Lessons Learned

When I was a young teenager, probably 13 or 14 years old, I had a dog that was a master at climbing the fence and escaping the back yard to roam the neighborhood. Eventually, my dad installed an electric fence kit to the top of the back-yard fence in hopes of curbing the dog’s desire to be free and explore. It should have only taken one jolt from the fence, maybe two, for the dog to no longer try to escape. That beagle sure could climb a fence. I’ve seen dogs that could jump a fence, but that was the only dog I ever saw that could climb one that way.

I was curious about the electric fence. I tapped it with my finger. Nothing. I touched it for a second. Still nothing. I decided to grab hold of it. Not the brightest thing I ever did in my life, but still not even close the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I was “shocked” to learn that the fence worked when I grasped it fully in my hand. It was slightly painful, but a life lesson that I still remember to this day. I won’t be testing anymore electric fences. No need, I satisfied my curiosity and fully understand how they work.

Most of the things we learn in life are directly related to the decisions we make, whether those be good decisions or bad ones. Ever since my children were little, I liked letting them make their own decisions about things when they could. When my two oldest were in pre-school, I would let them choose what to wear each day. Living in Florida, they usually chose shorts and short-sleeve shirts. One morning I told them a cold front was coming through and they should take a jacket. Neither wanted to take a jacket, so I took them to school with only what they had picked out to wear.

By noon that day, the temperature had dropped to a “frigid” 40 degrees. When I picked them up from pre-school, I heard one teacher comment that I should check the weather and dress them accordingly because my children were cold. Really? They weren’t going to die from hypothermia in 40-degree weather on the walk from the classroom to my car. I promise. And they both learned a valuable lesson that day, that sometimes, dad knows what he’s talking about. On the flip-side, on a trip to Colorado in January years ago with the kids, I made sure they had more than enough warm clothes. The trick is to know when to let them decide and when to plan for them. I don’t care what that one teacher thought, I was teaching my young children by giving them all the information available and letting them make the final decision. I think using that philosophy has more than paid off with them.

But what about the times when a decision is made without any idea of what all could possibly happen? And what if a decision is made with the best of intentions, but it turns out to be a disaster? That’s a great ethical question that has been debated for centuries. I don’t have the answer to it, in case you were wondering. During an army reserve weekend years ago, a fellow Service Member found a puppy. There was no collar with identification on the dog. And after asking around, he believed it to be a stray or an abandoned pet. He went to the store and bought a dog bowl, some dog food, and a leash. He was going to give the puppy a home. Since it was a couple hours before quitting time, he put the puppy in the bed of his truck with food and water, and put a collar and leash on the dog and tied it to the inside of the bed of his truck. The puppy climbed up on the wheel well and hanged himself trying to get out of the truck. The man’s intentions were pure gold, but the outcome was tragic.

In 2007, I decided to go back in to military service in the army reserves. I wanted to serve my country again and take care of Soldiers as a chaplain assistant. Although my life does not reflect it now, it was a matter I prayed about and truly believed it was something God wanted me to do, so, I rejoined. I still believe that. I volunteered to go Iraq in 2007. Then, I volunteered to go Afghanistan in 2013. My intentions were admirable, but the outcome of my decision cost me my mental health, my physical health, my marriage, relationships, a business, my favorite job I ever had, and who knows what else. I basically lost Me, the Me I used to know, the Me I used to be. I lost my identity. I had even lost my will to live at one point.

There have been times when I would figuratively touch the electric fence just to see what would happened. There were times when I learned from my decisions like my young children did from theirs, in learning that sometimes we should heed the advice or warnings of others. And there was a time when I was like the puppy, trying to escape, even though I didn’t know it would kill me.

All the decisions I’ve made in my life make me who I am today. Same goes for you, too, by the way. I’m grateful and lucky that to have survived some of my decisions. And even knowing what I know today, I would still rejoin the military and serve again. There are definitely some things I would do differently, but I know for certain I made the right decision to rejoin the army reserves. I don’t understand some of the consequences I’ve had to endure since I believe that decision was made with the best of intentions. And I don’t care to debate it or dig into the philosophical principles of whether or not it was the right decision based on the outcome. I’m moving forward with life.

Thank you for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other related posts you might like:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/13/the-irony-of-life/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/08/06/suicide-intervention/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/08/20/the-storm/

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The Soccer Game

Somewhere around 25 years ago, probably longer ago than that, I got a traffic ticket.  To be honest, I got quite a few tickets during that time of my life.  A lot of tickets.  Most of which I deserved.  But I’m reminded of one in particular from way back then this week that was questionable whether or not I deserved it.  I was behind a vehicle going 20 mph in a 35.  It was raining, but the vehicle in front of me was being overly cautious.  If the driver was that uncomfortable, they should have pulled off the road.  I found it very annoying, so I passed.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I saw flashing lights.  I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the police officer to come stand in the rain next to my car.

