Which comes first? … the love story or the family …

“For unto us a child is born …” it is indeed that time of year again when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. And it seems as if the rest of the world celebrates as well and there is nothing wrong with that no matter what the reason. If this is just the opportunity to pull the family together before the year ends and share a meal, a smile, and maybe pass a gift, good for you. No lectures from this blogger.

There is something that touches our souls in the anticipation of the birth of a child. A child is all hope and potential. They are starting out fresh, the slate is clean. It is all that they can do to take in breath and nourishment. Hopefully, in making it through the birth experience, they can have a few days of just bonding with the parents before trying to figure out life.

This is the start of something great, or is it? We want to believe that children are the result of a great love story, so the real start may have begun with the love story. Two fully integrated mature adults connecting in a spark that lights the universe. That’s the ideal. The reality may be something a little less romantic. Most children are still conceived as the result of a human anatomical process that may or may not have included a love story. And although the one giving birth was once a fresh new-born herself, full of hope and potential, life happens, and there may have been some damage along the way.

As smart as we are, with all of the advancements and technology that we have, we still struggle with the elephant in the room, our emotional intelligence. In the 1950s, “the pill” was created which helped prevent unwanted pregnancies, and with unbridled freedom, the “sexual revolution” took place. I’m no prude, but don’t undersell the importance of the love story in starting a family.

A love story goes way beyond magic in the bedroom. A love story includes loving your mate’s family, no matter how that may be composed. If you can’t stand your potential future in-laws, maybe this is as far as the relationship goes. The apple does not fall very far from the tree.

A love story includes discussions on values before you ever hook up. Talk about your dreams, where you want to live, what is important to you, religion, politics, music, what your hot buttons are, money, careers, children, nothing can be off the table. Work out your ranking system, deep dish pizza once a week may be a 2 for him, but a 9 for her. What kind of car do you want to drive? That may be a deal breaker right there.

A love story includes what you are thinking about that person when you are not with them. Do you think they have it easier than you do? Are you constantly worried that they are connecting with someone else? Do you think about things and places you want to share with them?

Love is a verb. It’s not something you fall into and out of. With rare exception, the birth or adoption of a child should have started long before with a love story.


On the Right Track, Baby, You Were Born This Way

“I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby,
I was born this way”
  — Lady Gaga

“The single most important contribution education can make to a child’s development is to help him toward a field where his talents best suit him, where he will be satisfied and competent. We’ve completely lost sight of that. Instead we subject everyone to an education where, if you succeed, you will be best suited to be a college professor.  And we evaluate everyone along the way according to whether they meet that narrow standard of success. We should spend less time ranking children and more time helping them to identify their natural competencies and gifts, and cultivate those.  There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to succeed, and many, many different abilities that will help you get there.”
  — Howard Gardner,  Harvard School of Education

Enough said.

Thank you notes. Jimmy Fallon has the right idea …

Comedy is extremely hard work, so late night talk show hosts look for formats that they can plug into repeatedly. One of them is Jimmy Fallon’s “Thank You Notes”, and with this week being Thanksgiving, maybe more appropriate than most. Here are a few of mine, some serious, some not so much …

Thank you, Family, for being patient when my amygdala hijacks my rational brain and I react emotionally before I can think about it.

Thank you, Scott, for learning not to run into the street after the ice cream truck, and for showing us the beautiful country that lies between Chicago and Washington DC, repeatedly.

Thank you, Project Two, for the music, the songs your singing,
Thank you for the joy they’re bringing,
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty,
What would life be?

Thank you, Kyle, for the path you are blazing in music … in education … in music … in education.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for bringing me into this world and giving me a great start in life. There are currently 7 billion people in the world, and every one of them has a different story to tell. My story is a happy one.

Thank you Presidents and Congress for passing tax acts that keep a CPA busier than one ever has the right to be.

Thank you, Boy Scouts of America, for teaching my sons to soar as Eagles.

And most of all, thank you, Kim, for teaching me to be a better man, a better father, and a better husband.

People will never evolve into the creatures that we need to be. It’s a learned process.

According to experts, evolution requires years, maybe millions of years.  Even if it requires only hundreds or thousands of years to take place, it is not nearly quick enough to adapt to the onslaught of changes in the environment.  Case in point, today’s computer/smart phone driven individual who sits behind a desk most of the day, is built no differently than the ones who settled the old west.

They are barely different than the ones who gathered on the hillside to hear Jesus speak.   The point being, don’t look for human beings to evolve into a structure that better handles stresses and challenges that will be occurring more and more rapidly.

