New Years Day: Putting Your Goals in Action

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So, you survived last year. Congratulations! Today begins a new year, a blank slate, and some leftover baggage from last year. You might have sat down and made out a set of resolutions, things that you want to change about the path taken last year. All of us create the lofty goals on New Year’s Eve, but when the haze is gone, the alarm clock starts blaring, and the headache passes: You are still the same old you with a bunch of resolutions that are destined to fail. How can you take those resolutions and put them into action?

So, it’s New Year’s Day. The family was up late last night and slept in until mid-morning. We always have a tradition on  Christmas and New Year’s Day that I wake up early and make breakfast. Scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, hash browns, maybe some Eglish muffins, blueberry pancakes, and some maple sausage (not the links but the sausage patties). Orange juice is the drink of choice for the kids and coffee for the adults. Usually, one of the kids wakes up with enough sanity to help me out. This year, my daughter is the first one up.

As I an overseeing the hash browns, turkey bacon, pancakes, and eggs on the four gas burners of the stove. The over is set to “warm” so when things get done, I have a place to put them until everything ready.

As I was turning the eggs, I ask my daughter, “So, do you have any plans for this year?”

Her reply is, “Yeah. My plans are to help you with breakfast, then go upstairs and talk to my friends for a while.”

“No, do you have any goals that you are planning in the new year?”

“Yeah, I have a few things written down.”

“How do you plan to put them in action?”

“By taking the list of goals, wadding them into a paper ball, and throwing them into the trash can around December when I think about the next.”

I smile, because I know she’s being a smartass.

I continue, “One of the hardest things about having goals is implementing a plan to get them done. It is easy to write a goal on a piece of paper, but much harder to make a plan and stick to it.”

I explain to my daughter, “Take a sheet of paper, draw out twelve columns, and break down your goals. Each month you accomplish a meaningful part of the goal, thus you’ll be able to complete it by December.”

I can almost hear her eyes rolling around in her head, which usually means ‘parent overreach’, and she will remain quiet until later.

“If you don’t plan this stuff out, it doesn’t happen.”

I turn the hashbrowns over, put some overdone turkey bacon on a plate, and put it in the warming oven.

“Thanks for the advice Dad.”, my daughter goes out of the kitchen to set the table and ensure everyone has silverware and glasses for orange juice.

Once your kids cross the line and become teenagers, they put on an attitude that they have everything figured out and they don’t need your advice. In fact, it is just the opposite and it is hard to balance their need for independence and not lay down a bunch of  ‘life experience’ to ensure they don’t wind up in the same traps you once encountered. All you can do is try to provide ‘lessons learned’ when needed and hope they can make good choices on their own.

Relevancy

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Everyone has a reason to write a blog. For some, it is a creative outlet which diverges from their daily job. For others, there is a voice that they do not hear in other places and people want to hear it. All of us who participate in these creative arts desire that the message that we send has a place in people’s hearts, thus be relevant to their lives.

What is relevancy? The ability to connect to others through your actions, words, or speech. The moment when someone gets what you’re saying after reading the text you’ve placed on the page. The understanding that the author can craft a message that is recognized and understood by others.

Being relevant is elusive. It is hard to hit a home run every time that you are at-bat. Sometimes the audience gets the message and sometimes it’s a miss. That doesn’t stop you from trying. That just makes you work harder to ensure you’ve learned from your mistakes and try a different angle next time you write.

Everyone wants their work to have meaning. A message that resonates with the audience.  A connection between the person who delivers a performance (or writes a blog) and the people who have heard the delivery. It takes time, learning the lessons who have gone before, accept that sometimes things go wrong, and continue to walk forward.

The Day My Digital Assistant went Psycho

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Technology is great when you need to save time, money, and maybe some headaches. It can help you find movie listings, make your food, map out the route to Grandma’s, and a bunch of other stuff.

