Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Wish I Had Spent More Time Working.....

Hopefully, the title made you ask, "What the hell is he talking about?"  A few weeks ago, while attending a sales meeting, someone made a remark that has stuck with me.  They were talking about finding 'balance' in our lives.  The comment that was made was actually an extension of the above - "No one ever got to the end of their life and said they wished they had spent more time working."  No, we all, before even arriving at that point in our lives, tell ourselves we should spend more time with the kids, relaxing, vacationing, or with our loved ones.  Why don't we?  I think part of it might be that we are conditioned, as I've mentioned several times before, to think as previous generations had and want to ensure our children have more than we did.  I'll say it again - I wanted for nothing when I was growing up and neither did my friends.  We were not "spoiled," nor did we have everything, however we had enough...and then some.  Our parents made sure we were clothed and fed, had transportation (okay, biked, but they count, too), and a roof over our heads.  So what can we give our kids that we didn't have?  Again, we give them more...and at a younger age.  They are no different than we were at their age, however we succumb, far too often, to their demands of, "I want (fill in the blank) like Susie or Johnny has."  Susie has an iPod.  Really?  Susie is six years old.  How does Susie even know what kind of music she likes and where can you download Barney tunes? the name of all that is holy, do NOT answer that.  Any of you.  You get my point, though.

So where are these particular ramblings going?  Well, though I am one of those that spends my fair share of time at work...and then some (man, I hope someone from the Company is reading these self-indulgent 'pats on the back')...I have decided I do not want to be one of those that spends all my time working and missing things that matter.  Last evening was a case in point.  Friends of mine know that yesterday was a particular milestone in my life, yet more importantly, my daughter's life.  It was her 16th birthday.  I called her mother and found out that their plans included a small dinner with my daughter and a friend at a local restaurant.  'Local' meaning 'their' local, not mine.  I am a 10-hour drive away.  In the middle of the week, I thought it might make a nice surprise.  I was not disappointed in my thoughts - she was surprised.  Along the way, though, I had time to think about the journey she's been on for the past 16 years and how we've all arrived at the 28th of March, 2012.  Memories, like the open gates of a dam, came flooding back as I recalled her years growing up.

I remember so many things now.  My first thought, of course, was back to her birth.  Thinking back to how I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. to her mother's voice telling me, "It's time.  Hey, it's time.  HEY - IT'S TIME!"  Okay, so I'm a sound sleeper.  I'm also one that has to leave the house only after a shower.  Ph, yeah - me at 2:00 jumping out of bed and running to the bathroom to jump in when...."We don't have time for that right now."  Great.  Have you seen my hair?  Right - gotta go.  Gotcha'.  A few hours later (almost 8, to be exact) we had a bouncing baby girl tipping the scales at 5 lb 5 oz.  Small, by any standard.  Most importantly, she was healthy...and our baby girl.

I remember late-night feedings.  Her mother reserved those for me and, after seeing her labor, I wasn't going to argue.  These were some of the best nights I've ever spent.  I remember lying on the couch watching television a few months later and this tiny little thing falling asleep on my chest.  Again, best feeling ever.  She was tiny...but growing every day.  Later, after moving into our first home, I remember rocking her to sleep and singing to her.  Wanna hear a few.....never mind.  I remember, too, that I was the one that got her dressed and ready in the mornings.  Again, more 'Daddy-daughter bonding time' that I wouldn't trade for anything.  Oh, and what about the time she and a little boy, while attending day-care in a private home, got out of their playpen and opened every bit of makeup on the dresser.  Tore the room up.  We still tell the story.

When she started school, she wanted to play soccer.  Dad got to coach for a year.  My knowledge of soccer is right up there with my knowledge of rugby.  That didn't stop me, though, from watching the 'ant races' - 6-year olds running up and down the field with nary a care in the world other than who can get to the ball and kick it first.  I remember standing in the cul-de-sac and Ms Brittany would come out of the garage bouncing a basketball, telling me how she could whoop me in a game.  The image of her is indelibly burned into my memory of her standing there wearing sneakers, a pale blue skirt, white blouse and her arms out to her sides flexing her muscles.  Oh, and the face.  The 'I took you to school and gave you a clinic with that shot' face.  Priceless.

