Thursday, June 19, 2014

Father's Day

This week I found out that there is no shortage of “World’s Greatest Dad’s.” If I am to believe Facebook and Twitter, the overwhelming majority of my friends and acquaintances were blessed with the kindest, smartest, funniest fathers that anyone could ever ask for. I am happy for them…really. 

I saw picture after Polaroid picture of dads on my social media feeds on Father’s Day. Dads decked out in polyester, dads proudly displaying a hard- won catch from the lake, dads hugging kids, young kids, grown kids, their kids. Great words too, dad was an inspiration, dad was a mentor, dad is a hero.  I had to disconnect, unplug. I had to remove myself from the endless tribute.  It was too much.

There are people who remained invisible to social media on Father’s Day. They did not post loving memories of dear old dad. They did not give words of thanks to the man who taught them so much and loved them so well. Some are fatherless, never knowing the man who is semi-responsible for their existence. Some know their fathers but, after a lifetime of abuses, wish they did not. Some are working through it with their dads, trying to lay pavement to a relationship that has always traveled along very rocky terrain.

For people like that, people like me, there are questions as to how we should feel when Father’s Day rolls around. Is it okay to be a little resentful of friends that seem to have been blessed with a wonderful relationship with their dad? Should I consider myself lucky that at least I did not have it as bad as others who have suffered unspeakable crimes at the hands of their fathers? What is the appropriate amount of pain I am allowed, and when should I just “get over it” and move on? 

The thing I have learned about pain, it’s like a fingerprint, unique to you and attached to you. Other people may see your pain but they don’t know it, and because they don’t know they really don’t have the right to tell you how it should be managed.  We have a bad habit in our society of putting pain on the scales of justice, rationalizing that because one person’s wounds seem to be deeper than another’s , then the more wounded person deserves more compassion. It’s a false assumption.  Compassion and understanding are for everyone, and so is the right to heal. 

I have known many people with parental wounds, and while I do my best to encourage them, I know enough not to try to “fix” them with a self-help catchphrase or even worse, tough love. Your wounds are your own, so is your road to healing. For some, it is simply a matter of forgiveness, being able to let go and move forward.  Others might require confrontation and justice, an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, an apology.  For everyone who must deal with the past, the question of the future also remains. Do we try to repair the broken relationship, or do we build a wall and leave the offenders on the other side? It is unique, a million life circumstances and just as many responses, fingerprints.

As for me, I am approaching peace. I am fully aware of whom my father is, and I know that we will never have the happy, smiling, father-son photo op that social media seems to adore.  That is ok.  Sure, every once in a while I might mourn our dead relationship but I know what is best for me. That is why on Father’s Day I did the very best thing I could do for myself. I unplugged, put my phone away, and took my two beautiful little girls swimming. We had a wonderful time!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gun Lovers, Don't Tread on Me.

It was my friend Monty’s birthday, sometime in the summer of 1989.  Monty was from the country. He loved to hunt, fish, and ride horses.  The horses we had in common, everything else, not so much.  Monty had decided to have his birthday party at an indoor firing range in Fort Worth. I went, if for no other reason than to see what it was like.

 I had never been to a firing range before. The only experience I had with guns was firing a couple of shots at a tin can with my grandfather’s .22 rifle. That was a long time ago.  Now I stood in a booth, ear muffs on, pistol in hand, ready to shoot. I don’t remember whether or not I hit the target, I remember the recoil, jarring and sudden. I remember the noise, booming even through the “ears”. Holding that weapon I was awestruck by the idea that something so simple and small could be so forceful. Here was the power to take life, to maim and cripple, to alter family histories, to alter world history, and it fit in the palm of my hand.  That thought humbled me, in fact it terrified me.  I was uncomfortable. I did not like the feeling of having the arbitrary power to end something, or someone’s life. It did not belong to me. What right did I have to a power like that? More importantly, could I trust myself with a power like that? It was the last time I picked up a gun.

