Sunday, July 31, 2016

Organizational Specialist

My wife just wrote a blog post called "It's a Mom's Life" where she discussed the numerous (and growing) list of things she wants to tackle on a daily basis. She pretty much called me out in her blog looking for a response from the "Dad's Life" side of things. I'm not afraid of a challenge, so here we go....

First off.. As you can see from the photo above, my wife and I have different plans of attack for our daily task lists. I'm not going to get into all the specifics of what we each attempt to accomplish on any given day because we all know the Mom list is far more complicated and lengthy than the Dad's list. I am going to focus more on the difference in how we plan to complete the tasks in general.

My wife is a list maker. I applaud her for that because a list helps ensure nothing is forgotten in the daily grind. As she pointed out in her blog, she doesn't list everyday items like making meals, doing laundry and the like. 

As you can see from my list above, I rarely have a detailed plan of attack. The one exception would be when I prepare for a trip or vacation. In those instances, I go into full list mode because I get very irritated when I go on a trip and forget something like my toothbrush or underwear. For the typical day though, I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants. 

It's kind of interesting that I do this in my personal life because the opposite is true at work. In my job, I work off of tickets in our company's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. I have every task listed with details, dates, contacts, actions taken, actions needed to be done, etc. It's basically the technological version of a list on steroids. It ensures nothing gets forgotten and there's a record of everything I do. 

My wife related her mental to-do list and her physical to-do list to having multiple tabs open on your internet browser. Just when you're getting started on one item, two more will pop up. That can spiral out of control very quickly and if you don't make your list, it could easily get forgotten. 

The down side to this is that with all the new items popping up and needing to be added to a list, you can lose focus on the task at hand. I personally have mixed feelings about the idea of multi-tasking. Doing too many things at once will often slow down the completion of any specific task and risks making errors on each task because you're not focused on a specific topic. (Kind of like most of my blog posts.) 

An advantage to list making is that it helps you prioritize. If you see what you have to do and how important each task is, you can make a game plan to complete your list. Or, you may find yourself crossing items off your list completely.

There's nothing wrong with applying a little bit of LEAN management to your personal to-do lists. Reducing your steps, eliminating waste or duplication of work and getting rid of tasks that don't provide any real value is a great start for your list. 

For example, if I had "reorganize my sock drawer" on my list, it should get crossed off. What value would that add? Would it save me time in the morning when getting ready for work? Has it been creating any inefficiencies in my day as it is? That answer is no. It would be a waste of time to fulfill some OCD need to have my socks lined up in neat rows based on style and color. My time would be better spent taking a nap...or completing a different task on my list. 

Here in the real world, I try to plan out as little of my personal time as possible. I don't want to feel like I'm working when I am at home. As I said above, I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants. I guess it would be more accurate to say I let my to-do list prioritize itself. I will complete tasks based on need or by special request.

I am your average guy who came with selective hearing pre-installed. Somewhere along the line, I got an upgrade to selective vision as well. The girls are calling out for Mom in the middle of the night - clearly they don't want me, so I choose not to hear it. There's a basket of unfolded clean laundry on the living room floor - clearly my wife wants it there, so why would I fold it? If it becomes a higher priority, my wife will ask me to fold that laundry that I've "stepped over five times in the last 20 minutes."

I'm really good at doing what I'm asked to do around the house, but I put very little effort at prioritizing items that don't have a direct affect on my own to-do list. That sounds pretty lazy and selfish now that I write it so I should probably make a few changes in that area. I don't have problems prioritizing things like fixing the lawn mower today so I can mow tomorrow because it's going to rain the next day. I might be able to use some of that same thought process with items around the house where I could actually be helpful to my wife rather than just another one of the kids. 

We'll see how it goes. I've seen what out of control list making can do. One of my sisters (I won't say which one) is, or at least was, a list making fanatic. I've seen her turn cleaning her room into a three day affair. She'll make a list for organizing her closet, a list for cleaning up her desk, a list for organizing her collection of books and so on. To top it off, she would then make a list to organize her lists. If you need a separate list to keep track of your others lists, there's probably some inefficiencies in your process. 

Maybe I've taken my aversion to list making too far?? Maybe it should be a little more like my wife does hers. A single simple list to keep me on track. Then again, maybe I'm just better at procrastination in my free time that I give myself credit for. I guess I should end the post here so I can go start a list. Or, maybe I can do it tomorrow. Until next time....

