Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Answer to the Man Purse

….an average jester short.

I thought I would share a small observation I made this weekend while I was flying as a solo parent with two young daughters in tow. One of the things we did as dad and daughters was go to the Wow Zone for my work party. For those of you unfamiliar with the Wow Zone, it’s a business with bowling alleys, laser tag, indoor mini golf and an arcade. I think it’s adequately named considering the first words out of my daughters’ mouths as we walk in the door is “Wow!”

While there, I was visiting with one of my co-workers who also happened to be there with one of his daughters…minus his wife and other daughter. I made the comment that we as men are not as prepared for every possibility as our wives due to our lack of a purse. We just don’t have that quick access to crayons, kleenex, handi-wipes, spare clothes, etc, because we don’t carry a purse.

I suppose I could drag a backpack around with me everywhere we went, but some places just don’t like that. I could wear a fanny pack, but that’s just wrong on a couple counts. Besides not being socially acceptable since the 80’s, it really doesn’t have enough room to make a difference. It would be like the cute little hand purse my wife would rather carry instead of her “mom bag.” (minus the style factor) It’s easier to carry, but just can’t hold what you actually need to carry.

I (briefly) considered getting a man purse to fill the need. I’ll be honest though, the only reason I would even consider that would be to make my wife laugh. She would have a flashback to that episode of Friends where one of the guys (I can’t remember if it was Ross or Joey) bought a man bag and was constantly ridiculed about his “man purse” or “murse.” In reality, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

This morning though, I had a brilliant idea. I thought about the number of times my wife has to dig something out of her purse on Sunday mornings while we’re at church. Gum, crayons, kleenex, you name it…I knew I would need to have it. My solution was to wear cargo pants. I carried gum and granola bars (in case there were no treats for the girls before Sunday School) in one cargo pocket and kleenex and crayons in the other cargo pocket. It worked great and I didn’t have to lug around a bag.

The only problem I can see with this solution is for those of you who have babies and therefore need things like diapers and wipes. My solution to that would be to force a comeback of another stylish product from the 80’s….parachute pants. (That’s far more likely to happen than fanny packs.) Just think about it a minute. With all those pockets, you could carry a spare diaper or two, a travel pack of wipes, a onesie, a pacifier, a flask of Jack Daniels…everything you need to survive a day out with an infant. It’s just a thought?!? Until next time….

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Daddy Daughter Days

 My wife comes home tomorrow and I’m pretty excited about how my time with the girls has gone so far. I have somehow managed to cover all of their basic needs. I may not be able to manage getting past the nomination stage for the annual Bloggies, but I think I might be qualified to throw my hat in the ring for this year’s Father of the Year award.
Everyone knows that all you really need to prove for this is that you somehow managed to get your kids to eat and sleep while also taking care of a few of their basic wants. Then again, in order to even get nominated, you will also need to complete at least a few of the daily tasks around the house. Without tackling at least one of the duties Mom can do in her sleep, you won’t have a chance of getting the nomination.

Exhibit A: Food

I managed to provide a meal for almost every one of the meal periods while my wife was out of town. Not only that, but I took special care to make sure I covered the major food groups. I made sure they got meat in the form of cheese burgers and chicken fingers. They got their vegetables in the form of potatoes (french fries). There was even dairy involved thanks to Ben & Jerry’s.
I know you’re probably thinking this isn’t the best diet for young kids, but it does have it’s benefits. The kids get fed, love the menu options and then crash hard after a meal filled with grease and fat. Speaking of sleeping, the girls have been awesome with their bedtime routine.

Exhibit B: Sleeping

One thing (and possibly the only thing) that my wife can’t do, and I do quite well, is sleep on the living room floor. Just to clarify, if I had the choice of anywhere in the house to sleep, I would choose the living room floor. When people talk about a firm mattress, I think plush carpeting on plywood. The fact that the tv is in the living room and I fall asleep best while watching tv is only an added bonus.
An added bonus to me is that my girls think the idea of “camping out” in the living room is a huge treat….so, of course I used that as a bribe for good behavior. We did a little movie night in the living room that transitioned into a sleep-out on the living room floor. Sure, we went through a number of sleeping arrangement changes and a very minor battle over the tv being turned off for sleep time, but all in all, it went very well. The girls and I even managed to get in a good night of sleep. (I didn’t even get complaints in the morning about my snoring…or any of my other bodily noises for that matter.)

