The Annual Dread of Christmas Shopping – Yeah…It’s That Time

Yeah…it is that time of year again. Do you ever get tired of celebrating the holidays? Admit it – you know it’s true. I do… We look at the holidays ahead with dread – not for the celebration – but for those agonizing shopping trips that begin on Black Friday when we’re all still full of Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – and now retail has added the insult of Cyber Monday.

Sadists – all of them.

Retailers used to begin stocking stores with Christmas decorations right after Halloween. These days, the air conditioning is still roaring overhead and you are greeted with the twinkle of Christmas lights and artificial trees.


Do you know what I don’t get? The crazies that camp out and line up for the super Black Friday deals. Doors open and they storm the place. They beat each other up over a 20 percent discount. Are you kidding me? The time involved. I just don’t get it. You can always make more money. You cannot make more time. The sands of time run out and you will not get them back. And, to think, you spent eight hours in the dark and the cold to save a few bucks?

What are you – nuts?

I have all kinds of innovative ways to waste time – cruising Facebook, napping, spending an afternoon in YouTube, walking through Harbor Freight lusting after tools and equipment, and watching hours of The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy.

Good productive wasted time…

My all-time favorite Christmas special is “A Charlie Brown Christmas” which originally aired on CBS December 9, 1965. We had just moved into our new home and the spirit of Christmas was so alive and it felt so good. We sat in front of a vintage Philco black and white console TV and watched this very first Peanuts special. I believe it was the first time Peanuts characters took on life and had voices.

A troubled Charlie Brown, the class misfit, just wasn’t in the Christmas spirit. Lucy set him up with the director’s job of the annual school Christmas play after copping his pocket change for walk up therapy from someone who wanted real estate for Christmas. Go figure. It took Linus to explain the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown before an empty theater. Linus’ speech is legendary today. It brings tears to everyone’s eyes because it describes a sacred moment in history – a story that has lasted more than 2000 years.

There are those who want Linus’ speech dropped from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”… The title is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. If you don’t like the speech, watch something else instead of trying to dictate to the rest of us what to watch. Regardless of what your religious beliefs may be, Linus’ explanation of the meaning of Christmas is especially moving. It is right up there with the song “Oh Holy Night…” which is very humbling no matter who you are.

Instead of quantity on Christmas Morning, I believe in quality – how you celebrate the holidays and who your heart is with. May each of you who reads this column have the love of family and friends whom you mean the world to. If you are very much alone, get involved in a charity or do volunteer work where you can give of yourself and make another feel loved and appreciated.

It will come back to you tenfold.

Anyone Living A Hallmark Movie?

What is it with men…and women…and Hallmark movies? Unless you are a particularly sensitive man, a Hallmark movie probably isn’t in the cards for your holiday weekend. You’d rather be watching pro football or “Magnum Force” with Clint Eastwood. You and your spouse are going to be viewing flat screens in separate rooms.

I consider myself a sensitive man. I cry at emotional moments in the news and in some movies. I am deeply affected by what happens to others. I am in touch with my feminine side. I get what’s up with women – and there are times when I just don’t – and I fall into the ranks of most men.

Completely clueless…

Face it, Bro’ – if you’re like most of us, you know you are completely clueless about the female gender. Like most men, you cannot get why she gets upset when you haven’t brought her flowers in months. I try to be attentive to a woman’s needs. However, there are times when I fall into the ranks of most men.


I admit I’ve tried to stay the course watching Hallmark movies. I have actually watched Hallmark movies all the way through though I sometimes fall asleep before it’s over. I do know it always snows at the end. There are some conflicts between men and women – however, it’s just too perfect for me. Never seen a Hallmark movie with a divorce or two people who meet who’ve just been through divorces.

Divorces just don’t happen at Hallmark. Always a happy ending…

I like a movie with a touch of reality scripted in – like a heated disagreement over Scotch Pine or Douglas-fir in a Christmas tree lot to put in front of the living room window. Something more realistic – closer to real life – instead of, “That’s okay, Darling…” Couples just don’t do that. They argue, disagree, and fight.

With any luck, they make up.

Men just don’t get choked up over a couple in a mountain resort or small-town Mid-America (though, I think most Hallmark movies are filmed in Canada). We like a touch of excitement, like Lee Marvin beating up the tough guys in “The Dirty Dozen” or De Niro and Pacino matching wits in “Heat.” We like to exercise our manhood via action-adventure movies where we don’t get wounded yet talk like we could take these guys on. It is easy to be bold on your living room sofa.