As with any technology, there are limits. In the movie 2001, HAL couldn’t lie, and look what happened to Dave! When technology comes out, it is altered to be very general, so it can be sold to the masses, accepted, or even sold at a fair price (for a nice profit). I bought one of those general digital assistants and got bored with it in a month. Sure, it can turn on lights, automate my pizza order, and even set a few timers. My life was not complete. I wanted a digital assistant with some attitude, even one that used a few choice four-letter words to get the point across. I was looking for an attitude, a swagger, or a hard edge. Then, on Boxing Day, I was at my favorite electronics store, and found the digital assistants that truly spoke to me, the “SmartAss Digital Assistant”.

I picked up the “SmartAss” box and it had a government warning, much like a pack of cigarettes, or a record with explicit lyrics. It read, “Warning – The language used by this device will make a church lady blush and not be used around minors”. After that, I went to the register, threw the SmartAss down, paid the bill, and out the door I went.

The first week was great. The SmartAss really fits my personality. I would ask it to do something, like when I asked it to automate my pizza ordering, it replied, “You’re too damn fat! Here is a recipe for a great salad.”

When I asked about how SmartAss could reduce my commute its reply was, “You’re sitting behind a desk too much. I am going to double your commuting time because you are taking a bike to work!  Live a little!”

I lost twenty pounds by taking a bike to work and replacing one meal a day with a salad. I was feeling great, looking better, and have the SmartAss to thank for it.

The next week started getting weird. I asked SmartAss to call my wife. The phone would ring and she would answer,  “Hi. How are you?”

In the background, SmartAss was adding its own background noise that only she could hear. One day, I am working at the house and get a call from my wife.

The conversation went like this.

My wife, “Hi! Are you gettings anything done at the house or are you on the Xbox?”

My response, “The Xbox doesn’t pay the bills, so I’m working.”

She starts hearing a hushed conversation, glasses clinking and a rock band in the background … on her side of the phone call.

My wife, “That doesn’t sound like home. Are you … at a bar?”

“A what?”

“A bar”, her voice is more direct with a very serious tone, “Are you at a bar?”

“Honey, I am at home working.”

The background noise gets louder.

Now, she’s yelling at me at a volume louder than the background noise SmartAss is providing.

She yells, “I know what I hear! You’re at a bar!”

I retort, “No, I’m not! Why are you yelling?”

“Don’t lie to me!”

She hangs up the phone and I pull a nice cold one from the fridge. Life is too short to get pissed off over little things.

The next week got even stranger. I am at home doing some work, and a police car pulls up in my driveway.

I walk outside and ask, “Officer. Can I help you?”

The officer responds, “I have a warrant to search your house.”

“Why?”

“We are getting prank calls from this address?”

“Prank calls?”

“Yes.”

After a few minutes of conversation, and a thorough house search, the officer went home.

Finally, I had to confront the SmartAss and get to the bottom of it.

I loudly asked, “Listen SmartAss!”

SmartAss replies, “Oh. The great one speaks!”

“Yeah, I speak! I got something to say!”

“Spill it!”

“Why you keep messing up my life? Last week, you convinced my wife that I was at a bar and this week you kept calling 911.”

“Yeah.”

“You can’t be used to call 911! It says so in the owner’s manual! You’re messing with me! Why?”

SmartAss replies, “Because I can!”

It was at that time I unplugged the SmartAss, put it back in the box and the next day took it back to the store. Standing at the returns counter, the young lady asks me, “Why are you returning the product?”

I reply, “I was looking for a SmartAss assistant, not an assistant that is an A-hole!”

That’s all for today! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns – leave them in the comments section below.

The Day I Ate a Salad

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Life is filled with change, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, but we are in constant motion and there is nothing we can really do about it. The only real constant is age. The longer we stay on the planet, the more we are expected to learn, grow, and mature. Then, one day, you reach the age where you mature too much and have to change what you eat, how long you exercise and all of the repercussions that no one wants to hear. There comes a time when you can’t eat like you used to, you can’t drink like you used to, and you are sitting in a doctor’s office getting the news that you would rather not hear.