Exhibit C: Fun/Basic Needs

No weekend alone with the kids would be complete without taking care of your child’s basic needs. I’m not going to get into the whole take a bath, brush your teeth part since I naturally did some of that. (I probably don’t need to get into how diligent I was about it…) There are few things that I know I handled quite well.
Being able to take action when your five year old daughter requests a hair braid as you’re walking out the door to a work party is a pretty good sign that you might qualify for Father of the year. Then again, it would probably improve your chances if you could actually do a decent job of braiding.
Skip forward a few hours and the real qualifications come into play. During the previously mentioned work party, I managed to transition my daughter from bowling by means of rolling a bowling ball down a ramp to an actual approach-swing-release method. OK fine. So she chose to make the transition on her own…..but I was the parent present when she chose to do that.

Exhibit D: Help around the house

All of my extraordinarily amazing accomplishments above would go to waste if I didn’t manage to do at least a couple of the day-to-day tasks my wife completes with ease. (NOTE: She completes them with ease. I expend quite a bit of effort to get them done.) I managed to keep up with the dishes (so far) and I know that is going to be a key factor in her excitement upon returning home tomorrow.
I also managed to do a couple loads of laundry. By that I mean I actually put the clothes through the wash AND folded them. I only clarify this because I have been known to start a load of laundry and forget about it in the washer or dryer. Or, more commonly, somehow not notice a basket of laundry that needs to be folded. For the record, the photo above is clean laundry that I also managed to fold. (I certainly wouldn’t go through the work of folding dirty laundry….unless I was confused.)

Although I personally feel like I have presented a pretty solid case for Father of the Year, I will leave the choice up to you as to whether or not you want to nominate me. (I will also probably remind you when the Bloggies nominations come around again too.) I’m not really sure where you go to nominate someone for Father of the Year anyway. Maybe I should just keep doing what I do and pretend I’m trying to do whatever a mom does. We all know they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Until next time….

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dad in Charge

My wife is out of town for a few days and I have the run of the house…with the girls. It’s really fun getting to play mom sometimes. It’s a lot like people who love kids, but don’t have kids of their own. Maybe an aunt or uncle who get to swoop in and spoil their nieces and nephews and then escape back to their regular life. You can have the fun and enjoyment of being a parent without the long term responsibility of being a parent 24/7.

Before you get too concerned about those comments, let me make it perfectly clear…. I love being a parent. I love my children, I love my family. To be 100% honest though, I doubt I do half the work in our household when it comes to the kids. Not only do I feel like I do less than half the work, I’m pretty sure my wife has to take care of me part-time as well. I am just a big kid after all.

If you were to look back at an old post of mine, “When mom’s away the kids will play,” you will see the kind of shenanigans us kids get into when my wife is away. It probably shouldn’t be like that considering my wife and I are very good at maintaining a common front and setting consistent standards, but here in the real world there just seems to be something different when dad is in charge.

I would like to say that it’s because I have some amazing ability as a parent to take charge and maintain a little order in our house, but I know that’s not the case. I am almost certain that my girls know I am just a big kid trying not to get in trouble by letting them get away with too much. I’m pretty sure they realize that I will let them get away with a lot of stuff, but they don’t want me to get in trouble for it….so they behave for me.

I think that deep down though they are just smart enough to realize that I have earned my stripes as a former unruly kid and I know where to draw the line. I have always been a “learn things the hard way” kind of person and I think they somehow sense that. Let me give you an example….

One day, when I was a wee lad of about eight years old, my buddy and I were given the opportunity to spend the afternoon at my buddy’s house under the supervision of his grandfather who we called “Papa.” He wasn’t much of a “play with kids” kind of guy, but he certainly understood the mind of a young boy. He only had one rule for us: “You can do whatever you want, but don’t make a mess.”

As kids, we thought that was awesome. (Little did we know the brilliance in his simplistic rule.) So, what did we do first? We brought the garden hose over to the sandbox (where we were never allowed to bring a hose because it would make a mess) and somehow managed to flood the sandbox. We then spent the next two hours trying to clean up the mess. [That’s two hours he didn’t really have to supervise us.]
Once we (thought we had) finished that cleanup, we decided to drink a few cold sodas to cool off.

Normally, we would only be allowed one soda, but since it clearly wouldn’t make a mess, we decided to drink a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper. Of course we managed to spill a couple of the sodas and spent an hour trying to clean up the mess so we wouldn’t get in trouble. [Another hour he didn’t have to worry about us.]

The list of messes went on. It seemed like everything we tried to do either broke something or made a mess of some sort. We spent 75% of our time “doing anything we wanted” cleaning up messes so we wouldn’t break the one and only rule we had. I think it comes down to the ideology behind “give ’em enough rope to hang themselves,” and you have a pretty solid kid-watching plan. Let them do whatever they want, with very basic parameters, and they somehow realize that they are liable for everything they do wrong.