Baby Boomers are scratching their heads wondering what has happened to the attitude of service our founding fathers had in mind some 246 years ago.

Washington politicians seem to think we are here to serve them.

As a member of the U.S. Congress what is your job?  What were you elected to do? You are here to responsibly run the Nation’s business and serve Americans who elected you who pay your salaries and support your cushy pensions.

Instead – you sling mud on one another across the halls of Congress and act like a bunch elementary school children who need spankings. The world is laughing at us.  The world no longer has any real respect for the United States because we haven’t demonstrated we have earned it. It is time for real change in Congress and an atmosphere of common decency.

What about that?

Back in the day, it was considered a great honor to be elected to Congress.  As a junior member of Congress, you showed respect and honored those who came before you – those who had paid their dues.  A certain protocol had to be followed to carve a path to success and stay the course if you planned on a lifetime of service.

Over the past two decades, there has been a troubling “Spy vs Spy” pattern in the two houses of Congress void of any spirit of cooperation and compromise.  This pattern has only grown worse in recent years.  It is all about bipartisan one-upmanship, revenge – and “We The People” be damned.  You people possess an attitude of arrogance and seem to feel you owe the American People nothing.

Remember – if you can – you were elected to serve us.

Let’s get that straight.

You pass bills with no real meaning for the American People and do your victory dances. The Inflation Reduction Act has not controlled inflation. It is all eyewash to me and has accomplished nothing. I am not an economic scholar; however, I believe inflation has never been controlled via government intervention. Inflation tends to be about supply and demand. When there isn’t enough of it, it gets expensive and when there’s a lot of it, prices come down.

Raising the Fed doesn’t stop it either. Raising the Fed only hurts consumers with higher lending rates and tanks the real estate market.

Meanwhile, life on Main Street has grown tougher and tougher for Americans who were struggling to begin with. People seem to forget the gorilla in the living room – COVID. The pandemic turned everything upside down. All this political infighting has done is stall the recovery and any progress.  Can’t get a darned thing through the Senate because the dominate party won’t have it (this goes for both parties). Self-absorption in a nutshell. Seems you folks perceive believe having complete control of The Hill would make the Nation a better place.

This has never been true.

A balance of power works. Absolute Power does not.

There’s hasn’t been a balance of power on the Hill in ages. There’s a need for a real balance of power on the Hill for us to get anywhere. It is the only way to achieve some level of compromise. Instead, it is all useless meaningless chatter – noise…

To Capitol Hill’s “old guard” – those of you who’ve been on the Hill since I was a teenager – do us all a favor and retire. Go home. You are no longer of value to the American People. Time for you to step aside and make way for those who want to affect positive change.  Part the ranks, go home, and make way for young people who have the energy and positive drive to serve Americans.

Where is George Carlin in these troubled times when we need his voice and his wisdom because he had you folks pegged long ago. The United States Congress is a closed corporation – a private party – that believes it is not accountable to the American People. The United States Congress is bought and paid for by big business – not the American People. As long as elections are driven by big money, Americans will never have a voice in Washington.

It is time for major change on the Hill – and elections no longer driven by Super PACs. Think about it this way, the United States Supreme Court voted to allow unlimited campaign contributions. They understand where their bread is buttered.

Anyone on the Hill determined to accomplish anything – ANYTHING – is demonized and run out of town if they don’t walk in lockstep. The House Floor – especially – is disgusting. You have foul-mouthed representatives who make incendiary remarks and spread bad information that gets people maimed and killed. This is not what we are supposed to be. Our founding fathers would be appalled.

Those who’ve tried to get anything accomplished have elected not to run again. They are done. They are people who chose to serve – and I mean actually serve the People who elected them. They learned quickly that Capitol Hill is the “old boys” club and those who wish to serve the People are not in it.

In the time most of us have been alive, the United States of America has become the Divided States of America by design. We have leadership that has engineered it that way. Divide the people, limited education and funding, and dumb down society.

Have you looked at us lately?

We’re no longer the post-war America that mentored and shaped us.

Memories of Mom and Dad…

I awaken on a November morning in the sharp focus of a world without my mom and dad. A lot of you know what this is like. Very few of us still have our parents. My mother would have been 99 next month. My dad would have been 93 in August. They were both products of The Great Depression and World War II.