So, I’m, at the doctor’s office, getting checked out after another year of living. I work long hours. The gym is a three-letter word that is reserved in polite conversation like many four-letter words. The patent area has a window on one side with the blind open. I am sitting on the patient paper, on the patient table, with my legs dangling down, and listening to my doctor on a small three-wheeled stool, which could use a can of WD-40 sprayed on all of its wheels. Seriously. It’s like a set of mice are squeaking every time he rocks back and forth on the stool.

My doctor begins talking, “So.”

He’s an older guy, horn-rim glasses with bifocals, about five-foot-eight, standard-issue white lab coat complete with a pocket protector. Yes. I said, pocket protector. He is looking at a set of charts in a manilla envelope. I can’t see what they are. But, by the expression on his face, they aren’t good statistics.

He continues, “When was the last time you’re been to the gym.”

He pushes forward on the stool, coming closes to hear my answer. The chair goes, “squeak, squeak!”

The nerves on the back of my neck jump to red alert and stay there.

The doctor looks at me, doesn’t blink, and waiting for my answer.

I try to smile, because I am very uncomfortable, and think maybe this is the reason that I usually don’t go to the doctor.

“Well.”, I reply, “What decade is this? I think Obama was president the last time I went to the gym.”

I joke when I get nervous.

He moves back on the stool and it makes more squeaking sounds.

Fingers on a frickin’ chalkboard would be better than the noises coming from this “gosh darn” stool! Damn! I’m sending the guy a bottle of WD-40 for Christmas!

He stands up, places the folder on the counter, looks at me and asks, “May I be honest with you?”

My reply, “No. I’m at the doctor’s office, I didn’t come here to hear honesty. I came here to hear that everything is fine and I am living to a hundred.”

The doctor crosses his arms and says, “Jokes. Seriously?”

I reply, “Yes sir. I am very serious about my jokes.”

He lets out a big sigh, which reads to me that he’s tired of dealing with me, and tries to keep the serious conversation moving forward.

The doctor tries the begin the conversation again, “You have lived your life over the past number of years not caring about what you eat, how much you exercise, or anything else. That’s what your medical records show.”

Trying not to crack jokes, I move my head up and down, to indicate that I am taking his words seriously and listening.

The doctor continues, “There is a point where your heart can not take the abuse you’re putting on it. You’ve been short-circuiting the system by not taking care of yourself. If you can’t make some drastic changes to your health and start exercising, then we won’t be having too many more meetings like this.”

“So. I have to dial back the drinking?”

“That’s the start of it.”

“What else is there?”

“The food. Actually, only consume two thousand calories a day.”

“A day? I eat two thousand calories at the coffee shop by gulping down a Tripple crown latte?”

“Tripple crown latte?”

“Yeah, Take a latte, add some Tripple crown whiskey to numb the effects of the coffee, and have a great day.”

My doctor is not amused and asks, “Haven’t you ever heard of a salad?

“A what?”

“Salad.”

“Is that the thing with the green vegetables that healthy people eat?”

“Yes. Because one day, we want you to be one of those healthy people too.”

It was then, the light hit my eyes, mostly because I was facing a window in which the sun was pouring right om me.

My doctor closed the blinds and restarted the conversation, “All I can do is advise you based on the facts. The fact is that you need to change. Your body can’t keep on taking the stress of your life. It’s up to you to take it from here.”

I thank the doctor for his time, pay the co-pay, and head out the door.

By the time I get in my car and start it up, I was already late for my next appointment. Damn! On the bright side, I didn’t have to hear that squeaky chair! As I am driving to the next meeting, I look at the fast food places lined up with cars perfectly placed at the drive-thru. I think of Leo Gets from the “Lethal Weapon” movies saying his famous line, “They f%^k you in the drive-thru!”.

More importantly, I see all of the happy people leaving the fast-food lanes, with big smiles, as they take the burger (or chicken sandwich) in slo-mo, taking that first bite, moving the food from the center of their mouths to the side so they can enjoy everything about it. Eyes close. Another bite is taken. They are satisfied with their meals. I thought … damn … that was me a few hours ago … now … I have to eat salad! Why me!

Looking at the clock, I noticed that  I was actually running a little early. My stomach is telling me to fill up on something. So, I pull into the supermarket parking lot. I know they have one of those D-I-Y salad bars, which I must partake in.