At the end of that day, Papa got a really good nap in and my buddy and I worked our butts off trying to clean up after ourselves. It wasn’t a totally blissful end though. The flooded sandbox gave us away and we got a good whooping for that…..but it was a great day nonetheless. It’s my fondest memory of Papa and regardless of whether he ever knew it or not, it was a great life lesson.

Long story short, I use a bit of that with my girls. I give them a little extra freedom under the “daddy doesn’t know any better” law, but I hold them accountable for their results. It’s like they know they better do it right or else I might not let them do it again next time.

It’s probably not fair to my wife, but let’s be honest, she’s already way better at parenting than me. She gets practice with three kids (my 2 daughters and me) and I only get practice with our two daughters. Truth be told, I’m just happy she gets to spend a few nights away enjoying time with her sister (and her brand new baby niece). I know the only way she could truly enjoy that time away is knowing that her own girls are behaving for her husband. (FYI Honey- They went to bed without a ruckus, neither came out for anything and they’re both fast asleep.)

I will leave it at that for tonight. Enjoy your family. Set rules, follow rules and know when to “slightly” bend the rules. Sometimes bending the rules can work in your favor. Until next time….

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Jumping back to Blogger

If you're really paying attention today, you may have noticed that my URL re-directed to my "old" website. I recently started getting website hosting renewal notices for the average jester website. I thought that was a bit funny since it doesn't renew until mid-July. Those notices got me thinking about whether or not it's was worth continuing to pay a monthly fee for hosting.

I originally made the jump to a hosted site because I like playing around with website design and wanted something a bit more flexible than what Blogger had to offer. After six months on a hosted site, I am realizing that it's not really worth it to me to pay for hosting.

The biggest reason I chose to return to the more basic Blogger was the fact that I started blogging for a reason: Writing. If my real passion was website design, I know enough people who want/need assistance with their website that I could keep myself busy doing that. But I want to write. I feel I get more of that done on the Blogger platform because there are fewer distractions (think bells and whistles) to sidetrack me from writing.

I actually considered going back to Blogger a couple months ago, but found it a bit cumbersome to make the jump back. I (quickly) searched the web for steps and it seemed like every link I found was referring to a process that was no longer working or wasn't supported by my version of WordPress. Exporting my xml doc from WordPress was easy, but it just wouldn't upload to Blogger .

For any of you that may be considering the same move I just made, you can find a process that works at the WordPress2Blogger site. Ironically, the Wordpress2Blogger WordPress plugin is one that everybody says doesn't work anymore, but you don't need the plugin because you can do the conversion right on their site.

I'm happy with my decision to switch back to Blogger. I'm interested to see if it has any affect on my blogging or not. I always felt it was less cumbersome that logging into the WP admin portal all the time. (Part of that might be my inexperience and not utilizing other means for posting.) 

Fear not though. ... you can still expect the same rambling nonsense that you've grown to love here at average jester. It just might look a little more plain visually.

I apologize to those of you who thought this was a "real" post, but I wanted to clarify for those of you who noticed the url changing. I'll keep It will just redirect you to my Blogger site. Until next time....

Friday, January 15, 2016

Girls vs. Boys

A few days ago, I wrote "A Blog About Nothing" per the request of my five year old daughter. Posting that blog had two results. One, it amazed me how many people were willing to read a blog about nothing. And two, my 6.8942 year old wanted to throw her own idea in the ring. (6.8942 is because she's turning 7 in about 5.5 weeks and she's adamant about adding everything she can to the "6 years" part.)

She is never one to take it easy on me and she didn't decide to start with this blog idea. She said I should write about "boys against girls and who would win." Nothing like a blog topic to rile up the masses. If I remember correctly, I think my "About Me" page specifically says I don't write to rile up the I find myself in a real pickle here. Worry not though, I believe I have come up with a solution.

I am going to write the definitive post deciding who "wins" between the boys and the girls. To protect myself from the unruly masses that would otherwise certainly gather at my door, I have decided to limit the testing sample to my own household alone. That way all the unruly people will be limited to those already inside my home. Here's the background on the testing sample:

Me, 41 year old average guy

Sarah, my "adult age" wife
Ziva, my 6.8942 year old daughter
Siri, my 5 year old daughter

As you can see, I am outnumbered three to one going in. I just wanted to point that out now so I have an excuse if I don't win. Truth be told, I have no idea how this is going to play out. Let's get this "competition" started....