The Greatest Generation…

It is surely something when you think about it. When they are alive – you cannot imagine a world without them. When they are gone – you cannot imagine the world with them. I can still hear my mother and father vividly. I can see them with great clarity. I can still hear my father laughing hysterically at Johnny Carson. I see my mother glaring at me with one eyebrow raised when she knew I was lying to her.

My mother and I were very close. She wasn’t always easy – a control freak much as my sister and I are. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. She could be a huge pain in the posterior when she was trying to talk sense into my stupid head. Young and clueless – I didn’t always listen. I mean…what the heck did she know? I’d come home humbled – knowing I should have listened to my mother. Wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of know she was right.

She was too wise to tell me “I warned you, Honey…”

My mother stood by each of us. When I felt like I was losing my mind as an adult at 3 am, I knew I could always call my mother. She’d be half asleep – but awake enough to tell me it was time to be strong and get through whatever it was I was going through. She was there for each of us deep into adulthood. She’d always begin her tutorage with…”Now Jamie….” and get right down to the business of being a parent and a mentor.

When it was time to discuss Washington, D.C. politics, she was the one to rant with. My mother was an old time Washington girl. She loved Washington. She’d grown up in Arlington, Falls Church, and Northwest D.C. She detested Maryland – and was a Virginia snob. She was Virginia native and had a soft formal Southern accent like my grandmother, who was from Greenwich and Warrenton, did. She was a staunch Democrat right up to the end. Her father – my grandfather – had been both Dem and GOP. If she could see the way things are today, she’d be psychotic.

My mother and I were pals. We could chat on the phone for hours on end about everything under the sun and suffer the phone bill when it came. She indulged me in my endless dissertations about my interests. She’d write me the nicest letters and send me news clippings. I still have all of it.

My mother divorced our birth father in 1957. Best just to say they didn’t have the same values and he liked the ladies. She moved on and so did he. He never looked back. She met and married Jack Smart in 1958. They had a lot in common. They both loved to read. Jack adopted my sister and me in 1966. I will always see him as my dad. He was there and he took good care of us. He loved my mother to a fault.

It saddens me he and I were never close. He was a man who stayed to himself. He was an avid reader and he loved sports – baseball and football. He loved the O’s – the Orioles. He and a buddy would go to Camden Yards and watch the O’s. He was also an avid league bowler and had a great circle of friends who bowled. He taught me how to bowl and I developed my own style. We’d go bowling and he’d quip “That isn’t how I taught you to bowl!” Yet – I maintained a 190 average in league play.

My dad was a cryptologist with the National Security Agency (NSA) for 34 years. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, he vanished for a week with not a word in that time. There were times when he’ d go to work and we wouldn’t hear from him for days. People would ask me if my dad was Maxwell Smart. We will never know what he did at the agency. He just didn’t talk about it. He traveled the world in his work – sometimes to very isolated parts of the world. He’d return home via Baltimore’s Friendship International Airport (BWI today).

I’d always wonder where he had been.

My father had a passion for cigarettes – Salems… He just could not quit. He’d convince my mother he’d quit, yet there were piles of ashes all over his workshop. Had his chest cracked, stents put in – just could not quit. The stents led to kidney failure and dialysis. In the end, his smoking caught up with him. Right after 9/11/01 in November of that year, I got word to come to Maryland – he was in a coma.

I flew home at a moment’s notice. I drove to his buddy’s home and brought him to my dad’s side. The hardest part wasn’t watching my father pass but watching his best friend cry like a baby. They were kindred spirits.

My dad was on a ventilator and had tubes up his nose. His breathing was shallow and slow. I held his icy cold hand and looked at his thumb. Decades earlier, he’d slammed that thumb in a car door and did permanent damage to the nail. I have always been an empath. What happens to others affects me deeply. He slammed his thumb in the car door and screamed in pain. He went into the church with a bleeding thumb to pick up my little sister. I sat there and cried uncontrollably. It hurt immeasurably to see him in such pain. I became hyper focused on that thumbnail and relived that experience from 38 years earlier.