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Turbulence - A lesson in perception

Perception is a very powerful thing. Two different people can experience an identical situation in completely different ways. I was reminded of this fact as we were returning from our recent vacation to the west coast.

We spent a wonderful week in the state of Oregon visiting family. The week was filled with many exciting adventures and new experiences for my two little girls. One of those experiences was the flight out and back.

My seven year old daughter, Ziva, had actually flown twice before. Once when she was six weeks old and again when she was one and a half years old. For all intents and purposes, this was her first plane ride....that she remembers anyway. This was the first ever flight though for my younger, five year old daughter, Siri though.

The flight out went great. The girls handled the airport and security like a couple of seasoned travelers. The flight itself went quite well too. They really enjoyed the thrill of the takeoff and the beautiful views while airborne. The same went for the return trip...except for the last half hour of the trip.

As we neared our home airport, the air began to get pretty choppy. As it turned out, our approach was through a couple storms working their way through the area. For those of you who may never have experienced turbulence, the intensity varies quite a bit. Mild turbulence is about like riding a boat across some small waves. Heavier turbulence is more like driving your car at 60 mph and then hitting a curb.

We experienced a little bit of the latter as we were nearing the airport on our return trip. It's far from the worst I've experienced. I mean, none of the overhead baggage compartments flew open. Let's just say there was quite a bit of bouncing around going on.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to my 5 year old during this bumpy ride. I was preparing myself to deal with a terrified little girl, but my preparation was unnecessary. Siri was having the time of her life! She thought all the bouncing around was the coolest ride she'd ever been on. Considering the most thrilling ride she's been on is a carousel, I guess that's not saying much.

My wife was sitting across the aisle from us with my 7 year old daughter. She, on the other hand, was NOT thrilled about the bumpy ride. It didn't help that she already had a nice headache going from the pressure change during decent. (I guess she's like me. I tend to get headaches now rather than ear popping.) In the end, she didn't completely break down...but she was close.

Perception played a major role. My younger daughter has no fear because she has no real understanding of the possible dangers - no matter how little the risk may actually be. My older daughter is now smart enough to understand that heavy blows to an airliner going 500 miles an hour at 15,000 feet has a bit of fear factor to it. Maybe she is just able to think out the whole "wing falls off - plane drops like a rock" thing.

I know I had a brief moment of panic myself, but it wasn't for fear of the plane falling apart. It was fear that one (or both) of my girls would fall apart. Most parents will understand that fear. It's quicker and less painful to crash and burn that to deal with a terrified child for 45 minutes. (Note: I have never crashed and burned in an airline crash - so it's really just an assumption.)

Needles to say, since I'm alive and well and writing this post, we survived the landing. Most of the passengers even clapped as we touched down...if that gives you any idea about the affect of turbulence on a variety of people. It was a good reminder of how people experience the same situation differently.

I have to sign off for now. The girls are ending their "quiet - rest" time. Naps are a thing of the past for them these days. I suppose I could have written this perception post about napping just as easily. Kids never seem to want to nap and many adults wish they had the opportunity to nap. What's sought after by one is avoided by another. Until next time....

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ten Sweet Years

My wife told me the other day that our ten year anniversary is just around the corner. Apparently, she's reminded me a few times in the last month, but my memory just isn't what it used to be. Don't get me wrong, I was well aware that our anniversary was coming up. I just don't pay as much attention to what the running count is.

It doesn't feel like it's been ten years. The strange part is that I can't decide if it feels like it's been more than ten years or less. Maybe it's my memory going in my old age or maybe I'm just bad at keeping track of important dates and the cumulative count achieved after successive years.

Some days it feels like we've only been married for three or four years. It seems like yesterday we walked down the aisle to say our "I do's." At least I remember it like it was yesterday. Maybe my memory isn't as bad as I thought. Or, it could be that we watched our wedding video last week with our daughters. 

Time really does fly when you're having fun. That's probably why it only seems like it's been a few years rather than a decade. Then again, with all the fun we've had, it certainly couldn't have all fit into just a handful of years. Once you add in all the changes to our family since we were married, the scale starts to tip the other way.

In the ten years since we've been married, we've moved into a new home, had a number of career changes, been on a number of cross country vacations and added two children to our family. There have been more joys and sorrows, triumphs and losses than I care to even attempt to list. I should point out that I do however see great value in remembering both the good and the bad. The bad times help you appreciate the good times all the more.