We play a lot of games in our house. Board games, video games (now that we have a Wii), sports, you name it. We tend to be fairly competitive. Plus it's a good way to spend time together as a family. I'l admit right up front, I am not the winner in this one. When it comes to sports, I play for fun and my wife plays to destroy her opponent. Between the two of us, she would probably win just about any athletic challenge we competed in. Getting into board games, I still get beat my my little girls. It's a combination of them being extremely fast and eager learners and the fact that they're just so stinking lucky sometimes. [SCORE: G=1, B=0]

We are a food loving family. I thought this challenge was sure to sway in my favor...until my wife made a comment on the matter. First of all, I'm going to rule my daughters out on this one. Ziva could eat her weight in food at most meals and Siri needs constant encouragement to take each and every bite of what little she eats. I think they cancel each other out. That leaves it up to Sarah and me. My first thought was that I could eat her under the table. Based on quantity and speed, that would be true. Her comment referred to the fact that she is "truly passionate" about food. I think when it comes down to it, that beats out the brute force attack I make on food of any kind. [SCORE: G=2, B=0]

Hair Styling
Living in a house of three girls, knowing how to style hair comes in handy. Considering I don't really have much hair, you'd think I have the unfair disadvantage...but you'd be wrong. I have a secret weapon, or rather, had a "dad bonus" while learning how to do hair. I learned how to braid rope many years ago and that came in handy doing my girls' hair in the morning. My added "dad bonus" is that there was absolutely zero expectations on my abilities. If their hair looked bad, who cares?? They just say "daddy tried." Eventually, I had done their hair so many times that I got really good at it. I now take wild and crazy special requests from my daughters and do a fairly decent job with it. I'd have to say I have the win on this one. [SCORE: G=2, B=1]

This was a tough one to call because there are a number of variables. My daughters don't like to take naps anymore and often fight them with all their might. Once they do eventually crash, they are dead to the world and impossible to wake up. Sarah and I love naps, but don't have as much opportunity to take them. Sarah very rarely gets to even attempt a nap and if she does she'll wake up at the drop of a pin. Me on the other hand.... I can sleep through just about anything. Given the fact that I actually take the occasional afternoon nap on the weekend, I think this one also falls in my favor. [SCORE: G=2, B=2]

This challenge could probably benefit from video evidence, but fortunately for me, we don't have any video evidence. My wife, like apparently all women on the face of the planet, actually knows how to dance. Me on the other hand, not so much. I am more likely to be mistaken for having a seizure that performing and known dance move. I am fine with "hold and sway" slow dancing. Other than that, I'm a lost cause. My daughters got their dance moves from their mother and from mimicking what they see on Disney movies so they beat me hands down every time. [SCORE: G=3, B=2]

I'm not sure my daughters can really weigh in on this competition, but since that still leave my wife an I, it's still a fair battle. (I should point out though that some of the best tea parties I ever went to were prepared by my daughters.) My wife does the majority of the cooking and she's probably a better cook in terms of following a recipe and putting a nice meal on the table. But just like in the food challenge above, there is a little more to it than the obvious. I picked up a great cooking ability during my bachelor days that I think will take me to the victory on this one. I can create a number of full meals with what my wife would refer to as "nothing in the pantry." I think my ability to create a meal out of "nothing" gives me the advantage on this one. Let's face it. Anyone can follow a recipe. It takes real talent to grab a few obscure "ingredients" found in the cupboards and create a full meal. [SCORE: G=3, B=3]

I've been rambling on for far too long now so I'll end with this challenge. (For the record, there are 23 categories on my list of competitions generated by my wife, daughters and me, but I can only cover so many.) You'd think that I'm being nice by ending on this one because of the activity itself, but you'd be wrong. I think my wife would be able to sew a button on a shirt if she really had to, but anything sewing related really comes to me. Growing up with a mom who practically lived in her quilting room, I picked up a few things over the years. This category is definitely in my favor. [Final SCORE: G=3, B=4]

In Closing...
You may think I have created a biased list above, but it is my blog and I can take a few liberties here and there. I'm sure my wife and daughters will have some input on this list. They'll probably talk about how Sarah is the best belcher in the house (followed closely behind by our youngest daughter). The girls beat my wife and I in coloring and painting. My wife certainly knows how to shop. They can list different things all day long, but at the end of the day, can any of it really compare to my extraordinary Lego castle building skills? I think not.

This may not have been a completely impartial list of challenges, but it was fun to find out that the boys win in my house. I am starting to regret this post a little bit because I am now realizing that since Ziva knows how to read now, she will be able to see what I wrote here. My wife will definitely have something to say about it. Little Siri may be the bigger "daddy's girl" of my daughters, but I have a feeling she will easily be swayed by Sarah and Ziva to enact some form of retribution. Until next time....


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Crayons Drive Me Nuts average jester short.