The nurse looked at her watch and called time of death. My father was gone. I looked at him and thought, “Where did you go when I really needed you…” My mother was in the depths of dementia and couldn’t come to his side. I couldn’t understand. She had horrible agoraphobia and would not leave the house. Her slide even deeper into dementia would follow. She lived another seven years in a nursing home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We laid my father to rest at the Veterans Cemetary in Federalsburg, Maryland in mid-November of 2001.

A long chapter was suddenly over.

My mother was a long goodbye. I began to see issues in her demeanor in the late 1980s. She became recluse and didn’t like leaving the house. My father had done so much to make it easier for her to travel. She just wasn’t on board. I couldn’t have understood what was going on with her at the time because I knew nothing about dementia. She was slipping away.

June 20, 2008 – she would pass peacefully in her sleep at age 84.

There are times when I will still reach for the phone to call my mother. Proof we are creatures of habit even 20 years later. When it came to my mom, it was a good habit – just like she taught me.

Mom…Dad…I love you both.

The Music and The Memories

It is 5am on the West Coast and all is quiet – except for the noise in my head. I am experiencing a flashback from the summer of 1972 – the song “School’s Out For Summer…” by Alice Cooper. My mind begins playing this song and I have no idea where it came from. It has been stored in the corridors of my mind for 50 years.

I hear the music in the tweeters and woofers of my mind and begin to relive the emotion pain of a lost girlfriend that summer. School was out for summer and so was I. High School dead ahead. I got dumped for a dorkenheimer and had no idea why. I was better looking. Had more on the ball than this guy. Of course, I was a better kisser, right? And I was out on my posterior and feeling blue.

Isn’t it something how an aroma, a song, a sound, the taste and smell of peanut butter or green beans – perhaps a voice – trigger memories from a time so long ago? This Alice Copper classic wormed its way out of storage into the active pathways of my mind and, as it went, I began feeling that uncomfortable nuance of a lost love from my youth. Do you remember that?

I relived our walks through my hometown holding hands and feeling euphoric. Euphoria was replaced with, “Jim…I think we need to cool it for a while…” and the achy sadness of loss. An ego beaten… Of course “a while…” turned into forever. We’d never speak again. I’d spy her walking through the mall later on hand-in-hand with someone new and think, “What does this guy have that I ain’t got?”

Oh, the heartache.

It is remarkable what our minds retain over a lifetime. The feeling of a soft breeze on your face, the sound of a train, the lonely droning sound of airplane propellers high overhead, hearing your child breathing in their sleep, the sweet aroma of fresh-cut grass. These elements, and millions of others, take us back a lifetime for a mental multimedia event only we can relate to.

I suppose memory is there for our very survival. Music is there in your mind in a solid-state hard drive designed to keep you company when you are lonely. Memory is also there to, hopefully, help you avoid making the same mistake later in life.

And me? I will settle for the awe-inspiring sound of Alice Cooper and the steamy hot summer of 1972 when life was only just beginning.

Observing What Has Become of Us

When I observe what has become of us, it is a world I never believed I’d see in my lifetime.  The United States of America.  Divided—at one another’s throats. 

Say it ain’t so.  Wishing I could…  

We’ve lost our way as a civilized society.  I guess where we are today was inevitable.  It began with complacency, self-importance, a society so focused on itself. The audacity of arrogance – we the people delusional enough to believe we’re better than everyone else in the world. Complacency and arrogance will ultimately sink your ship when you’re not looking at the big picture.  Just ask The Romans about their lost empire – arrogant enough to believe they were invincible. 

Seems few, especially politicians, are interested in the greater good— but instead only themselves. We are the great fakers and always have been.  Our message to the world has always been “We’re here to save you and make your world safe for democracy…” however, this has never been true in 245 years of our great republic. There’s always a hidden agenda to nearly everything we do. Rarely have we ever run to the aid of a country without there being a little something in it for us.  We’re interested in minerals, real estate, and cold hard cash.  If a nation doesn’t have these elements – something we want – we always manage to look the other way.

Humans be damned.

We are a free society—but only in theory.  Americans put up with a whole lot of delusion from corporate America the rest of the world would never tolerate – the endless shell game and deception from American commerce and government.  Government and commerce have always been in bed together.  It is something of a love/hate relationship and has been for decades. 

Corporate America likes peddling its agenda to sell you a product.  I think of this whenever I see these tiresome and lengthy home and automobile warranty commercials, or the bottling companies telling us to responsibly recycle plastic bottles while trading pollution credits to get themselves off the hook. Remember those repetitive cigarette commercials from the 1950s stressing how good smoking was for you while Ricky and Lucy puffed away on Phillip-Morris tobacco products?