Then she somehow, overnight it seemed, grew into a young lady with her own friends and social life.  She began to sing and dance and get involved in activities that didn't require mom or dad's help.  Her size helped her become a 'flyer' on the high school cheerleading squad and she loves it.  Personally, I think this whole 'flyer' thing is another name for the chick that we get to do stupid stuff like stand on our shoulders and blindly trust us when she falls.  She is fun to watch.  Did I mention her voice?  You'll forgive me as being "that" parent when I say she's got the voice of, well, an angel.  Okay, maybe not angel, but a damn good voice.  The cool part is...she makes me learn the words so we can sing duets in the car.  I am honored...and humbled at the same time.  She is nothing short of  impressive.

Lastly, as the most recent "shared memory," she has become one of the biggest Alabama Crimson Tide fans....ever.  She loves the Tide.  She watches ESPN (yeah, you other dad can seriously eat your hearts out on that one) and has better football knowledge overall than some men I know.  Going to a game with her in Tuscaloosa is such an experience that it cannot be put into words.  Her friends give her grief about it at times, too, and she will NOT back down.  Any guy hoping to spend time with her better bring his A-Game.  Seriously.

So why am I sharing all this?  Because she's 16, I'm the one writing the blog (artistic license, eh?), and because time is slipping away so very quickly.  Perhaps I am writing as a wake-up call to myself and my friends.  Actually, it's for anyone reading this.  I don't want to be the guy who worked too much.  There is nothing better for me right now than watching this young lady grow up before my very eyes.  To see her finding her own unique identity amazes and astounds me.  I am, quite simply, in awe of her and the person she has become.  Maybe, just maybe, it's my little, "love letter," to her without actually professing it in public and hearing the whiny, "Daaaddd," as she announces her embarrassment.  Last night was a very good night for all of us.  If you're one of those parents that is actually taking the time to be aware of these moments as they happen, I congratulate you.  If you're not, I suggest you do.  Really make yourself aware of the moment as it occurs.  You will not be disappointed, I promise.  These moments are fleeting and before we know it, we're living the Harry Chapin song, "Cat's In The Cradle."  Oh, yeah, you remember it.  You're old.  Now take the time to make sure your kids are watching and paying attention to your grandchildren so they, too, can experience these things.  I don't mean to be maudlin in any sense, but the moments are just that in the big scheme of things - moments.  I wish you all the same feeling I had last night because, quite honestly, I am still smiling.

Until next time............

Monday, March 26, 2012

Standing Your Ground?

Yeah, I've done it so many times it's laughable at this point, right?  I spend time away from this blog, only to return a month or so later and apologize for not writing.  Who am I apologizing to?  Surely, your lives have gone on without missing this.  I suppose I am apologizing to myself because, well, I like to write.  It makes it hard when there are no issues to debate, though.  What was I going to write about - Peyton Manning signing with the Broncos and Tebow being sent to NY?  By the way, that last sentence would've been far more humorous had I written about Manning 'singing' with the Broncos, huh?  Ah, the twisted mind still lives.  Seriously, was I going to write about Kim Kardashian having flour thrown in her hair?  Actually, that will come up in this piece...but not how you might imagine.