I spend a considerable amount of time coloring with my girls. Crayons have historically been my coloring media of choice...mainly because of the wide variety of color options. Thinking back to my youth and our boxes of crayons that had maybe 12-24 colors in them, I can really appreciate the crayon selection in the boxes these days.

It makes me think about the person who has to sit there and think up all the names for the colors. It's almost as crazy as the job of thinking up color names for all the color swatches that every paint manufacturer has. I know who has the easy job though. The person designing the wrappers for the crayons. There may be 100+ different colors of crayons, but they apparently still only use the original 24 colors of wrappers.

Looking at this picture above, you can see my two favorite (or excruciatingly painful least favorite) color examples. I love blue. I can't remember the last time I colored a picture without using blue. I take that back. Half the time I intend to color something blue, it comes out grey, purple or green.

I appreciate the wide variety in the shades of blue shifting towards green, grey and purple, but can't you at least make the wrapper remotely close to the color the crayon will actually put on the paper? I mean, how am I supposed to make a fortune selling my crayon drawings on E-bay if I can't consistently blend my colors? Many a beautiful sunset picture has been ruined when I wanted to add that finishing blue-grey touch and the crayon puts a bright greenish blue line in my sky.

Here ends my crayon rant. Until next time....

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Blog About Nothing

Upon arriving home from work this evening, I had an overwhelming urge to write a blog post. I don't know why really. I obviously enjoy writing...hence the reason I have a blog in the first place. For some reason though, I just really felt like writing something. The only problem was that I had no topic burning a hole in my head. That's actually strange for me since I am typically more likely to have trouble concentrating on something else with all the ideas bouncing around in my head. I won't say they're all good ideas, but they're almost always there. You bloggers out there understand what I'm saying.

So here I was with an urge to write and no idea what I would write about. As I often do when I can't make a decision on what to write about, I turned to my daughters for advice. My youngest daughter in this case. A five year old is always good for an idea or two. With this in mind, I asked my daughter Siri what I should write about. Her response: "Nothing."

I realize of course that what she meant was don't write anything. She was too intent on the Lego castle we were building at the time to allow me to get distracted by possible blog topics. Little did she know, her idea was brilliant. The first time in months that I have "nothing" to write about, ask for suggestions, and my daughter says "nothing." She is wise beyond her years.

Nothing to my daughters
My daughters, just like there father when he was a kid, have a terrible habit of saying there's "nothing" to do. Well, nothing means just as much as it did 35 years ago. There are no games to play like hide and seek, cards, board games or video games. There's nothing to watch like Netflix, DVD's, YouTube videos or even good old fashioned television. There are no creative things to do like coloring with crayons, markers and colored pencils. There certainly aren't any watercolors, stationary crafts kits or a drawer full of construction paper and stickers. There are no toys to play with like dolls, stuffed animals, Legos, a pile of My Little Ponies, dress-up costumes or puzzles. There certainly isn't anything to read around the house like the 1324 books and 142 magazines. In a nutshell, there's nothing to do.

Nothing to my wife
On the rare occasion you find my wife "daydreaming" and ask her what she's thinking about, she'll say "nothing." Just like with every other wife and mother out there, this can easily be explained in one sentence. She's not thinking about anything except the next laundry load, having to go shopping because the girls are outgrowing their clothes, planning the next week's worth of meals and the grocery shopping trip needed to make those meals, wondering why her kids appear to be bi-polar, why her husband can't seem to see the basket of clean laundry to fold, wondering if she's a good mother and wife, wondering if her socks match today, trying to remember when the last time was that she actually got to buy new socks for herself, trying to remember what book that was she started reading about five months ago and then wondering why she allowed herself to sit there and think all this for two whole minutes when there's so much cleaning that needs to be done.

Nothing to the family
Monday mornings at work, you'll often hear the same conversation over and over. It usually goes something like, "What did you do this weekend?" Followed by "Nothing." I'm guilty of this myself. The part I can't figure out is if I did nothing all weekend, how did it go so fast? Nothing on our weekend often involves a Friday night family movie night. Saturday morning starts bright and early because why would the girls want to sleep in on Saturday after having to be dragged out of bed each of the previous five school days? Following a morning of breakfast, tv, playing games and chasing each other around the house, we then move on to the next "nothing." Depending on the time of year, there's always some form of housework to be done inside and out. There are trips to the library, the grocery store and a handful of other retailers in town. There are many trips to the park and pool in the summer and sledding down the hill in our backyard in the winter. Sundays involve church, Sunday school, daddy-daughter donut day and more park dates, play time and fun. Add to the mix any and every possible friend and family get-together and you have a weekend full of nothing.

