell on Wheels.

For those of you not familiar with the show, it's set in the 1860's and tells a story of the race to construct the first railroad line out west. It does a nice job of starting with factual characters and events and then adding enough fiction to keep you engaged on an episode by episode basis.

The old West
I have always enjoyed books, movies and television shows about the old west. I enjoy the escapism of imagining myself in a different place and/or time. Getting immersed in an old west story is a way for me to tune down the noise of everyday life and decompress a little while I dream of a simpler time. (Not that my life has all that much noise in it.) There are a number of things I would have liked about living in the old west.

Guns and Knives
Although it's not what I would choose as my favorite part about the old west, it is the first one that comes to mind. I realize that books and films have probably exaggerated the actual amount of gun-toting cowboys that were walking the streets of downtown. I also realize that I can walk around the streets of downtown today with a handgun on my hip, but it's not the same. There's just something more appealing about a low hanging six shooter at your side. (I imagine the reality was that it was impractical and in the way for most everyday tasks.)

The same goes for knives. Nobody would have looked twice in the old west if you had a twelve inch Bowie knife on your other hip opposite your six shooter. If I were to walk around downtown with a Ka-Bar on my hip I'd probably catch some heat. As a matter of fact, it might exceed legal blade length in town. I'm honestly not even sure if cities have those regulations anymore. (For the record, I just checked Minnesota knife legislation and it looks like I can carry just about anything - except a switchblade, as long as I don't "intend to hurt" anyone.) Other than self defense, I don't see a real use for a fighting knife as an everyday carry. Not that it wouldn't be a reasonable reason.

Crimes and Punishment
After speaking of guns and knives, it's only natural to talk about crime and punishment. We all know that guns and knives hurt and kill people just by being present...(If you were shaking your head in agreement, you can go find another blog to read - it was a sarcastic statement.) Although I doubt there weren't quite as many shootouts in the streets as depicted in the movies, there had to be a few. Even without the speedy (nearly instant) justice of gunning down that lyin', cheatin' dog that was hiding an Ace up his sleeve, there was still a rather quick legal process. (At least as depicted in the movies and television...)

Watching tv last night (yes, Hell on Wheels), the local church lady shot and killed the man who killed her "son". She was then convicted the very next day and hung the day after that. Just think how much money we would save if convicted murderers were put down the day after sentencing. Better yet, how much additional money could we save if we didn't feed and house them for years before even going to trial. Then again, due process is there for a reason and we do have our rights....even if they are getting a bit more exaggerated every year.

Respect and Politeness
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the politeness, respect, and over all neighborly goodness of the old west. Granted you can still find that alive and well in many small towns across America, but it is a little bit harder to find as you get into larger cities. Please don't get me wrong on that. I am well aware that there are very kind people who live in large cities and big jerks that live in small towns too. On average though, the overall feel of the town's friendliness seems inversely proportional to the size of the town.

I think this friendliness scale is closely related to the way attitudes in general compare between an in-person conversation and an online conversation. People can be downright mean and nasty online. It's gotten so bad that it's almost funny to read the comments on Facebook posts these days just to see the ridiculous filth strangers are spewing back and forth at each other.

Slow and "Easy"
I have to be careful with this one. Slow and easy to me is being laid back, relaxed and in no particular hurry. I doubt there was much of anything that was actually "easy" in the old west.

I do think I would enjoy the opportunity to be unplugged from the technological world we live in, but the only way I see that happening is if everyone were in the same boat. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm pretty much hooked to my constant feed of information now. No matter how much I say I would enjoy cutting the cord, I know I'd never be able to do it while the rest of the world kept speeding up. Ask me again when I'm entering retirement and I might talk a different story.

On that note - I've forced you to stare at a screen for far too long already. Maybe next time I should ramble on about my interest in space cowboys, or a potentially longer post, post-apocalyptic stories. Maybe I'll remember to warn you next time that it's going to be a long story so you have time to make a quick trip to the bathroom first. Until next time....