Just thinking about all these changes that have taken place makes me feel as though it's been more like 20 years. That would make more sense considering how much faster the years seem to go once you have kids. But considering I didn't get married until I was 32 years old, I hope it hasn't really been 20 years.

One of the most important things I have learned during our years of marriage is that my wife is almost always right. Because of that, I am going to assume she is correct when she tells me it's our ten year anniversary. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with this information.

I did an internet search to see what the "suggested gift" is for the ten year anniversary and made an interesting discovery. According to the traditional anniversary gift list, the ten year gift is tin or aluminum. Then I saw there is now a contemporary list. That list says the ten year gift is diamond jewelry. 

How did that happen? Is it like inflation where the cost just keeps going up? Or have marriages just gotten that much worse that it takes a bigger gift to appease your partner? I suppose it could be the opposite where marriages have gotten so much better that they warrant a larger gift, but I don't think so considering the divorce rate these days.

I know my wife is definitely worth buying some diamond jewelry. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that on a tin can budget, but it will be fun trying. Perhaps I will just have to skip the traditional and contemporary gift guidelines and go with the old fashioned guideline: Picking something out myself rather than using an internet guide. 

Time will tell if I succeed. I know we have some pretty fun plans in place for our anniversary. That's a good start at least. We'll see where it goes from there. Hopefully love will go a long way too. I have lots of that for her and it didn't cost me anything. Until next time....

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Proper Path to Trolling

One of the great joys in life is scrolling through the comment feeds on the various social media platforms and reading the discussions that take place between "fans" and "trolls." For me personally, it's almost as enjoyable as a root canal or fingernails on a chalkboard. 

No matter how entertaining it is to you personally, I hope you understand that you can't just decide to become a troll yourself one day. It takes years of practice and hard work. Luckily for you, I am an expert observer in this field (at least according to my Facebook degree) and I am willing to let you in on the well kept secret that is Internet Trolling. 

To save myself some referencing on quotes, I will tell you that I found all the quotes I use in this post by using the the great Google Machine. If you don't know how to do that, you can click HERE for a brief tutorial. That, or ask someone in a comment feed, There is no shortage of experts there.

As with many things in life, you have to walk before you can fly. In the case of internet trolling, the educational equivalent to elementary school would be the backseat driver. 

A Backseat Driver is “a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle.”

Your baby steps in this process simply begin with telling other people what to do. In my house, we call the preschool version of this being "Little Miss Bossy Pants." I'm assuming that you passed that class before you reached the age of five, so I I'm going to skip right over it. 

Feeling the great sense of "control" telling the driver what they should be doing differently or pointing out everything they did wrong will really fuel your passion for future trolling. Learning how to be a backseat driver before you even step foot in Driver's Ed is a huge plus. 

Once you master the baby steps of backseat driving, you're ready for middle school. Or as it's more often called, the armchair quarterback. 

An Armchair Quarterback is “a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no expertice or involvement.”

Being am armchair quarterback isn't all that different from backseat driving. I just like to think of it as a refinement of your backseat driving skills. Let's face it, a monkey could drive a car. It doesn't take that much skill to know when to stop, turn, read a speed limit sign, etc. Quarterbacking takes some skill.

As the armchair quarterback, you are responsible for trying to advise a professional how to do something you yourself are completely incompetent at. Once again, the more comfortable you get with this prior to moving to the next stage, the better off you'll be in the end.

Just like the transition from middle school to high school isn't that much of a stretch, neither is your advancement to Monday morning quarterback.

A Monday Morning Quarterback is “someone who is always criticizing and saying how he would have done something better or differently after the event has passed.”

The high school level is where you take what you learned in middle school, build on it and add a bit or arrogance and spitfire. You are now not only responsible for correcting a more adequately skilled person's actions, but you also need to have the nerve to do it after the fact. That's particularly important if you have the stones to say it to their face....but we'll get to that part later.

College, oh glorious college. You are now almost in the real world. You have your first sense of real freedom. You feel like you're a real life adult with an opinion that matters. You are now ready to become a Facebook Warrior.

A Facebook Warrior is “someone who posts on Facebook about all their ideals and causes....without doing any real work.”