Nothing to me
I'm pretty sure I am the only one in our family who understands what "nothing" means. When you find me sprawled out on the couch mindlessly watching whatever tv series I'm currently hooked on via Netflix and ask me what I'm doing, I can honestly say "nothing." If you don't believe me, you can ask my wife. I am quite capable of doing absolutely nothing when I put my mind to it. Actually...I don't really have to give it that much thought. It comes naturally. It's a gift.

Nothing is so tiring
Just like with everything else in our lives today, "nothing" has gotten quite complex. In our fast moving, constant data stream world, we're never doing nothing. Right this minute, I am typing away on my computer while half watching "Making a Murderer" on Netflix and thinking about what I need to get done at work tomorrow. (Now you know why my blogs balance on that mediocre-to-average line.)

Think about it next time someone asks you what you're thinking or what you did last night or last weekend. Be careful though, you might find yourself feeling quite exhausted when you start to realize just how much you really do. I think that's why everyone is always lobbying to get a few more hours put in the day. I personally like my wife's idea of doing mini-retirements before you retire. A nice little three month break every few years to let you catch up on stuff. That's something to think about. Let me know if you start a petition for that. I'll sign it. Until next time....

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Think Before You Speak

I have a saying printed out and hanging on my bulletin board in my office that reads, "Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out." I was toying with the idea of a blog post related to this idea and then a couple things this week made me decide to go ahead an do it.

The most recent "prompt" I got was from my wife's blog today. She wrote a post called "My 'Silent' Battle." In this post she gives a fairly comprehensive, yet high level, history of her struggle with stuttering. Truth be told, I rarely notice it, but that certainly doesn't mean she doesn't notice it. It's nice to be reminded that she struggles with it daily...some days more than others. The problem is that since most people don't know this about her, it's not uncommon for her to receive a little "good-natured" heckling about it because the person she's talking to just thinks it's a one-time "cat's got your tongue" kind of thing rather than an ongoing struggle. I know my wife doesn't take great offense at these people who are unaware of her struggle, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt her.

This example can be applied to any number of issues that people are struggling with. Jokingly saying something like "that candy bar is going to go straight to your hips" to a friend who weighs less than 100 pounds could hurt someone's feelings. The joke was assumed to be so absurd that there wasn't any concern about offending, but in reality, the friend could have been struggling with anorexia and you don't know it. Whatever the struggle and however obvious or secret it may be, one thing can go a long way to help you keep your foot out of your mouth: Think before you speak.

This leads me to the main thing that happened this week that got me thinking about this more in depth. It's an example where I have failed miserably many times in the past...and I pretty much failed again this time too.

The local public high school was in a "soft" lock-down yesterday because a threatening note was found in the school. For those of you new to the soft lock-down (as I was), it means the classroom doors can remain open, but no students are allowed in the halls while they investigate the threat. Regardless of the level of threat, it's a pretty serious issue in our day and age.

It all started from a note about a "suicide bomb" being brought to school. Long story short, there was no real threat (or bomb). The note was "found" and turned in to school officials by the student that actually wrote the note. Here's where the "think before you speak" part comes in.

My initial line of thought was thinking back to when I was a youngster. Twenty some years ago, a note like this was called a "hoax." It was just a dumb stunt by a silly kid with a plan to get out of taking an exam that day. It usually resulted in a slap on the wrist, detention or suspension, and on rare occurrences, charges for filing a false police report.

That is not the case today. With all the school shootings and mass attacks of every shape and form, this is no hoax or joking matter. There are most certainly going to be charges filed of some sort. Current laws may even take it as far as it being some form of "terroristic threat." This is probably why my initial thought was, "What a dumb kid. They should throw the book at him. You just can't do that these days." And, that's where I may have failed.

Yes, this could have been a credible threat (we've seen enough high school students killing their classmates), but it also could have been a cry for help. (Before you get the idea that I've gone soft on criminals, keep reading.)

It started with a threatening note about a "suicide" bomb written by a high school student. Now pause. Before you think about dumb move, what was he thinking, throw the book at him, etc., think about another topic you hear about all the time: Bullying and teen suicides.

In this case, there was no bomb. They have yet to release all that many details, so it's hard to say if there was ever any real intent to harm anyone. That hasn't stopped everyone from throwing their two cents worth in though. (I'm doing that right now too...) I have been told that the comment section on the city's public safety Facebook page shows a strong inclination towards throwing the book at the kid and generally trash talking him. (I haven't seen it myself since I dropped my Facebook account as I talked about in my last post.)

What if the kid is struggling with depression? Maybe looking for attention? Possibly a last ditch effort at a cry for help because he's contemplating suicide? If that's the case, how are the demoralizing comments going to help? If they push him over the edge and he (God forbid) commits suicide after all the cyber-bullying on Facebook, do we hold those people accountable for his death? I'll be honest....I certainly don't have the answer. I know that it's not doing anyone any good to post a series of negative comments.

