Note: Bringing back another of my favorite posts today… this one was originally written on March 5th 2004, just about 3 months before my son was born. My youngest daughter has asked me to ‘clear’ rooms for monsters lately, so I still see a lot of relevance. Enjoy… ūüôā

When you were a child, did you have Monsters in your room? Perhaps they lurked in the corners, or under the bed. Maybe they even had a summer home in your closet.

As a kid, I was positive these Monsters existed. And they were not cute or funny like the ones featured in Disney’s “Monster’s, Inc.” movie. These were dark, shadowy creatures that moved fast and hovered over me while I slept. I tried to convince my parents of their presence, but of course they didn’t believe. As I grew older I stopped believing, too. The Monsters eventually disappeared.

But now, after all these years, I know the Monsters were REAL! I know, because I am one. And I’m not alone.

You see, each night my wife and I “sneak” into my daughter’s room to peek at her while she sleeps. Although the room is dark, we can see her in the soft glow of the night-light. Occasionally my wife will get something out of her closet for the next day. She tries to be quiet, but it will still rattle.

And sometimes during these quiet visits, our daughter¬†is restless and stirs a little in her bed. It may be she was sleeping lightly, or one of us clumsily tripped over something or made a noise. That’s when you have to take whatever measure necessary to avoid one thing — being seen.

Parents who are reading this know… if you are “spied”, it’s all over! She will wake up and want to be rocked. That’s not so bad, but if she’s in a good mood she may want to play. When she’s old enough, she will want a glass of water. Or maybe she’ll just be cranky, and it will take an hour to get her calmed back down.

So you hide. You duck into a dark corner or dive to the floor where you can’t be seen. If you are fast enough, you jet out the room and quickly but gently pull the door behind you, patting yourself on the back for your swiftness.

Meanwhile, she is still in her bed, wondering… what was that!? SOMETHING was just hovering over me, and now it’s gone!¬†With her sleepy eyes, she knows she saw something run across the room or duck into the darkness. And how did the closet door get open!? ¬†Why was it rattling?

If she was fast asleep, she will slowly fade back into her slumber. But as she¬†drifts off, she wonders if it’s still there. If it had been mommy and daddy, they wouldn’t have run from her — they would have picked her up and given her kisses. So after all consideration, there’s only one answer that makes sense…


Bizarro You

I was chatting with the kids last night and posed the question to them: what if there is¬†an ‘opposite you’ out there in the world — not so much someone who looks just like you, but a person who does the exact opposite of everything you do? Every decision you make, that person would do¬†the opposite. What kind of person do you think that would be? Would he/she be a good person?

Bizarro Superman
Bizarro Superman – making all the wrong calls.

Of course, their answer was this person would be really¬†bad. And I would expect no less! I want them to believe that their opposite¬†would make bad decisions, because it means they are confident they are making the right calls in life. And don’t we all feel that way? ¬†That the decisions we make are right and good?

Superman had an ‘opposite’ doppelganger, known as ‘Bizarro Superman’. ¬†This character typically does (and says) the exact opposite of everything Superman does and stands for. He also (often) lives in a ‘bizarro’ world, where everything is different. This character mostly does the wrong things and serves as a foe to Superman. But sometimes he accidentally does the right thing, and finds himself a hero. ¬†Like most comic book characters, Bizarro lives and dies a few times. But in one of his last speeches before he dies, Bizarro (who also speaks strangely) tells Superman¬†“It am part of genius Bizarro self-improvement plan! See, me suddenly realize that me am not perfect imperfect duplicate! Maybe me not trying hard enough.”

In our non-bizarro world, a self-improvement plan helps us realize that we are also not perfect, and that perhaps we need to “try harder”. Whether it be how we act, how we eat, or how we exercise, many of us strive to “do better”. But many of us also tend to believe we do not need improvement — that the decisions we make are strong and good, and that a Bizarro-version of our-self would be really bad. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Some of our decisions are right, some wrong. And in reality, a bizarro version of our-self would probably be like who we are now! Some decisions would be bad, some good, and as a result that person would likely ‘ride the line’ between right and wrong. Unlike Superman, we are not perfect beings who only fail when some outside force is applied. But our hope (and mine, for the kids) is that person would be more¬†wrong than right. I certainly don’t expect my kids¬†to be perfect people, but if d¬†their decisions trend toward the good side, their bizarro selves would not be great people. Does that make sense?

So today, ask yourself — if you had a bizarro-self out there in the world, what would others think of that person? Is he/she good, or bad? Perhaps somewhere in-between? If this were a real thing, perhaps our decisions would be made a bit more carefully, and we would take softer tones toward others. Or perhaps we should just all consider and realize that — even without an opposite — the decisions we made DO affect others, whether we like it or not, and act accordingly.

Have a great day!

Shake It Up

Yesterday I happened to cross paths with someone who carries a relatively important level of importance in our community¬†for some folks.¬†Extending a friendly greeting to this person, I reached out to shake his hand. ¬†What I got was… a dead fish.

This is honestly a huge pet peeve of mine! To me, how a person shakes hands says a LOT about their confidence and conviction. A weak, limp, soft handshake says “I’m not confident in myself”. For men, especially, it signals to me that you are weak — ¬†that you are not a person whom I can trust. I can’t say with certainty that is TRUE, but it’s the impression that matters. And if we’re shaking on a deal or a bet, it says “I may not stand behind this”. It feels ‘untrustworthy’. ¬†This said (and not to sound¬†‘sexist’) but women can get by with this a little more, as it goes back to a time when women in police society offered their hand for a ‘hand-kiss’. But a firm handshake from a woman also indicates that she is¬†self-sufficient. There is nothing wrong with a firm handshake from a woman, and it’s preferred if we are doing business.

There are ways to shake hands, and ways not to. If you meet someone and suspect you are about to shake hands, there are a few things you should do.¬†The obvious is to make sure your hand is free — don’t try to shake hands with something in it! Also, no fist bumps! You should only ‘fist bump’ someone who is already a good acquaintance/friend (and please don’t ‘blow it up’ unless it’s a kid). If your palms feel sweaty, PLEASE wipe your hands on your pants or stick them in your pocket for a moment to dry it off. And when you approach the other person, extend your arm and hand and look them in the eyes. Take a firm hold of their hand, and shake lightly, but strongly. ¬†You shake with your whole forearm, NOT just your wrist. ¬†A couple of shakes is all it takes… don’t linger and make it awkward.

As noted, there are also ways NOT to shake hands. PLEASE avoid the aforementioned limp, wet, or ‘dead fish’ handshake! Conversely, don’t grab my hand and squeeze the blood to the other side of my body to show how manly or strong you are. I get it bro – you lift! Besides, I’m not a drug store “grip test” machine. Please do not shake my whole arm off, either (old men are often guilty of this). And don’t come in for a “bro-shake/hug” unless we truly have a STRONG and LONG history together. And only grab my hand with both hands if we are very familiar and haven’t seen each other for some time.

Finally, there are times where it is OK to withhold a handshake. For example, if you’re sick or have just greased a car, just say so! In fact, admitting it’s not a good time to shake tells me you are honest. If you go wash (and dry) your hands, then come back for a shake. I’ll see you as someone who is sincere.

So throw the wet fish back in the pond and get with the program. How others¬†perceive you¬†can depend on how you shake hands with others. Isn’t it funny how something so simple can convey so much meaning?