I believe the original framers, our Founding Fathers, rolled out a terrific blueprint for the Great Society—as long as you were white, male and had wealth.  Our Constitution was—and still is—a great work in progress aged and deteriorating piece of paper.  It placed a lot of safety valves in place to prevent what is happening now.

What is happening now is a Constitutional crisis – the continuing effort to undermine democracy and slip into authoritarianism and absolute power – a government no longer by the people – but instead the limited and privileged wealthy few.

In the end, The Constitution is only as valid as lawmakers and citizens make it.  Lawmakers like adding amendments—some good, some not so good.  Again—a work in progress for two and one-half centuries. 

The minute we wander off course, the Constitution is only but a piece of paper.  The present Constitutional crisis has placed The Great Society in danger—potentially lost to autocratic power mongers—those who would have absolute control over our lives.

We’re in deep trouble due to warped perception—what the masses believe.  Politics is telling Americans the same tiresome story repeatedly—and to what end?  In the end, it is all about self-interest and how the ship is steered.  The next two elections and the January 6th hearings will determine where we go next.

We appeared a civilized society on the rise in a post-war environment as John F. Kennedy took the oath of office some 62 years ago, however, how civilized were we under the surface?  If you were black and decidedly poor, society was anything but civilized—nor fair.  Women were considered second class citizens without a voice.  They had the vote—but not the voice.  This has been where amendments to the Constitution have been so important.

It is my hope we will find our way in the months and years ahead and recognize the trouble we are currently in before it’s too late.  Otherwise, we are the great collapse of the Roman Empire 2.0. 

Excuse Me…But What Did You Say?

Is your life defined and affected by someone with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)? Chances are you know at least one person who struggles with one of these distraction disorders.

Although comedians joke about ADD/ADHD and conversations emerge at parties about this disorder, it is an oft-misunderstood subject. When you’re dealing with someone with ADD/ADHD, it is easy to feel like they just don’t care. The “Absent-Minded Professor” lost in his or her own little world.

“Excuse Me….But What Did You Say?”

When I was growing up in the 1960s, I was one of the worst students on the planet because I couldn’t stay focused on my studies. Teachers always spoke of daydreaming and distractions. How I graduated from high school is anyone’s guess. I just couldn’t maintain focus and stay on task. I would also become so hyperfocused on one thing to where the world could have come to an end and I wouldn’t know until I received the memo from Washington or God.

MedlinePlus defines ADD/ADHD as “A behavioral disorder that typically begins in childhood and is characterized by a short attention span (inattention), an inability to be calm and stay still (hyperactivity), and poor impulse control (impulsivity). Some people with ADHD have problems with only inattention or with hyperactivity and impulsivity, but most have problems related to all three features.”

Yeah – that would be me. It also defines my family. We are all ADD/ADHD and drive one another crazy. MedlinePlus goes on to say, “In people with ADHD, the characteristic behaviors are frequent and severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living such as school, work, and relationships with others. Because of an inability to stay focused on tasks, people with inattention may be easily distracted, forgetful, avoid tasks that require sustained attention, have difficulty organizing tasks, or frequently lose items.”

MedlinePlus adds, “Hyperactivity is usually shown by frequent movement. Individuals with this feature often fidget or tap their foot when seated, leave their seat when it is inappropriate to do so (such as in the classroom), or talk a lot and interrupt others. Impulsivity can result in hasty actions without thought for the consequences. Individuals with poor impulse control may have difficulty waiting for their turn, deferring to others, or considering their actions before acting.”

I have chronic insomnia and have for 30+ years, which is a byproduct of ADD. If you think one person in a family with ADD/ADHD is overwhelming, try three of us with this affliction. It becomes very frustrating at times because one of us zigs and the others zag. Conversation is never complete because we’re always interrupting one another. One of us starts a sentence and someone interrupts. The result is endless frustration. Conflict abounds.

MedlinePlus says more than two-thirds of all individuals with ADHD have additional conditions – including insomnia, mood or anxiety disorders, learning disorders, or substance use disorders. Affected individuals may also have “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” which is characterized by impaired communication and social interaction, or Tourette Syndrome, which is a disorder characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements or noises called tics.

