Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Almost Accident

So I was driving to work the other day. It was a great drive in; the traffic was light; I hit every light green, and the radio played all my favorite songs. It was as if the entire world was revolving around moi, making every effort to please me.

I was coming up to the intersection where I turn left. As I did, the light turned green, and I was slowing up, making my turn. Just then I heard the blare of a horn and the sound of rubber gripping the road. I looked up to see a very large, black pick-up trying desperately not to hit me.

Evidently, in my hypnotic state of reverie I failed to notice my left-turn arrow had changed to a full green light. When this happens, approaching traffic has the right of way. (Just in case you didn't know that.)

Fortunately, the truck stopped -- came to a screeching halt, actually. I sped up, and we both had an I-almost-had-an-accident story to tell around the dinner table: he blaming me and me blaming me.

I almost had an accident because I was thinking about all the things I needed to take care of at work, home, and with the family. I took time later that day to write down everything I absolutely needed to accomplish. Beyond that, I let go of all the other worries as they raced through the windows of my mind.

The drive home after work was less eventful, for all I had to think about was dinner. Since I like almost anything I don't have to make, and because the wife was cooking, life was good.

Guys, sometimes we need a reality check that prompts us to let go of the clutter in our heads. We need to be alert. That's why this coming Labor Day is so important. Put away the to-do list and concentrate on resting, relaxing and reconnecting with your family and friends.

After all, you've still got four months before 2013 is history.

Happy Labor Day rest to you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Boring Drive

The other day I was reading an article about our brains. It said our brains get high on participation. It further explained that when our brains are engaged and we experience pleasure, the brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine gives us a pleasurable feeling, so the brain is always looking for ways to create more. Thus when we are actively engaged in activities the brain has a better opportunity to produce dopamine, than if we are passive.

As I sat back and reflected on the article, I discovered why I do not look forward to the solo drive from St. Louis to Chicago, for there is little change in scenery, few obstacles to overcome, and it's an almost straight shot. (Now not to pick on the great State of Illinois, I have experienced similar boring routes in Texas, Montana, Iowa, Indiana, Wyoming, Arizona, Michigan, and a few others.)

Now some will argue the radio, CD or iPod can keep the brain engaged while driving solo. Still, I found that on especially long trips, I tire of sad country songs, too much of the blues, the beat of pop, and the pounding of rap. I once tried jazz and almost ran off the road. A book on tape isn't too bad, as long as I can finish it before I arrive. However, I am not the best at picking up a story line once it's been side aside for a while.

What I have discovered works for me is prayer. Now before you stop reading, let me explain.

Whenever I pass one of those green highway signs that announce a town, etc. I think of a family member. For example, I may pass the sign that says, "Highway 50, Exit 1 Mile," and I recall my wife. I remember her laughter, her voice, her beauty, and so forth. Then I say a prayer for her. I recall her until I pass another sign; then I think of some other family member and say a prayer.

If I run out of family members I recall the bosses I have had and say a prayer for them. Then it's politicians, world leaders, people who have yelled at me, and so on. I say a prayer for each of them.

I usually arrive at my destination relaxed, with a brain full of dopamine.

On the other hand, I also find that beef jerky and Mountain Dew help take my mind off of long, lonely stretches of highway, even as they energize me for the road ahead.

Tying it all together has me praying in between gulps of Mountain Dew as I'm shredding a strip of rawhide jerky.

What a way to go!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The View from 25,000 Feet

The other day I was flying across the country from St. Louis to Paducah to Baltimore to Detroit. The day was cloudless along the entire route, providing a clear view of the landscape. I was struck by the physical features below me, looking remarkably similar to the physical maps my teacher used in class. I was able to identify streams, mountain chains, forests and, of course, an ocean. The colors of the topography did resemble my grandmother's patch quilt.

Interspersed among the natural features were interstate highways, farm fields, electrical lines, and the occasional clustering of buildings, making up a city or town. The manmade features crisscrossed over, around and through the natural features, adding interest to the visual effect.

From 25,000 feet there was one thing I was not able to discern, however: individuals. I could pick out an occasional truck or car along the highway and, sometimes even a structure, but I could not see any people.

I started to ponder the concept that the things people do often last longer than the individuals who do them. For example, the highways I saw were built by people I didn't know. The buildings I saw were constructed by individuals I never met. The squares of farmland were plowed and managed by farmers I'll never know.

That got me thinking about my life. How will what I build -- my family, my reputation, my relationships, and my influence -- last beyond me?

Will the next generation be able to see how I impacted the world without ever meeting me?

I would like to think they will.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to School: Dads Get Involved

Soon children everywhere will participate in annual back-to-school rituals. For the child the event is usually celebrated with new clothing and shoes, fresh school supplies tucked inside a new backpack, and a sense of anticipation sometimes mixed with apprehension. Soon they will be entering a world designed just for them, geared to their needs, offering them opportunities to make friends, and grow intellectually, emotionally, socially and all of the other -allys there are to experience. Children look forward to going back to school almost as much as their parents do -- almost.

Parents see the first day of school as the culmination of weeks of preparation. This trial by fire begins with a number of school supply shopping ventures and continues through the drama of shelling out precious cash for new clothes and shoes -- each item squeezing an already limited budget. Parents of multiple children sometimes have an advantage here, learning from the older sibling how to prepare for the younger one's supply needs. All too soon, however, the days of preparations end as parents see their kids off to the first day of school.

For some parents the school bus gobbles up their child; others wave farewell from their front door. Some parents walk their child up to the school house; others queue up in designated car pool lines. For the first-time parent, this separation can prompt tears and anxiety over how their little one will be treated and, in turn, treats others. Veteran parents, on the other hand, smile bravely, still not completely free of the butterflies in their stomachs. Without a doubt, the first day of school can be stressful.

Part of the trauma comes in parents' desire to have their child do well. Every parent knows their kid is special, talented, intelligent and creative, and they want others to recognize these traits too. In addition, all parents want their child to get good grades, be confident, get along well with others, behave properly, and be healthy and happy.

Dads, research from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has found that children with involved, caring fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident, better at social interaction, less depressed, better behaved, healthy and happier. It is never too early -- or too late -- to be involved in your children's lives.

The easiest way to be involved in your child's life is to talk with them. Research indicates today's dad spends an average of seven hours a week with their child as opposed to 12 hours for mom. Dads, take time to be with and talk to your child.

It will make a huge difference.