Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Please. Stop. Talking.

If you are under 23 years old, please know, you do have a voice. You have opinions and feelings, and thoughts and critiques and unique perspectives.

And yes, we're ALL kind of sick of hearing about them.

If you were born in the years of (or between) 1964 and 1981you are classified as a card-carrying member of Generation X. Those of us in Gen X remember earlier generations telling us empowering things like "children should be seen and not heard." That was mean and silences the sometimes very real value of a fresh, young perspective.

However, it also holds a certain wisdom.

My very complex social hive is a hodgepodge of media input, gaming, online connectivity, music and endless blathering and opinions concerning things that just don't matter. We cannot sit as a family and watch a movie or TV show without some one commenting, cracking a joke or texting their friends during the show. They talk over each other and talk during songs, discussion, movies, you name it. 

It gets worse, because it isn't just them, its adults as well. When did it become socially acceptable to talk–at full volume–during a movie in a theater? Or text someone during the show? It happens everywhere, during work meetings, corporate events and even church services, everyone's got something to say, and it can't wait. nO wonder our kids are so unfocused. 

To all of  you chatterboxes out there I have just one word for you that I think if you chose to remember it, would help the communication, no matter what form it takes, to be more easily understood. The word is:


Stop talking. Almost nothing at this particular moment is so important that the person right next to you needs to hear it… right now. So here's the skinny; I suggest five easy things you to can remember when someone is watching a movie, listening to a song on the radio or trying to listen to a teacher, supervisor, pastor or authority figure:
  • You are NOT funny. Save your drool comments for later. Shhh.
  • If you have something funny to say, see item number one, above. Shhh.
  • It is NOT okay to carry on a conversation with or near someone focused on something else. Shhh.
  • Remember during a show or movie, your phone has two neat features; airplane mode or off. Pick one!
  • This one is a real shocker: we are trying to watch/hear/learn. Be quiet!
Its ok to have 500 thoughts a minute. We just don't need to hear all–or any of them–at this particular moment. 
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Half-court Hijinks

My phalanx of teenagers are all presently at various forms of athletic participation. One is vying for a soccer career. The other three are pursuing joining school basketball teams or simply trying to hone their basketball skills. Ironically two of them (two boys) think it is way awesome to spend untold hours practicing half-court shots, while ignoring things like; fundamentals, skills drills, layups and perfecting positioning and jumpsuits. As the Dad and coach-by-default, I have to always call out that practicing this shot is a huge waste of time.

I'm met with disapproving stares, rolled eyes and exaggerated exhales.

Not that I'm not used to any of that (after all I am a Dad to one teenage girl and three teenage boys) but I am floored that this is news. "What does Dad know anyway? Its not like he plays in the NBA or anything…" 

True enough.

Yet, while I don't make a living at putting the ball through the hoop, I have played more street-ball, played in far more city and college intramural leagues and even squared off in a charity game against some pretty darn good ex-NBA players. So what do I know? 

What I DO know is that you don't get very good at something without practice. LOTS of practice. In author Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success, he promotes the 10,000 hours rule that states it takes roughly that long to become (employable and) proficient at just about anything. 

I know there are no shortcuts to success (ask 80% of all lottery winners how it feels to file for bankruptcy after losing essentially un-earned millions), I know Rome wasn't built in a day (Look at it!) and I know you won't get a spot on the team shooting half-court shots. 

You see children-o'-mine, coaches look for heart, endurance and most importantly, dedication. They want to see you've committed to learning the fundamentals of a five-person TEAM sport, not try and snag all the glory on some lame hail-Mary 30-foot lob that has you looking more like a dork than a b-baller. 

But hey, I'm only Dad. I've only lived through this already and have the answers to these questions. So, ignore me and just keep shooting those half-court shots.

I'm sure it's just as fun watching the game from the bleachers, and hey–even though you won't have any skills worthy of getting you on the team–you'll have a killer half-court shot. 

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The summer reading died… and rose again.

If you know me, you know I live in a home fully overrun by teenagers, hormones and inane justifications. In the 21st century world of the modern American teenager, life is… interesting. 