So I am not a gun person.  Does that make me un-American? Am I a “sissy” because I don’t like to shoot things?  According to some folks in my great home state of Texas, the answer is yes.  Recently members of the “open carry” movement in Texas have been holding very public demonstrations, exercising their right to walk around with long rifles, assault rifles, and the like. They have mugged for pictures inside restaurants and coffee shops, they have marched in the parking lots of Home Depot’s and they harassed a former Marine in downtown Fort Worth because he had the audacity to question the sanity of their brazen disregard for the safety and security of their fellow citizens.   This particular group of people actually accused the NRA of being too soft after that organization called the groups tactics into question.  Wow.

I have questions for open carry advocates. These questions are not asked in the spirit of accusation but in the genuine interest of understanding your position. You want to be able to display your weaponry for the entire world to see.  Why? I really don’t understand. Is it for protection? I would think if someone wants to take you out being able to see what you’re packing and where it is on your person would actually put you at a disadvantage.  Is it fear? Are you so afraid of the bad people in this world (and yes, there are bad people in this world) that you feel your only recourse is to strike fear into the people around you, be they man, woman or child, guilty or innocent?  I hope your reasons go beyond intimidation and antiquated notions of old west justice.  I am for your rights, but please don’t tread on mine. 

I think back to that birthday party at the gun range and I remember this; it was not the gun that frightened me. It was the thought of what I could be capable of with that gun that scared the hell out of me.  So when I say I am uncomfortable with the way you are expressing your rights, I am not saying it because I don’t trust the guns, I am saying it because I don’t trust you.   I don’t trust you to always, always think safety first. I don’t trust you to always, always keep your emotions under control.  I don’t trust you to always, always value human life, even if it is the life of someone you hate.  You want to have guns?  Fine. You want to carry them openly in public? Ok. Just know that along with that choice comes the burden of a greater responsibility that you can even fathom. I’m simply asking that you take that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves.  


Friday, April 11, 2014

Bro? No.

He is a staple of our culture, equal parts annoying and hilarious.  He rages against the dying of the light, fueled by the internal hunter to pursue good times, good booze, and good looking women. Laughter is his medicine, that and dollar longnecks. He has traveled through history under many names.  He has been our chum, our pal, our buddy.  In the eighties and nineties he was simply known as “dude”, a term so encompassing and versatile that by varying ones inflection it could be the only word spoken between two "dudes" in an entire conversation.  In the new millennium our friend goes by another name, one that has certainly entrenched itself into the fabric of pop culture. Today he is “The Bro”.

The Bro loves to party.  His priorities are hanging with other bros, getting drunk, and hooking up, usually in that order.  His life is carefree. Not saddled with a mortgage, a wife, or kids, his income is expendable and his burdens are light.  He lives for the good times, he lives for today, never putting much stock in the future.  We tend to think of him at his worst, drunk and disorderly, misogynistic, self-centered and irresponsible.  At his core, however, beats the heart of the restless wanderer, the nomadic warrior, the alpha dog fighting domestication.  These are qualities that are important, even essential to manhood. In their proper context they are part of what equips us as leaders, husbands, and fathers.  The problem is that in the massive value shift that is re-shaping our society, the bro no longer sees responsibility and relationship as an end goal to be achieved, rather they see them as looming monsters with yellow teeth, something to be avoided at all cost.

I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when watching the final episode of the CBS sit-com “How I Met Your Mother.”  The show tells the tale of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) and his four friends as they navigate life, love, and New York City, growing from 20-somethings into 40-year olds.  One of Ted’s friends, Barney Stinson (the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris), is the eternal bro. He lives by a “bro code”, a never ending list of rules about how a bro is to behave (e.g.  “Article 2: "A Bro is always entitled to do something stupid, as long as the rest of his Bros are all doing it.”) He has a playbook for picking up women, and a “guy” for everything from securing VIP passes for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show after party to booking a castle in France.  When the show began nine seasons ago, Barney was easily the breakout character.  His schemes and tall tales were clever, absurd and reflected the legendary life many of us tried to live out in our twenties.  As time went on, and Barney aged, the bit grew stale and a little sad. By the time we reach the end of the show and Barney is still “the bro” into his forties, it is just pathetic.