Yes, I have now found a story far more worthy than these others on which to spend time.  Let me throw out two names and see if you guessed them before you read them.  Ready?  Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.  They are the hot items right now...for all the wrong reasons.  The law in Florida is being tested...and questioned.  By now, we all know the story.  Trayvon Martin, an 17-year old black man, was walking home at night through a gated-community.  George Zimmerman, captain of the neighborhood watch, caught sight of Trayvon and called 911 reported that "Yep, there's something wrong with him.  He's coming to check me out."  The teen, though, appears to have been going away from Zimmerman, running perhaps.  This much has been reported - Zimmerman followed him when instructed not to and got out of his vehicle.  Had he not done either of these two things, this situation, most likely, would not have occurred.  What eventually followed was an altercation that left young Martin dead and, though Zimmerman reported that he was carrying something, it appears to be a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.

So here is my dilemma.  I understand the "Stand your ground," law.  I might even submit to liking the fact that it exists...were it not for the fact that it can easily be abused and, after another person is killed, can be used as a defense with no rebuttal.  For years, we've all been told, "If there is an intruder at your home, you can shoot them.  If they are anywhere outside, drag 'em back inside."  The laws, to date, have been very strict about when you can and cannot use deadly force.  Almost unfairly slanted towards the perpetrators, I feel.  Well, Florida has seen to it that won't happen anymore.  If you are being attacked, you can now stand your ground.  If you are in imminent danger, you can use deadly force to neutralize the threat.  I get it.  Someone help me, though.  How, exactly, was George Zimmerman standing his ground if he got out of his car and proceeded to follow Trayvon Martin.  I think it fair to say that a reasonable person, unless they are looking for an altercation and were truly vigilant about the neighborhood watch, would remain in their car at a safe distance until the police arrived.  That, as far as I can tell, happened in minutes.  By then, Trayvon Martin lay dead in a yard.  Was he the aggressor?  I think it safe to say there will only be one side to the entire story...unless CSI steps up.

The other issue I have is with Mr Zimmerman's vigilance.  As part of the neighborhood watch, he's called 911 46 times since 2004.  Let's do a little math.  8 years and 46 calls.  That means there were 5.75 calls per year or roughly one every other month.  A call to 911 every other month for 8 years?  Let that sink in for a moment.  My deduction?  Either that is one insanely troubled gated-community or, as I think we can safely guess, Mr Zimmerman might be a tad overzealous in his neighborhood watching.  I may very well be wrong.  I will admit that.  I have seen neighborhood watches before, however, and this would be classified as extreme.  I do not remember anyone, either, that would follow someone they considered to be suspicious, especially after being told, "We don't need you to do that," by the 911 operator.  Ironically, Mr Zimmerman's friend showed up on the morning talk shows to say how, "very, very sorry George is," and that, "for the most part, he's virtually lost his life, too."  Well, yeah, but I'm betting Trayvon Martin's family wishes Trayvon had only "virtually," lost his life rather than completely losing it.

Lastly, there are calls (as we KNEW there would be) that this was a racially-motivated hate crime.  Not sure I believe that.  I don't think that the shooting was motivated by Trayvon's race, however I must admit (again) that I do not know for sure.  I could be wrong there, too.  I do believe that there was a racial bias in the situation.  For whatever reason, I believe that George Zimmerman considered Trayvon martin to be suspicious because he was black.  Probably because, in the large percentage of cases like this, there are black perpetrators.  Please...DO NOT misunderstand me - I am not saying there aren't whites that do the same thing.  There are...and many of them.  I am merely suggesting that these biases come from watching the news.  As I explained to my daughter once as we walked to the convenience store - two black men were walking toward us and, as they approached, her grip on my hand got tighter and tighter until they passed - there are both good and bad black men AND white men.  It's the fight we never seem to get beyond.  The racial bias that has been, by someone, passed to our younger generations.  I'm not sure when...or even will end.  Suffice it to say, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are not going to help us end it.

So there it is - a new installment that calls out the situation in Florida and how we now have another race war brewing because someone went into a situation without considering the full consequence of their actions.  This is not simply an issue in Sanford, FL.  This is now an issue all over our nation and needs to be dealt with quickly.  Sadly, in my opinion, it won't be resolved.  Most likely, not in our lifetime.

Until next time............