He asked for license and insurance card.  While I was handing that to him I asked why he pulled me over.  He informed me that it was unsafe to pass a vehicle in the heavy rain.  I pointed out that I didn’t even have to break the speed limit to pass because the vehicle in front of me was going so slow.  Plus, the fact that we were not in a residential area.  The police officer acknowledged that I had not exceeded the speed limit but that I would still be cited for, if I remember correctly, something called “failure to use due care.”  It’s like reckless driving, but not as bad.

I was not happy with the police officer’s decision to give me a ticket when I honestly felt like I didn’t do anything wrong.  It was a judgement call, it was his call.  And he deemed it unsafe and wrote me a ticket.  I didn’t argue with him.  I respected his authority even though I think he was wrong.  I could have contested it, taken my chances in traffic court, but just ended up paying it.  Back then that violation wasn’t a very expensive ticket.  And I’m guessing he must have really wanted to write someone a ticket that night even though it was raining fairly heavy.  He probably had rain gear on, but I’m sure he was getting soaked anyway standing there next to my car.

This week I attended my daughter’s middle school soccer game.  My girl’s team played very well in their loss.  If you are a parent of a student-athlete you know that sometimes calls on the field (or court) get missed, wrong calls get made, and the referee will hear about it from the parents in the stands.  It did seem that the majority of the calls favored the other team, but in his defense, he missed about the same number of calls for each team.  One of them he missed on our team could have drawn a yellow card.  One of our girls lowered her shoulder before plowing into her opponent.  No call.  That’s when the parents of the other team yelled at the ref.  I don’t envy his job.

During one play, a girl from each team was going for the ball as it headed towards the sideline.  Our girl (the blue team) was trailing another girl (the yellow team) to get to the ball.  The yellow girl started to lose her footing.  The blue girl slowed up and instinctively put her hands up to show she wasn’t making contact with the yellow girl.  The yellow girl eventually slipped on the ball and fell to the ground.  The referee called a penalty against the blue girl.  This happened right in front of the bleachers where all the parents were sitting.  The referee was much further away from the play.  But from his view, his angle, he saw a push that caused the yellow girl to fall.

We, the parents of the blue team, vocally shared our disdain with call.  That’s perfectly fine.  No one was ugly about it, no one used profanity, and then play resumed.  Well, except one mom in the stands.  She got a little ugly about it, but didn’t use profanity.  Once play resumed she should have let it go.  It’s perfectly fine to disagree with the call and be respectfully vocal about it.  After the ball was put back in play, the mom continued, attacking the referee’s character.  She was beginning to make a spectacle of herself.  The ref blew the whistle and halted play, walked over to the seats and asked the mom if she would like to watch the rest of the game from the parking lot.  She declined.  The ref put his hands to his chest, then extended his arms straight out as if to stay this matter is over.

I ended up talking to the referee after the game.  In the men’s room of all places.  I started by telling him not let the parents get to him, that he did a good job.  He’s a volunteer that officiates middle school and high school soccer games.  Give the guy a break.  I did tell him that I thought he got the call wrong, that the yellow girl tripped over her own feet.  He explained to me that call was pushing from behind that led to her falling.  That’s what he saw.  I was in a much better place to see it, had a much better angle, much closer to the action as it happened on the sideline.  But he explained what he saw.  I couldn’t argue with him, nor did I want to.  He’s the authority figure on the field.  It was a judgement call, his call.  He got it wrong, but it was his call to make so it counted as a penalty against the blue team.  That’s life sometimes.

All my children play or have played organized team sports in school and city leagues.  They aren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but they compete hard.  We have had talks about “bad officiating” over the years.  I try to explain, and I think they understand for the most part, that at the middle school and high school level, the referees aren’t professionals.  I think some of them, especially the football officials, get a little something for their services.  But I believe most of them do it out of love for the sport, or for the kids, or possibly as a hobby.  They aren’t perfect.  But they are doing something that makes a difference for the young people competing.

I want my children to fiercely compete in whatever sport or academic team event they are part of.  If they win, great.  If they lose, I only ask that they gave it their best effort.  I want them to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.  And I want them to respect the officials in charge of calling the game.  If something needs to be said to the referee, let the coach say it.  Let the parents yell from the stands.  But you, my child, my student-athlete, shake it off and keep playing.  Play hard and do your best.

Life lesson:  Not everything that happens in life is fair.  God knows I’ve gotten away with a few things in my life, but I’ve also paid the price for things that weren’t my fault.  It’s a balance.  Sometimes that balance tips one way or the other.  Don’t get bogged down with the minor things in life that aren’t right, that in reality won’t matter later anyway.  There will always be a bad call or a questionable traffic ticket in life to deal with.  Shake it off and move on.  Save your energy for the battles that matter.