I think every man (and woman for that matter) should experience the unique freedom and fullness of life that is only available in your twenties.  You’ve graduated, your making your own money, life is full of potential and possibilities and the world and all its spoils are yours for the taking.  This is a great season of life, but it is just that, a season.  The longer it goes on, the lonelier it becomes until you are left by yourself in the endless summer while everyone else has moved on to fall.  At some point, you have to know when to let go of the bro.

I don’t blame the bro. Hollywood portrayals of marriage and family are very rarely glamorous or even appealing. The beaten down husband/father with the dead end job, the nagging wife and the obnoxious children is the standard for movies and television.  Given that example, plus the fact that at least half of the young adults in our country come from broken homes, it’s not surprising that millenials reject the idea of settling down.  This is sad to me because while I loved being a “dude” in my twenties, I am so grateful that I am not still clinging to that stage of life. Back then I never pictured myself as a husband or a dad but now I can’t imagine myself any other way.  I think that young men would be missing out on so much if they turned their back on this life and its rewards. However, I have also seen too many guys get married and have kids, but never really change.  They escape into man caves; they play in softball leagues, go to the gym or the sports bar and ignore their families in order to do their own thing.  Those guys should just stay single; they haven’t left the bro behind.

I am not saying male bonding is not important, it is. Men should have friendships. Those friendships should grow with the man and support him through the various stages of life, not serve to keep him in a perpetual state of adolescence.  If you feel like that is the state you are in, it’s time to let the bro go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No Foolin'

Originally published on The Nameless Valley Blogger (4 April 2014)

April 1st came and went uneventfully again this year.  None of my friends attempted to pull an April Fools prank on me. No one ever does. I would like to say the reason I don’t get pranked has to do with my incredible ability to smell a rat, or the fear of what dastardly shenanigans I might return to them as a form of retribution. Alas, no. It is has more to do with the fact that pranking me is too easy, and there is no payoff because I just have no enthusiasm, positively or negatively, for the art of the prank. Allow me to explain.

It started when I was ten.  It was approaching Christmas and I was certain beyond any doubt that I was going to be receiving an Atari 2600 game system. I had stacked the deck in favor of this since it was the only thing I asked (begged) for and since I was the last kid on the block to have one. I figured I was due.   My lobbying effort, along with a little tear of wrapping paper and a quick peek at the biggest box under the tree, convinced me I was right.  Did I get a little arrogant?  It’s possible. Did I strut around the house singing an annoying made up song about getting an Atari?  Most definitely.

The big day arrives and I confidently rip away the wrapping paper concealing my long awaited prize.  The box is glorious, the Atari 2600 on the top, a picture of plastic perfection.   A huge, smug smile on my face as I open the box and empty the contents to reveal…rocks. ROCKS!!  A sane, logical boy would surely have realized that a prank was in the offing.  No mother would go through the trouble of finding the box of the one thing her son so desperately wanted, fill that box with rocks, and present it to him on Christmas day.  Unfortunately, my little boy brain lacked that logic.  In my mind I imagined my mom going to the store, purchasing the Atari, making her way over to the poor side of town, giving the contents of the Atari box to some less fortunate child, a boy who would be grateful for this Christmas miracle, then bringing the box home, filling it with rocks, and giving it to me in order to teach me a lesson!   I began bawling. I melted down like Velveeta in a microwave.  My mom, and my step-sister, who was in on the gag too, began bawling.  They started throwing other presents at me and yelling for me to open them.  It was the Atari. Every piece boxed individually.  They explained that they knew I had been sneaking around the tree and had already figured out what I was getting so they thought it would be funny to see my face when I opened the box and it wasn’t there.  Wasn’t very funny was it Ma?

Four years later I got my first job bussing tables part-time at a Mexican food restaurant.  After my first shift ends the guys in the kitchen tell me they have something for me.  Apparently it is customary for the cook to make a meal for a new employee at the end of his first shift.  The sour cream chicken enchiladas looked appetizing, and the first bite wasn’t bad.  On the second bite I noticed something was off.  Out of politeness I tried another, that’s when it occurred to me that these enchiladas reminded me of the time I got punished for saying dirty words.  Yes, the “chef” had filled the tortillas with soap, not chicken. Hilarious…the entire staff got a really good laugh out of it but I did not get it.  Not because I was the victim and not because I was embarrassed, I just thought it was mean.