Just like in college, you know you're changing the world just by what you are becoming. The only problem is that you're still technically in school. You may talk a big game about how you're pre-med, pre-law or pre-troll, but until you graduate you're just blowing smoke. You haven't really done anything to "fix the world" yet.

There is a little bit of prestige with your new college level status of Facebook warrior. I've even seen the fancy badges and awards....on Facebook. If earning your Facebook warrior badge doesn't get your juices flowing at this point, you'll never make it as a troll.

Assuming you can handle the next step, you'll move on to get your Master's degree that provides you will full keyboard commando rights.

A Keyboard Commando is “someone who acts tough behind a keyboard online, but can't say the same things in real life.”

You now have a great handle on your education thus far, but truth be told, it's just book knowledge. You have yet to get any real life experience. Because of this, you will fight the good fight from behind your keyboard and in the safety of you're own home.

This stage is where most people tap out. They either find they just can't cut it or they don't have the arrogant, all-knowing, greater-than-thee mentality needed to make the next step. But, if you got it, you're golden. You can pack your bags and hit the consulting and speech circuit because you're ready for your PhD. A full blown internet troll.

An Internet Troll is “a person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the internet over extremely trivial issues.”

OK, so maybe I got a little fast and loose with the whole "pack your bags" part because an internet troll is by definition stuck on the internet. The difference that your PhD in trolling will make is that you KNOW you're always right. You KNOW everyone wants to hear the real truth from you. You KNOW it is your responsibility to troll the internet looking for people to argue with....I mean educate.

It is possible to take these abilities out into the real world, but it's not quite as common. I can't list the words people will use to describe you if you did because this is a family friendly blog and all. You will also more than likely be put in your place, physically, before too long. It takes a little more than blocking a user and logging off the computer to get out of a battle you suddenly realize is over your head.

So as you're out scrolling through your favorite social media news feeds, pay attention. It won't take long for you to become an expert observer of trolling like me. After all, if I can do it, so can a monkey. Kinda like driving a car. Then again, we do have some pretty awful drivers out there. Maybe that should be my next post. Until next time....

Monday, July 4, 2016

Trick or Treat on the Fourth

Just when I thought I had a great idea for a Fourth of July post, my girls changed my mind for me. That seems to happen quite a bit, but since they typically have better ideas than me, I just go with the flow. The idea of trick or treat came up today - of all days - on Independence Day. The idea for this post came from the following conversation between my wife and older daughter:

Sarah: "I have a possible treat for you girls today."
Ziva: "Is it a real treat or a different kind of treat?"
Sarah: "What?..."
Ziva: " You know....Something we would like."
Me: "Yeah honey. Is it a trick or treat?"
Sarah: "You mean like bribery versus reward?"

By that point the girls had lost interest and wandered off, but the gears started cranking in my head. 

We offer up treats to our girls on a near daily basis. I will admit that a few of them ride that fine line between bribery and reward. If you're a parent, you'll understand that the line between bribery and reward can get a little grey at times. We have a lengthy "list" of things that are just expected of our girls without reward or treat. We also understand a little encouragement (treats) are fun along the way too.

Although we have general expectations of our girls that shouldn't warrant an added treat for completion, we understand a treat every now and then goes a long ways. Maybe they've just had a spectacular day with minimal arguing or bickering. Maybe they went out of their way to be helpful around the house. Whatever the case may be, it's fun to give them that little reward for doing well.

We use rewards in a few different ways. Neither of our girls get an allowance as of right now. Most of the chores that typically generate said allowance are things we just expect from them a member of the family. (Making their bed, picking up their room, etc.) Once they start mowing the lawn for me or doing the dishes for my wife, we might discuss allowance....maybe.

We use a combination of immediate response rewards as well as long term rewards. An immediate reward in our house would be something like an ice cream cone after lunch for being so helpful around the house all morning. That is an immediate "return on their actions." On the longer term end, we have a jar we fill up with little wooden hearts. When they have a spectacular day or go above and beyond, we say they "put a heart in our bucket" and we literally put a heart in the jar. Filling that jar earns them some agreed upon reward like going to the movies or the zoo.  

I think "bribery" gets a bad rap sometimes. Most parents will tell you that they have used some form of bribery at one point or another. It is a fine line to walk, but it does seem to help when you're having one of those days that just seems to be going down hill.