I can tell you I am a moody person, which has always made me challenging to live with. It puts other in the positioning of wondering what they did to upset me, yet they did nothing in the first place. Depression is also a byproduct of ADD/ADHD because you are endlessly frustrated with yourself. Languishing projects that drag on for months and sometimes years yield a terrible sense of failure because you’re always getting sidetracked by your own thoughts and distractions. These events breed depression and all kinds of anxiety.

I tend to close my office door to shut out the TV and other distractions like conversation in the next room. That – of course – makes those you love feel like you don’t want to be a part of their lives when, in fact, you’re trying to police your own mind in order to stay on course. Yet, shutting the door doesn’t shut out the noise in my mind or internet headlines that get my attention.

If your life is tied to someone who appears to have ADD/ADHD, there’s help for you via a good psychiatrist and proper medication. Perhaps you are struggling with ADD/ADHD yourself. Though it is tempting to treat ADD/ADHD with medication only, I’ve found having specialized therapy with a professional who specializes in ADD/ADHD helps. There really is no cure for ADD/ADHD. However, there is help via self-discipline – which takes a lot of practice and habit.

Easier said than done.

Best to begin each day and week with a “To Do” list and stick to it as best you can. There will be days when you accomplish a lot and days when you can’t stay on task to save your life. It is best to be tolerant of yourself (and others) along the way because you’re going to stumble where some days are better than others.

Awareness of this disorder is key to getting better.

By the way, if it makes you feel any better – it has taken me weeks to write this Boomer Journey. I still have a long way to go.

The Way We Played

Whenever I catch the aroma of a neighborhood barbeque with burgers and dogs on the grille and feel the warm sun on my face, I bask in the sweet memories of late summer and that hint of fall in the air so long ago. A late summer fantasy to remember – longing for a period of time so long ago.

Do you remember?

Memories of “Back To School…” were bittersweet.  Fall was always my favorite season and yet I was a terrible student.  I hated school.  With the seasons come a variety of complex emotions.  Each season affects us differently.  In the late dog days of hot summer when we were kids, our minds turned to the anticipation of autumn and back to school—and also the dread of winter. 

Winter, like summer, brings its own share of dread.  It is charming at first when the furnace is lit for the first time and there’s the aroma of dust burning off the combustors.  It always made me think of the forthcoming holidays.  However, it isn’t long before we grow tired of being couped up inside with the heat on just like when we become exhausted with the intense humid heat of summertime.

We grow tired of the seasons…yet we welcome them. Strange irony…

During the winter months, we found imaginative ways to play inside.  My sisters and I would play “My Friend Flicka” with our grandfather’s plastic horses.  He loved horses.  We’d break out board games (“bored” games!) like Parcheesi, Clue, and Monopoly.  We had a sheet that looked like a house you could hang over a card table and hide from the parents.  Toward the end of winter when it was still chilly outside, we couldn’t wait to get outside, air up the tires, and go bike riding for hours on end. Sometimes, January would bring a brief respite from winter, only to wind up in hip-deep snowfall in February.

I was born amid a rare March blizzard in Washington, D.C. in 1956.  

I remember taking toys designed for one purpose and using them for another.  Turning a bicycle upside down and cranking the pedals hard was good for just watching the wheels spin.  If you had a generator light set, there was joy in watching the lights come on.  A buddy of mine would crank the pedal so fast it blew the light bulbs. 

He’d smile and head home.

Kids today play differently than we did a half-century ago.  I still feel like they don’t know what they’re missing.  Yet, if we’d had the groovy playthings they have today, we would have retreated into the world of virtual reality and video games.  We’d have been all over it like stink. We just didn’t have the technology then.  And what a terrific escape it would have been.

Darned kids…

We did have the gift of imagination—which was better than any video game imaginable because we could mentally escape into a world all our own—which could be anything we wanted it to be. 

I think I’ll try that now… 

No Child Left Behind?

Are we raising our kids and grandkids any differently or any better than we were raised?  I was watching “Leave It to Beaver” recently when the subject of listening to our kids came up between Ward and June.  In 1960, Ward said he wondered if they were doing a good job of listening to their kids.  I don’t think times have changed much. 

We still question whether or not we’re doing a good job of listening.