Why do we love to laugh at someone else’s misery?  The awkwardness, the brief moment of panic, the kick in the groin, I know it’s a temporary pain and in the long run hopefully everyone, including the victim, is able to laugh about it, but it just makes me very uncomfortable.    I am pretty sure I am in the minority on this.  Pranks have probably been around as long as we have and April fool’s day pranks can be documented back to the Middle Ages.  I was bombarded on Tuesday via social media with announcements of fake firings, fake resignations, fake engagements, and fake divorces. Of course companies did what companies always do, turn any minor holiday into a marketing bonanza, so I also was introduced to fake new products, fake mergers and other assorted fakeness that just made me tired. 

Honestly, I love to laugh. I think I have a good sense of humor.  I just find that most April fool’s related humor falls into two categories; either it lacks imagination, or it is cruel, and in the worst cases it is both.   Maybe you have a different opinion. If so I would love to hear it.  Just don’t wrap my car in foil because that is a waste of good aluminum.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Man I Love

Originally published on The Nameless Valley Blogger (29 Mar 2014)

  I am in love with a man.  Shocking right? You might not want to hear about it but I would like to tell you about the man I love. This man I am in love with is older, by about 2000 years.  He is smart. He seems to know everyone and everything and anything that anyone has ever done.  Armed with that knowledge you would think he would be extremely judgmental and have a low opinion of humanity, I mean imagine the evil he has seen.  Really it is quite the opposite. He loves people, every last one of us.   His capacity to love people is amazing. He even loves those sinners; you know the ones, the 7 billion of them that inhabit this planet.

The man I love is kind.  He stands up for the poor and the oppressed.  He forgives wrongdoers, even the ones who have done wrong directly to him.  He would never throw a rock at someone as a punishment for their lifestyle, and he would never, ever, protest the funeral of a soldier to further a hate filled agenda. Again, the man I love does not hate people, he loves them.

That is not to say he is passive or permissive.  One of the things I love about him is that he knows right from wrong, it’s almost like he wrote the rules himself.  He calls me out when I’m wrong, and I am wrong a lot.  That is not judgment or condemnation. That is accountability.  He does not condone sin.  People seem to have this idea that because he hangs around with sinners that he is totally cool with sin. He is not. But the man I love would rather be a bright light for us than shine a bright light on us and all of our junk.

This wonderful man, I’ll call him “J”, he loves children.  He loves their minds, their hearts, and their ability to believe.  It saddens him when children suffer.  He wants every child to be loved and fed, and that is much more important than who happens to be holding the spoon.  I know, hard to imagine.  He just cares that much.

The thing is, and this is the thing that made me fall in love with him in the first place, “J” values love above all other things.  He loves us and wants us to love each other.  In fact, you know that old saying ‘love thy neighbor?’ He made that up!  If you want to know who your neighbor is, watch the movie “Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  When you see the big blue ball they orbit around, just know that everyone who lives on that ball is your neighbor, everyone.

I am sure by now you have figured out that the man I love is Jesus.  Maybe you love him too, maybe you don’t.  Maybe you would like to meet him and maybe you think he doesn’t even exist. That is your prerogative.   The purpose of this post is not to convert you to Christianity or try to “shove religion down your throat.” I am simply saddened by the misrepresentation of Christ in our culture.  Extremists on the right and on the left have propped up Jesus as a symbol of their cause when nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus does not pick sides because all of humanity is of concern to him.  He does not rank sins in order of most to least heinous because to a perfect God all sin is the same.   He does not wave a red flag or a blue flag because believe it or not he is not even American! 

Jesus is love. He wants to take away your sins, not your sensibilities.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Listen up!

I am writing for a new blogging site called  This is the first piece I posted there...more are coming and I will link them here as well. Enjoy.

I love to talk. More to the point, I love to be heard.  It has been that way since I was young.  I remember the one consistency on my elementary school report cards was a check mark in the space designated for those who had a problem with “talking in class.”  Being heard, being visible, being significant, has always been an important thing to me. It makes sense that I chose to make a living in broadcasting. Being heard, being someone who matters, important stuff.