The "rewards" I listed above may seem like bribery, but it really comes down to how you use it. If the kids expect a reward for doing something, you're probably doing it wrong. If they are pleasantly surprised to earn something from their hard work, then you're probably on the right track.

I take a little bit of comfort in being able to justify my bribery as well. Let's say all the kids are melting down and it's not even lunch time yet. You have a lot to do that day and just want to make it through the day without pulling out all your hair. You decide to pull out the big guns. "If we can all behave for the rest of the day, we will go to McDonald's and get Happy Meals for supper." 

There. You did it. You just bribed your kids. Or did you? It's all about how good you are at justifying your actions. To me, that's not bribery. That's self preservation and a little treat for yourself. The kids think they're getting a reward for being good all day, but it's really you who gets the reward. You are able to complete your list of tasks for the day while the kids behave AND you don't have to cook supper. It's Win-Win. 

Trick or Treat
That all being said, it's really how you look at it that determines if it's a reward or bribery. Or, in my case, whether it's a trick or a treat. I trick the kids into thinking they're getting a treat for basically doing what I expect of them anyway. In reality, I just don't want to listen to the arguing all day or have to make supper. 

Don't get me wrong though. This trick or treat concept isn't my first choice. I save that for extreme cases when I'm just not really feeling up to running the regular paces. More often that not, I stick to the "because I said so" plan that many of us are familiar with from our own childhoods. The problem with that is it's not completely understood until you grow up, become a parent and use it on your own kids. 

Since it is Independence Day, I should point out that a lot of the struggles we have been facing lately with our two girls are directly related to independence. Our girls are 5 and 7....going on 15 and 17. They are both very independent young ladies. There is good and bad to that.

Just like with our own nation's independence, it started with a disagreement, arguing and ultimately a battle. Sounds like a Tuesday morning in our house...without the gun fights. The good side of it is that our girls want to be independent. Cleaning your room because mom and dad told you to isn't being independent, but choosing to clean your own room because you're a "big kid" is being independent. The trick (yes - I have a whole bag of tricks) is to make them think it was their idea so they're being independent rather than following orders. Until next time....

Saturday, July 2, 2016


If you haven't already read my last post titled "Pick Your Poison," you might want to give that a quick look to help this post make sense. For those of you who don't want to take the time to do that, here's the general idea in a nutshell: I complained about how there are too many social media platforms to keep up with.

Since I always strive to remain as average as possible (while still keeping people on their toes), I decided that only utilizing three social media platforms was below average. Because of that, I went in search of a new social media platform to add to my arsenal. Apparently I went from warning you about poison to practicing alchemy??

I wanted to pick one that wasn't overly complicated, would add value to the old average jester blog, possibly help boost the interaction and (most importantly) be simple for me to figure out and keep up with. In case the cover picture didn't scream it out at you, I chose Instagram. (FYI- You can follow me on Instagram here.) 

It may at first seem a little odd that I choose to add another social media platform a few days after referring to them as "poison" in my Pick Your Poison post. If you think about it though, it really makes perfect sense. Although it may not always look like it, I do actually put a little thought into what I write. Because of that, I did a lot of thinking about the different platforms (at least the ones I'm aware of) and it got me wondering if I was missing the boat on one of them.

My wife uses Instagram and she really seems to enjoy it. I know it's a pretty hot platform right now too. The part that won me over is that it pretty much just involves sharing photos. Since my blog is fairly heavy on content around my daughters, I know I have tons of photos that tell a story, but don't always warrant a full post.

My wife even taught me a little something about utilizing social media that I think I can use via Instagram. Apparently the whole world (or at least the above average people) is aware that you shouldn't just focus on "promoting" your passion, but also in letting others get to know you.

I know I am guilty of pushing the average jester blog out there...sometimes for the sake of ensuring people are aware of us average bloggers. Although my blog is mostly about my day to day life, it doesn't do as good a job of showing the little tidbits of average that pop up between posts. Maybe this fancy new (to me) Instagram account will help remedy that. 

We'll see how it goes. I'm pretty excited about it. No matter how much I made it seem like figuring out a new social media platform was a huge chore, it's still fun. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes. Feel free to follow me on Instagram and throw out your two cents worth...or little hearts...whatever the case may be. Until next time.... (or the times in between on Instagram)....

* Aug 2016 update - I got bored with Instagram, didn't find it useful and didn't want to keep an account that I knew would go stale.... so I closed it.