I believe we ask the same questions from generation to generation.  It is easy to overlook the things our children and grandchildren say to us.  Parents struggle with real grown-up issues—paying bills, health problems, a difficult boss, job loss, troubles in the community, noisy neighbors, how to get the car fixed, what to do about the furnace, and a host of other concerns that consume us.  These troubling thoughts tend to bleed over into a child’s emotions especially if there’s a lot of conflict going on.

I don’t think times have changed much since we were young.  My relationship with my stepfather was never close though I loved him very much. I never had his acceptance despite my best efforts. Parenthood just wasn’t his thing. He was the result of his tough upbringing in Kansas City during the Great Depression and so it went. The way he raised me was all he knew.

I never felt like my stepfather – my dad – was listening when I was growing up. I think he had a lot on his mind.  Raising children wasn’t one of those concerns.  His priorities included watching the ball game and reading his James Michener novels.  Anytime I thought my dad might be listening to me was the occasional glance over the top of his glasses and his books along with a grunt. 

What was on my mind just wasn’t important to him.

A parent’s actions tend to speak volumes over their words. My dad was a man of few words. Few were positive. My mother, on the other hand, was a good listener if she wasn’t interrupting you.  Her mind worked faster than a speeding bullet and she was always one step ahead of me in conversation. 

I figure if you’re talking—you’re not listening. 

I spend time talking to my son, Jacob, when I need to be talking with my son.  When you’re talking to your kid, this means you probably aren’t listening.  Talking with your child indicates a two-way conversation where you’re both listening and sharing. Something we all could be working on because they grow up fast.

This leads me back to the importance of listening to our children and embracing their imaginations. Although I remember being a child, I get caught up in my own dance as an adult and forget to embrace what my son is trying to tell me. I tend to avoid Harry Potter and Marvel movies because they don’t interest me. Yet where is my sense of adventure – that element that kept me staring out a frosty bedroom window a lifetime ago?

Things important to a child haven’t been important to us in a long time because priorities change.  This is where we have to work at listening more and talking less.  As we grow older, we’re probably chatting more with our grandchildren than we are our children. 

Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In The Cradle” hit from the 1970s sums up this dynamic completely. It still brings tears to my eyes.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, dad”
“You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said-a, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he, he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
It said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and they said with a smile
What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then, dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I can find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then, dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Harry F. Chapin / Sandy Chapin

Cat’s in the Cradle lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

The Emotional Confusion of a Toxic Relationship

How we feel about relationships we’ve had for a long time can be complicated. If we think about them logically, it’s easy to sort out.  If we think about then emotionally, it becomes more involved. 

Emotionally means there’s a lot more at stake.  It keeps you awake at night.  A toxic relationship – a once solid relationship gone bad – can be your best friend—someone you grew up with, a sibling, your spouse, a high school or college chum, your kids or grandkids, a coworker, someone you bowl with, a poker buddy, a business associate, or perhaps a neighbor. 

What to do about a relationship that has gone off the rails?

It depends on what the relationship means to you.  More importantly, what the relationship means to both of you.  It is challenging to be in a relationship alone and rather pointless if you ask me. When it is one-sided, you’re in it all alone. If you find you’re the only one reaching out, the question answers itself.  Time to pull back and see if they even notice. If they’re unresponsive, you’ve got your answer even when it’s not the answer you wanted – then – it’s time to quietly move on.

Less said – the better.

Moving on can be painful. It means what you once had is gone and not likely to return, especially if you had a bad falling out. Losing a friend who has moved on tends to be worse than if they had passed on.

When someone passes, there’s closure. When you’ve both moved on, it becomes all those things you wish you’d said and didn’t – especially when there’s unfinished business – which makes people crazy.

I’ve found some friends – acquaintances – ebb and flow in and out of our lives. You were friends – but never really close. Or – you thought you were close and – in reality – you weren’t. The neighbor you were close to and barbequed with for years who moves away and is never heard from again. Someone you worked with closely for decades. A buddy you fished with for years. Sometimes – it’s your baby girl who grows up and moves away – leaving you wondering what happened to the closeness you once shared.

Relationships that drift apart aren’t always personal, but a life changed -with circumstances in the person’s life that require their every attention. These are the elements we don’t always think about when someone goes away.

Each and every human life is a unique thumbprint. What goes on in one life affects the lives around it. This is true of families, workplaces, and circles of friends. When one relationship goes sour it affects everyone who lives around it. The best you can do is reach out, let someone know you are there, and let it go.