Talking has served me well. I have been very lucky to put a few meals on the family table through my abilities with the spoken word.  As I grow older, however, I am finding more and more that being heard, being noticed, talking…is overrated.  Sure, it is nice to have a voice, and my voice, like any other, has a right make itself heard.  But now I am beginning to really understand that there is something much more important to a life of meaning than being heard; and that is hearing.  More to the point, listening.

Hearing is involuntary. If you have working ears, you hear.  That is why I don’t like the term “selective hearing.” I prefer the term “selective listening.” We live in a world where we hear lots of things, but we control what we listen to. I call it the “earbud effect.”  With a pair of earbuds we can essentially tune out the entire world and listen to only that which gives us satisfaction and comfort.  That is dangerous, not because it might damage our ears (this is not really about earbuds, after all), but rather because it keeps us from experiencing and considering the voices of those with whom we might not agree, or those that make us uncomfortable.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”  --Ralph G. Nichols

We used to debate, and it was good! The reason was we listened to one another.  Yes, I wanted you to hear what I had to say, to understand my feelings, but I was willing to listen to you and consider your feelings as well.  Where has that gone?   Now instead of debating we argue, and the point is no longer to judge ideas based on their own merit but to win a shouting contest. 

This mindset has polluted everything from politics to religion and dominates pop culture.  We have become so afraid of being wrong, of being seen as the loser, we won’t even allow for the possibility that someone who opposes us could actually have good ideas.  We stopped listening. 

I find it amazing that great minds throughout history valued listening over talking, have learned more from their failures than their success and yet we continue to define our personal value by the sharpness of our tongues and the wars we win, however petty those may be.

One of the reasons I was interested in writing here was the idea that this would be a site where opposing viewpoints could co-exist in an atmosphere of civil discourse.  I have opinions. I am not a fence sitter, but I don’t want to sit so far on one side of the fence that I have no clue what is happening on the other. After all, the grass could very well be greener over there. 

We have two ears, one mouth. I believe that is intentional. It’s my goal to learn more than I teach, to listen more than I talk, and to be smarter tomorrow than I am today. Feel free to chime in, I am listening.

Friday, August 31, 2012

On our TXA 21 Game of the Week we did a short tribute to one of our good friends, former North Crowley coach and teacher Ken Kershaw.  Because of time restrictions the tribute was not as long as I was hoping it would be so what follows is the full text of what I was hoping to say...

Texas high school football lost one of its biggest fans and greatest supporters when Kenneth Kershaw passed away on April 19th of this year as the result of an automobile accident.  Coach Kershaw was a Texan, born in Brownsville, and he was passionate about all things Texan, especially hunting, BBQ, and high school football.

Coach Kershaw earned a Masters degree from TCU in 1988 and spent his entire adult life  teaching and coaching on the high school level, first at Fort Worth’s Western Hills, then on to Marble Falls in the Texas hill country.  After that is was back to Fort Worth and stops at Pascal and Southwest high schools before finally settling at North Crowley in 1999.

He was a successful coach, helping to lead baseball and football teams to winning seasons…the ultimate athletic prize came his way in 2003 when, as an assistant football coach, he was part of the magical North Crowley run to the 4A DI State Championship..

Athletics was only part of the Ken Kershaw story though…a beloved and respected educator, he was named North Crowley teacher of the year in 2003 and 2004 and Educator of the year in 2005.  His students marveled at how he knew the mascot for every high school in Texas, and how he could tell them about the best barbecue restaurants in any small Texas town…he pushed his students to excellence, and they loved him for it.

Coach Kershaw loved what he called “small ball” high school football on the 1A and 2A its fitting that his family and friends are celebrating his life tonight at Waco ISD stadium where Bosqueville and Bartlett are squaring off in a “Battle of Bulldogs”.

Ken Kershaw absolutely adored the sport of Texas High School Football, so let me say this final thought in a way I think he would appreciate…On the scoreboard of life the points are not given for fame, money or possessions…rather they are earned by faith, the lives you touch, and the good that you do…by that measure Coach Ken Kershaw didn’t just light up the scoreboard, he blew it up.  I know I speak for his wife Sara, his kids Kristine and Kurt, and countless other members of his family and his friends when I say Coach, you are loved, and you are missed.