Thank you for reading this week’s post.  Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts you might like

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/11/hostage-negotiator-or-hostage-taker/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/01/10/what-motivates-you/

 

 

 

Road Trip

I’m on a road trip. When I post this, I’ll be somewhere on I-20, probably in Louisiana. While I have covered several topics on my blog during its existence, I usually focus on PTSD, serving in the Army at war, and surviving suicide. And occasionally I bash the VA because they suck. For example, Friday morning I waited an hour at the VA to be told they couldn’t give me a print out of a recent evaluation I had. Today’s post will be a little different from the more recent ones.

There are certain things about my home life that I have tried to keep off the blog. In a few posts I have mentioned some of the marital problems at home. There are no more problems. I have moved out. And now I’m on a road trip, heading to my sister’s house in Louisiana. I will most likely stay there until the new year sorting through my thoughts, decompressing, writing, and relaxing. I don’t get back to my old stomping grounds very often, so this will be nice.

I moved out because she wouldn’t. I had hoped she would move out and I could stay with the kids, but that’s not a fight I want to take on and make things worse than they should be for the kids. In retrospect, I should have filed for divorce when she moved out in March instead of waiting. Then there wouldn’t be anything to argue about. But I chose to pay the bills instead of hiring an attorney. That’s life. And I expect some negative feedback from our mutual friends. Be careful if you don’t know the whole story.

I left the house around 6 p.m. local time. I made it Jackson, Mississippi, before I needed to stop and get a hotel room, where I am composing this. I’ll get up in the morning and finish my trip to northwest Louisiana. I have no set plans and am not on any schedule. I hope to find the motivation to diligently work on my book. I have neglected it for too long now. I’m sure I’ll see some old friends and catch up on all the years gone by. I’ll spend some time with my dad. I’ll get some rest. I’ll miss my kids.

I talked with them earlier in the week and explained that I would be moving out this weekend. They knew it was coming since last month they were told that I had in fact filed for divorce. But that conversation was still hard. Thankfully, they are all very well-grounded and are old enough to have some understanding of what is going on. I feel like a complete schmuck that I didn’t call my two grown children that are out in the world making great lives for themselves. This whole thing happened a little quicker than originally planned and I was focused on getting my stuff together and making sure the school aged children were okay and getting a grasp of all that was going on. My children know that I love them with all my heart.

There’s a lot in my life that I’m not happy about currently. However, in my life as a whole, I am happy. I believe things are going in the right direction for me. I am not happy that I won’t see my kids for a few weeks. I am not happy that I will be going through a divorce. But I am happy to be starting the next chapter in my life. There was a time not long ago that my mind would have put me through some horrible, dark thoughts concerning the prospect of being away from children under these circumstances. Not now. Yes, my kids are my life. But if I can’t be in good mental health for them, things will get bad, like they were before. So, I guess it’s better to be away and in good mental health than to be in a bad marriage and lose my mind.

I have no idea what all this road trip entails, but I am looking forward to it. I’m in a good place in my mind. I am looking forward to the future. I don’t have all the answers and I have no idea where I’ll end up after this little sabbatical. But I am confident in myself, in ways I haven’t been for at least a couple years. The past is the past. And my future looks good from where I’m sitting. Thanks for reading my dribble drabble this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Middle School Kids

I had something else lined up for this week’s post, but I really need to get this off my chest. As we all know, the world we live in is a crazy place. And judging by some of the youth aged kids I see out in my part of the world, it doesn’t always look like it’s going to get any better.

On my way from picking up kids at the middle school, I see a kid walking down the street in the lane I was driving in. He wasn’t crossing the street; he was purposely walking down the road with his back to traffic behind him. After he finally moved, I honked my horn as I passed him. Then he yelled, “Don’t fucking honk your horn at me!” Are you kidding me? This is a middle school student, maybe 7th or 8th grade. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was he really that bold to walk down the road in traffic, then yell at me not to honk at him? I decided to pull over and figured I’d talk to him about it and see if his tone changed.

As I approached him, I was amused by the fear in his eyes. Good. Maybe he’ll think twice about being an ass next time. I asked him his name. Instead he countered with, “I was just trying to cross the street.” I said, no, and asked his name again. He hesitated. I then told him he could tell me his name or I could get officer Rojas involved (resource officer at the middle school, and wonderful deputy to have in that position). He then said, “Logan.” I asked his last name, he said, “Michaels.” So, if any of you know Logan Michaels’ parents, send this week’s post to them.

