Category Archives: General

Monsters

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…

Monsters.

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!
~Mike

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?

~Mike

Mr. Fix-It

Note: this article was originally posted on 7/31/2008, when my son was 4 years old. It came to mind last night while I was busy repairing a toy for my youngest daughter, who is also now four. Times have changed, but the theme remains the same. I have re-posted with a few edits. Enjoy…¬†

Yesterday my son brought home a little plastic magnifying glass that he had been “rewarded”¬†as part of a summer reading program at the library. He had his little heart set on a “bug cube” for weeks, but apparently changed his mind after his sister and another girl chose “grab bags”.¬†Of course, life has taught most of us not to gamble what you have in hand for that which you cannot see. I believe the folk saying is “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. ¬†Having not yet learned this lesson, he traded his little cube for the promise of a grab bag.

Life lessons are funny things. Certainly¬†we’ve all had them over the years. But I never thought my heart would ache for a little¬†guy¬†who¬†chose a grab bag over a bug cube. You see, while my daughter’s bag was full of neat little bendy toys, my son’s¬†bag¬†contained a cheap plastic magnifying glass and a compass ring. And that’s all. What’s worse, while innocently playing “detective” at the store with his¬†magnifying glass,¬†the handle¬†broke.¬†He enjoyed his reward for all of a¬†few hours before insult added to injury. Thankfully, his sister chose to¬†give him¬†one of her bendy people. Now that’s love!

Daddy, please fix my toy!
One of my favorite “fix it” requests. This one from my oldest daughter, Grace (around the 1st-grade time-frame)

It’s an old clich√© that many dads fix everything with duct tape. Unfortunately, I’m not that talented. It sticks to itself. It sticks to me.

I end up using twice as much as I need, and rarely get the results I’m seeking. But you see, I have another weapon¬†which has¬†resulted in the misguided opinion from my kids that I can fix anything:¬†Superglue. I have¬†diminished several tubes of¬†this magical¬†resin¬†over the past few years, and have actually gotten some pretty¬†amazing results. The stuff really¬†is¬†good (though not much fun when your fingers are stuck together)! With it, I have swelled with pride as the smiles returned to the faces of my children. Daddy fixed the toy! Disaster averted, tears forborne, superhero status claimed!

So with my son’s little magnifying glass in hand, I retreated to my¬†hero’s lair¬†(a.k.a. my garage) last night to restore what usefulness I could to this cheap little vessel of spying greatness. I did my best to reconnect the pieces with my “magic glue”, but the results are still out.¬†I did the best I could, but it may not hold for long. Any doctor will tell you that you can’t always save the patient. What matters most is that you tried. But perhaps there will be enough life in this trinket for¬†one more adventure, and one more smile.

Of course, I realize my “hero” status is dubious, at best. As the kids get older,¬†they’ll realize that daddy can’t really fix everything (something my wife has already tried to convey). They’ll realize my “magic glue” is available at most stores for just a few bucks, and they can use it themselves if necessary. They won’t even need me to try¬†and fix things.¬†But regardless of that,¬†hopefully the sense will stay with them that I just might have that ability, even without the glue. And I know¬†some things, like broken hearts, cannot be mended with glue. ¬†But if things get too broken, hopefully they will know they¬†can turn to me for help. Disasters will be¬†averted, tears forborne, and¬†superhero status¬†reclaimed.

~Mike

Perspective

Reddit has a fascinating feed known as “Shower Thoughts”¬†— a stream of random thoughts and nuggets of wisdom that were, hypothetically, conjured in that brief span of time each day we spend cleansing our minds and bodies. Some of these really crack me up and are just pure humor. Some aren’t as funny as the writer intended. Some just give you a “ha! Never thought of that!” moment. But interestingly, the ones that intrigue me the most demonstrate the use of perspective. Sometimes when you look at things from a different angle, you see them quite differently. And by ‘things’, I don’t necessarily mean physical things (though, that too), but the intangible things. ¬†For example:

“You know you’re getting old when you agree with the antagonist in teen movies. The principal in “Ferris Bueller” was just trying to make sure a troubled teen got an education, and he’s the bad guy?”

Now, if you’re a kid reading this, you’re probably thinking “Who the heck is Ferris Bueller?” But if you’re an adult, like me (as in, not old, but old enough to remember being a kid), your¬†reaction will likely be similar to mine. Ironically, I was just thinking something similar the other day while listening to Simple Minds “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, which made me think of watching Breakfast Club. ¬†It struck me that¬†“wow – Principal Vernon¬†was just trying to help those kids and they really worked him over!” While once I sided entirely with the kids, now I find myself empathizing with the adult. (In writing this, I discovered an awesome blog¬†discussing¬†this exact point – check it out!)

What's your perspective?So what changed? Simply put, it was my perspective. As a kid, I could only see things from a kid’s point of view. Now that I’m grown, I’ve discovered the other side of the fence. But I’m not forgetful, either. ¬†Some folks are — they lose touch with their ‘inner child’, and forget what it was like being¬†young. ¬†Or they are so ‘set’ in their current position that they can’t bend to look and see what the view is like from elsewhere. But aside from reflecting on childhood, the ability to recognize perspective can have a great impact. It can teach us about things like right and wrong, good and bad, and forgiveness and tolerance.

Sometimes we rush to put folks on a pedestal, and we lose our perspective. We ‘whitewash’ the elements of a person that we want to forget, usually those which do not fit the image we want to have in our minds. This typically occurs with famous people, especially the likes of those who have done ‘great things’ or who are well-accomplished. It’s easy to highlight the lines we want to read and skim over the rest. For example, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, Dr. Martin Luther King plagiarized¬†(and cheated on his wife), Mark Wahlburg was once charged with attempted murder for a racially motivated attack that left a guy blind, and Kim Kardashian made a video (that I will not link here) that should definitely prevent any girl from looking up to her. But yet, people still flock to these people. Why?!

In three days, Donald Trump will be our 45th President. Maybe you voted for him, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you like him, maybe you don’t. Maybe you preached unity and tolerance until the election turned out differently than you hoped. Maybe you fear the worst, or just you just know things will be bad.¬†Or maybe you think the next four years will be just what the doctor ordered. Do we really know? I can say one thing with certainty, and be 100% correct — I really do not¬†know. None of us truly¬†do. We can only speculate, based upon how we view past events. We paint pictures based on what we see — but does yours looks like everyone else’s? Is the other person wrong because they saw something different? Does your painting have any shades of gray? After all, who amongst us can predict the future? ¬†So regardless of where you stand now, maybe¬†your picture will change with time (for better or worse). Perhaps¬†all we need is to find is a little perspective.

~Mike