They've grown up in homes that science fiction could only dream of just 50 years ago. Everything in their world, from cars to phones to TVs–all are run by ever powerful computers. The internet is accessible via more than a dozen devices in their home. 

What's more, they couldn't be more clueless... about almost everything. 

This past summer, when asked why he doesn't read more, one of my sons responded; "this is my summer, I read enough over the school year. I don't want to have to do work over the summer as well." When ON EARTH did reading become "work?" 

It happened because movies, the internet and those deliciously sinful video games have eroded our children's ability to use their imagination. I have watched this same boy sit and stare blankly at the floor or ceiling–for 20 minutes or more–because he can't possibly fathom an afternoon where the television isn't on.

I've watched as jittery fingers shred papers, clothes and even furniture due to idle fidgeting because mental and visceral stimulation has been removed from their world. But when I didn't give in to the complaining and sulking, a very funny thing happened.

The kids started to read, play board games and interact with each other. Yes, reading was resurrected. Maybe there is hope for the world after all. Not much–but it's a start. 

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Friday, August 16, 2013

On Building A Better You

I've been lately working with all my kids on helping them build a stronger, positive mental constitution. We work out together, we discuss the events of our days and we discuss current events. I HIGHLY discourage negativity, teasing and self-loathing. There is no use comparing ourselves to someone else or to calling out each others flaws and weaknesses. We accept shortcomings. They are there. We know it. We move on. 

When we work out, we commonly play basketball together. One of the little nuggets I was taught when I was coached earlier in life was that when shooting around, you never leave the court on a miss. 

In other words. always leave on a make.

Its sort of Zen thing. Leave the basketball court on a swish (a made shot for those that are not familiar this thought). Don't leave on a missed shot. Always leave on a positive—on a win. It helps make the workout and the experience a positive one.

It goes hand-in-hand with some of these other favorites of mine: 

• Always say I love you to at least one person you care about every night
• Do at least one thing everyday that makes you feel good
• Have a Hobby or life passion… then add another one. Repeat.
• Do at least one thing, every year, you've never done before
• Reject bad habits, embrace good ones
• Surround yourself with people that bring you up–release the rest
• Learn the rules before breaking them
• Create something 

… and of course, always leave on a make. 

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Discourteous Courtesy

Recently, I have committed–albeit only partially–to living a healthier lifestyle and getting into better shape. Occasionally though, I will 'back-pedal' and in a moment of weakness/food lust/craving, I will make some not-so-healthy food choices. In short, I resort to junk food. Nothing as vile as hot-fudge sundaes or an entire 1500 calories breakfast burrito (though, that sounds pretty darn good right now), but a guilty little pleasure of a breakfast sandwich can often do the trick nicely. 

Enter: the Jack-In-The-Box drive through

Now for those blissfully unaware, especially any of my east-coast cronies, Jack-In-The-Box is a lot like Hardee's on the East Coast. Sort of a Breakfast and lunch fast food hub open pretty much always. 

Recently, when grabbing a totally sinful breakfast 'sangwhich' on my way to work, I was asked a very serious question by the cashier/junk food pimp lady with the paper hat on:

"How was your visit with us today?"

What? The question left me stunned. I had no response as I sat dumbfounded–frozen–by this ridiculous question. How was my "visit"? You mean my shamefully indulgent, semi-guilt-ridden effort to exchange hard-earned cash for this gooey, cheesy, bacon-smothered awesomeness? If I were to answer truthfully, my visit was:

Hopelessly indulgent
• Emotionally polarizing 
• Regretfully ecstatic
• Embarrassingly euphoric 

All of these hover dangerously close to an unpleasant truth, though I believe all I could muster at the moment was an emphatic; "uh.. good." 

In the future, if this is indeed how the mood engineers at the Jack-In-The-Box corporate experiential refinement division are planning to mold my "visits" from here on, I will be better prepared to respond to their false, yet strangely gratifying attempts at 'feel-good' perkiness as I grab my bag of grease.

I wonder what Wendy's morning pleasantries are like? 
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