Parenting is hard. Not really, but it is time consuming, tiring, worrisome, scary, expensive, and also rewarding. And I know my kids are far from perfect and I know I have never been the perfect dad. But I do know this: My children, when out in the world, know how to act like civilized human beings. They know respect. They know right from wrong. What happened to society from when I was a kid to now? I got in my share of trouble and did more stupid things than I can remember, but when called out by an adult, I was respectful.

I grew up in a different time. I was probably in the 4th grade while spending the night at a friend’s house. He and I got in trouble, I don’t remember what it was, but it was enough for his dad to spank both of us. Not bad, just a couple swats on the butt and then on with the evening. I didn’t dare tell my dad, because I knew I did wrong and didn’t want another spanking when I got home. How is that adults cannot correct other people’s children now? How is that some of the children people are raising are such bad human beings?

I see kids leaving the middle school every day on my way to pick up mine. So many of them don’t even stop at the crosswalk, just keep on moving because it seems to be their right. And, yes, Florida does have a law giving pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks. I think a close look at it would indicate that they have to be in the crosswalk first. Stop walking out in front of cars that are already moving! I watch one imbecile kid walk crossways from one corner to the opposite one, avoiding all crosswalks, going straight out into traffic. Granted, that kid will likely cleanse himself from the gene pool at some point, but at what cost? Will he take someone with him? Or will he cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed and house in prison somewhere?

This is not a school issue, it’s a parenting issue. I expect the school system to teach. They can expect me to parent. It’s a partnership that I am happy to be in. Maybe the school could put more effort to instill certain basic courtesies to the kids, since they are also a reflection of the school itself. But it’s not their job, it’s ours. The school system is NOT responsible for raising our children. There are kids being raised that are turning out like ass holes. And one day the parents are going to ask how that happened. It starts with right now. Do your damn job.

Not long ago I saw a post on Facebook where a friend of mine posted that she was at Wendy’s down the road from the middle school, after school was out. A group of the students had gone there after school. My friend wrote that she was appalled by the behavior of those students. They were rowdy, unruly, disrespectful, and didn’t care. And there’s no doubt what school they were from because of the uniform policy. It’s not just Logan Michaels that needs a swift kick in the pants, it’s quite a few of them. And society will give it to them one day since the parents obviously won’t.

I have chaperoned a few events at the middle school and I can say that by far, most of the children there are decent, good kids. It’s the handful of twerps that give all the rest of them a bad name. Just like all groups of people, there are a few rotten apples that mold the perception of the whole group. My children have been very active in sports and clubs. I can say most of the parents I know from these activities are wonderful people. The teachers, staff, and faculty that I have dealt with over the last decade at that school are top notch, the best. With the exception of the boys’ soccer coach, they are all a class act and care about doing a good job for the students.

Dear parents, stop raising ass holes and start raising respectful children. It’s not the school’s job, it’s yours. Good day, God bless.

Dave

What Motivates You?

What motivates you? I’m sure we could list hundreds of things that motivate us, and over time, depending on an exact moment in our lives, the answer could be anything. Does the motivation come from an outside source or from an inner drive? Certainly it can be either or both. Sometimes an outside source helps us find our inner drive. And this is what happened to my oldest daughter.

I have always been realistic. I don’t give my kids delusions of grandeur after they reach a certain age of maturity. When my daughter was a freshman in high school we talked about college. She’s a very smart young lady and very passionate about things that motivate her. She’s a black belt in Tae Kwan Do; I’ve seen her on the soccer field run over opponents much bigger than her; she was a leader for preschool children at church. But her study skills and effort in her classes were lacking.

One day she asked me about college. I told her that if her study habits didn’t improve she’d be lucky to go to the local community college. I told her she needed to figure something out if she was going to seriously consider college.

Her passion is cooking. By her junior year in high school she was in her third year of culinary arts at the high school. During her junior year she informed me that she wanted to go to Johnson & Wales University, “one of the preeminent culinary universities in the world” according to edinfomatics.com. Further, she informed me she wanted to apply to an early entry program that would allow her to skip her senior year of high school and start college. After researching it I learned that this early entry program only takes about 20 students a year.

I encouraged her to apply. I knew she was capable, but I also knew the odds she was up against. I cautioned her not to get her hopes up too much since it was such a long shot. She applied, went to the interviews at the campus, did some kitchen work there, and nailed it. Every bit of it. She got accepted to the program. Soon after, she asked me if I remembered our conversation concerning college. She asked, “Do you remember saying I’d be lucky to go to community college?” I did. Then she asked with a smile, “What do you think now?” I knew she could do it.

She used my perception of her, which was founded in reality, to motivate herself. She proved me wrong and I could not possibly be happier to have been wrong. I am so proud of her.

So, I ask again, “What motivates you?” Take a look at yourself and find your motivation.

Good day and God bless.

Dave