By the same token, the capacity of people to innovate is simply amazing. When you consider how things were done 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 years ago, much less 1,000 or 2,000 years ago, the changes that have taken place are mind numbing. No arguments so far, right?

Then explain to me the population of our prisons, the violence in our streets, the poverty of “third world countries”, and the list goes on. We are smart beyond belief, and yet we remain unable to solve fundamental problems that have plagued us for years. Please don’t answer with a government/political solution because it has been made abundantly clear that government is more the problem than the solution. Government did not figure out how to make and fly an aircraft, much less how to make an iPhone.

Having the smarts to create and invent does not seem to be a problem. Having the emotional intelligence to live together as a society of hard-working industrious people does appear to be a problem. Understand what emotional intelligence is. Work to increase your own emotional intelligence. Make emotional education a priority in schools, at home, in our religious institutions, throughout the country.

It’s amazing we have not destroyed ourselves with the smarts to manipulate nuclear fusion, but with no more emotional intelligence than we have. Let’s leave our children’s children a legacy they can thank us for.

What Makes Family So Important?

Can you answer the question for me?  What is it that makes family important?  Or perhaps you don’t agree with the premise. If family is not important to you, why not?  Have you been abandoned by family?  Do you avoid family?  How is it that some people steer clearly wide of the family from which they came, but can go on to have successful families of their own? 

For me, family is the warmest, happiest place I go.  I blog on family because my best memories are times with my family and my happiest moments are when I am in their company. It is such a great feeling, I want everyone to have that experience. I believe it is a common experience based on the number of commercials and shows centered around it. It’s just prevalent in our society.

And yet, I see so many families disintegrate. 

I think Seth Adam Smith hit it on the head with his blog, “Marriage Isn’t For You”.


This speaks to the disintegration of a family when the “I” becomes more important than the “we”.  I support this notion cautiously because a very good friend is going through a divorce now after years of suffering mental abuse,  and like so many abuse victims, she keeps asking herself what did she do wrong and is she to blame for this.  When someone hands you a blog like this in the midst of ending a marriage to an abusive narcissist, you tend to wrap yourself in a blanket of guilt. We could not be more supportive of this particular friend’s divorce.

I also am well aware that not every family starts with a marriage.  Another very good friend has a family that is her, her daughter and her mother. She intended it that way. The daughter was born through in vitro fertilization.  The woman is a successful executive. It’s a great family that we love.

Modern Family is more than just a TV sitcom.

We have a son that is 700 miles away. He could not be more in this family if he lived in the same house. Cell phones and internet make it way easier to stay in touch. He and his brother are on their computers together over the internet almost every night. It’s a great family we have.

The center of a family is love, pure and simple. It’s a love so strong that you would die for each other. It is a love that is relentless, unconditional, forgiving.

Love is a verb. How will you love your family today?  How will they know you care?

You can’t love anybody else if you don’t love yourself first. What will you do to make yourself healthy, happy, in touch with God, and a better human being?

At work, are you listening?  What will your customers tell you today?  What are they asking for?  SEEK to understand, not try to understand. Anticipate expectations.

Character/Competence. How will those around you develop this week?  What deposits can you make into the culture?  What is it that this organization can become?

Financial stability. What must go out / be billed this week in order to be here next week?  Who is waiting on what?

Stop it. It’s not funny …

The mind is an amazing thing the way it can move from one thing to the next, to the next, and the next. I often will speak from my stream of consciousness and my family will give me a blank stare and ask, “Where did that come from?”  I’ll have to stop and give them a peak at the thread that got me there, that is if I don’t get distrac … oh, look,a shiny thing.

So I was thinking about “doing it gangnam style”, and I pulled up the you tube video, and as I watched it, I thought, “What a satire of club dance that is.”  Satire made me think of Erma Bombeck, whose newspaper column I would read all the time, and I thought, “One of these days I really need to write a funny post, so I’ll have to do it Bombeck style.” 

My favorite entertainers were always the comedians, and Erma wrote some is the funniest stuff I ever read. I read two of her books, The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank, and If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, What Am I Doing In The Pits.  Maybe it wasn’t the usual fare for a young guy, but I enjoyed it anyway. The titles alone give you a pretty good indication of her humor.

Comedy is the hardest work a person can ever do.  If you don’t think so, just sit down and try to write a joke. I was asked to roast my sister-in-law at her fortieth birthday.  Man, I sweated that one for days.  I wasn’t sure I’d ever get that routine out of the oven.  See?  Not easy.

So here’s to Erma, and all the light and life she brought to us.  We lost her in 1996 to cancer, but she left behind a ton of smiles and laughs.  After all, she was the one who said, “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I do not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'”   — Erma Bombeck