On the flip side, I also don't believe in making excuses for the knowingly wrong and illegal acts of someone based on flimsy excuses (without proof) about how they were "mentally unstable" or the classic "temporary insanity" plea. If there's real intent, prosecute. If there's an underlying and curable issue behind it, prosecute with those circumstances in mind. No matter what the outcome ends up being, think before you speak about it now....without any real knowledge of the facts.

That's just an example that is fresh in my mind from this week...and close to home. I have no idea what all the facts are and I make no judgement either way on the individual involved. That's what the legal process is for. Sometimes the issues that touch closer to home just serve as a reminder to think about our own actions (including what we say) before we act. Until next time....

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Anti-Social....To Be Social

For those of you who read my last post, you know that I only made one New Year's resolution this year. That single resolution was "to do a better job of tracking, developing and accomplishing my personal and professional goals." After putting all my goals in writing to better track them, the first "major" step I took was to give the axe to a couple of my social media accounts: Twitter and Facebook

Twitter was the easy one. Truth be told, I never really knew what I was doing on Twitter in the first place. I found scrolling through the feed completely annoying and pretty much worthless as far as I was concerned. I have to admit that I didn't exactly do a stellar job of growing my list of followers or those that I it's mostly my own fault. As a blogger, it was hard not to attempt to use it for its outstanding ability to grow your reader base. As in completely inadequate user of Twitter, it didn't do me any good and it was just one more social media account to take me away from more important things.

Facebook was a little different story. Sure I had an average jester Facebook page, but I have found that I have far more readers through my email following, the RSS feed and apparently by bookmarking and/or random searches. The harder part was that I also chose to drop my personal Facebook page at the same time. It really wouldn't have helped me attain one of my personal goals if I only scrapped the average jester Facebook page and kept my personal Facebook page.

MINOR UPDATE: I have since reactivated the average jester FB page, but have remained offline with the personal FB page. I figured it was the best of both worlds in that I could stay off a personal page and enjoy real-life human contact instead, but still share posts to those who prefer to follow via Facebook.

Why did I do it?
The biggest reason for my "drastic" cutting of the social media cord was that it was making me less social. Funny right? What started out, and is supposedly intended to be a social network, turned out to make us less social. Now, I don't blame anyone for using social media or think that everyone who does is necessarily lacking in social skills, but it wasn't helping ME. It's too easy to go from day to day with limited actual contact and conversation because I had a constant feed telling me what everyone was up to at all times.

It began to annoy me the number of times while I was having a real conversation with someone and the phrase "I saw you said/did that on Facebook." Sure, the conversation usually expanded on the topic, but where's the fun of sharing big news with someone in person when you've already blasted it out to the world? It's like calling your family to tell them your baby was born, but there have already been a dozen photos posted of the new baby on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like.

Another reason I chose to cut the cord, and probably the one that made it pretty easy, was that I was getting sick of all the garbage that showed up in my news feeds. If it's not the selection of "suggested posts" that have nothing to do with any of my interests, then it's the bickering and fighting that seems to show up in every comment feed. It just got irritating and I found myself getting mad about stupid stuff that I couldn't control anyway.

As far as time management (think family time), I found myself turning into one of those people who has their nose stuck in their phone catching up on news anytime there's a 15 second pause in activity around me. In reality, it's probably a more effective use of my time to watch the coffee maker brew a pot of coffee for me.

What benefits do I expect?
First and foremost, I expect to enjoy more valuable time with my family and friends. I would rather be coloring a Mickey Mouse picture with my girls than scrolling through my phone. I'd rather be talking to my friends when we're together than talking about funny or interesting things we're seeing on our news feed while we're supposedly visiting with each other.

I really think it will help my stress level as well. If you don't know what I mean, read a few comments on pretty much any post on the Facebook page of the news outlet of your choice. Face it. There are a lot of angry, intolerant and down right stupid people out there. Or is it their? Or they're? (Sorry...extremely basic grammar is greatly abused these days....and that's coming from me. And you know how bad my grammar and punctuation is.)

I am also really looking forward to spending more of my reading and/or internet time doing something more productive that might actually help me develop myself in both my personal and professional lives. It dawned on me the other day that it's been weeks (maybe months) since I read a book that wasn't required reading for personal education. I used to read a book a week. I admit Netflix has a little bit to do with that, but I have not prepared myself properly for any change to my Netflix habit.

How will it impact me?
Dropping Facebook and Twitter probably isn't the first choice your typical blogger would make, but I'm not too concerned about it. I blog because I like rambling on about nonsense - not because I am looking to it as an additional income source. Don't get me wrong. I would love to be able to make money blogging, but it wasn't my initial intent and was never the "thing that kept me writing." I'll deal with a slower growth in my reader base if it means more quality time with family and friends.

I'm not going so far as to cut off my use of the internet, or even ALL social media, so it's not quite as drastic as it sounds. I'm obviously still writing a blog and managing my webpage. I also kept my Google+ account. That is in part because Google ties just about everything I do together anyway. It's also because I'm one of those people who actually like Google+. I use it primarily as a way to follow a number of fellow bloggers. I suppose I could better utilize my Feedly app for that, but Google+ is doing it good enough for my needs. I also enjoy not being blasted with adds all over my Google+ feed.

The only possibly negative impact I foresee is missing out on breaking news from family and friends since our world has shifted over to using social media as an easy way to share that. Good news for me though....everyone else on the planet seems to still have their noses in their phones checking in on Facebook and Twitter for me. I'm hoping at least one of them will tell me when something big happens.

I'm not judging
If I hadn't made it clear already, I wanted to point out that I am not against social media like Facebook and Twitter. I just happened to mention them because they are the two I dropped this week. They are fine platforms with a phenomenal ability to share, update and bring people together. It's the people's fault when it gets rude or annoying. In my case, it's my fault that I let it distract me from doing something more productive.

I'll let you go for now. This has turned into a rather long rant today. That just reaffirms my decision to cut the cord because I can see even more clearly now how passionate I am about making a change when it comes to my social media usage. Don't worry though, you are still welcome to share this post, and any other average jester post, across every social media outlet you may use. I wouldn't even hold it against you for sharing all the average jester posts on all your news feeds. Happy scrolling. Have a great day! Until next time....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ready For 2016

I have never liked the idea of New Year's resolutions. I think the biggest problem I have with them is that (for the most part) they seem to be scrapped before Valentine's Day rolls around. I decided to make a compromise this year and give into the whole New Year's resolution idea, but in my own way. I am going to make just one resolution and that is to do a better job of tracking, developing and accomplishing my personal and professional goals.

I have always set goals, but I have not always looked at them in a way that truly encouraged me to accomplish them. Recent developmental training I've been going through at work has re-opened my eyes to the setting and reaching of my goals. It's nothing new really, but rather something I have not done a great job of doing properly as of late.

Anyone can set goals and throw a list of reasons to attain those goals. The problem I have had is that my reasons haven't always been fully defined down to the personal level. A common example would be setting a goal to complete additional continuing education courses to allow me to do my job more effectively and efficiently. Doing that typically brings more money. More money can help me pay the bills, reduce our debt, pay for that vacation we've been wanting to go on or pay for the improvements we want to make on the house. The problem I have had in the past was looking at the additional income itself as the benefit of accomplishing my goal. That's not really a good motivator.

The real benefit is having less stress about paying bills and paying off debt which makes us all happier and more of a joy to actually spend time with. Actually affording that vacation would mean more quality time as a family doing something fun. Or, in a perfect world, allowing my wife and I to have a Honeymoon Part II for our ten year anniversary. (Neither of us can remember the last time we had time away together for more than a couple hours....and even those are few and far between.)

Now, money isn't my only goal. It's just the one that's probably most universally understood by others. I have personal goals on developing my relationships with my wife, daughters, family, friends and co-workers. That is actually my core goal for the that I intend to continue indefinitely.

Think about that for a minute. If all you had to do was be a better spouse, friend and employee/co-worker, how do you think that would affect your life in general? Would you be happier? Would you have more fun? Would you enjoy life a little bit more?

How about at work? If you were a better employee and co-worker, you would naturally want to improve yourself professionally. You would add more value to the team. You would help and encourage your co-workers to do the same. Just by focusing on being better yourself, you will do your job better, your team will do better and then what? Will you be more productive and therefore make more money?

Well, I obviously can't guarantee you'll make more money. If I could, I would write a book about this, hit the self-help seminar circuit and watch the money roll in. I can tell you that you'll find yourself much happier at home and at work....and the odds are in your favor to make more money, but that's just gravy at this point.

As you think about your goals this year (you can call them resolutions if you want), think deeper about why you have those goals. To use my example above, if more money is your goal, you will only have so much drive to attain it. Focus on why you want that money (more family time, less stress, etc) and you will be more likely to accomplish your goal. I know for me anyway, the smiling faces of my wife and daughters is more encouragement than watching the balance in my checkbook.

Have fun this year. Set some goals and follow through with them. Make them fun. Challenge others to do the's always easier as a team. Until next time....