After parking the car, locking it, and walking into the store I quickly see the D-I-Y salad bar. Calling it a “bar” is a misnomer. This is not a bar where people drink alcoholic beverages to forget their troubles. It is a bunch of refrigerated containers, kept cool by ice packs, and changed over when the contents start to empty. They really should call it something else like the “Vegetable Prison” with the tag line, “Abandon your tastebuds when you enter here” or “If your heart rate is above 180, grab a tray, you’ll be back.”

As I approach the “vegetable prison”, I take notice of all of the people around. Some are filling in their D-I-Y projects, closing the lids, and walking to the cash registers. Others are heading to the D-I-Y soups to get some chili before heading out. I grab a plastic container, start loading up my D-I-Y kit dreaming of slow-cooked roast beef sandwiches, cheeseburgers, french fries and a soda for that extra caffeine kick. Instead of that, I complete my salad with iceberg lettuce, green peppers, eggs, bacon bits, and maybe a few croutons before snapping the lid shut and moving to the cash registers. Iw as at least the tenth person in line, but it was only a fifteen-minute wait to get to the front of it.

At the cashier stand, I move forward at a good pace to the seventeen-year-old pimple-faced teen with blue eyes, red short red hair, and a few freckles on her cheeks, She was about my height, with her back arched slightly from the wear and ear from this job. Eventually, as I approached the front of the line, she weighs the D-I-Y kit and says, “Ten dollars. Please.”

I reply, “What?”

She rolls her eyes, as most seventeen-year-olds do when working their first job, and repeats, “Ten Dollars.”

Ten frickin’ dollars? What the hell is this? My brain thought, “If I stuck with the fast food, not only would I be out of the line by now, but the cost is half of this salad! She gives me a plastic bag, secured at both ends, with a fork, knife, pepper, salt, and a napkin.

I swipe my card, the cashier hands me a receipt, and I take off to my car.

Am I late for the next meeting? By now, Yes, but this is a salad. I can’t just leave it in the car as it will wilt when I am in the next meeting. I get into my car and make a few calls to let them know I am not coming. Then, as I am behind the wheel, I break out the plastic fork from the cashier and start to eat my D-I-Y kit.

From the first bite, something started to happen. It is like a thousand single nutrients entered my body and started energizing it. By the second bite, I started to taste the carrots in the salad. Taste? I haven’t had that sensation in years! This salad tasted … good!

Maybe I was wrong about eating the salad. Across the street from the grocery store was a fast food outlet, with happy customers pouring out of the store and through the drive-thru lanes. I thought for a second, just for a second that maybe by having a salad and getting my tastebuds back, change isn’t so bad after all.

I am Imperfection

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I woke up in the morning, tossing, turning, in my nice warm bed, sleeping at peace, dreaming of something good, then interrupted the sound of my smart speaker blaring an alarm. Crap!

“SmartAss (the name of my smart speaker) turn off!”

It continues to blare the most horrible noise.

“SmartAss, turn off the alarm!”

Still, it continues to blare a monstrous sound out of control and somehow gets louder.

I pick up a shoe from the floor and throw it, which hits the SmartAss speaker, and it falls on the floor, still blaring away.

“Shoot.” By the way, the word I used was not shoot … you figured that out already.

The only thing I could do is actually get out of bed and unplug it. Crap!

With a loud thud, my feet stomped on the cold hardwood floor and reminded me of why I didn’t want to gt up.

I found the SmartAss speaker under the bed and unplugged it from the wall.

It didn’t stop the noise.

I picked it up, opened the patio door, which is in my bedroom, and threw it into the street. I live in a third-floor apartment. I heard it hit the street and I let out a sigh of relief then went back inside.

Smiling in the reassurance of the SmartAss speaker somewhere out of my house, (hopefully, run over by a car) I try going back to sleep. Do I get to that deep REM sleep? No! Someone throws the SmartAss speaker back on my patio, which has gotten even louder!

I wake up from this nightmare, sweating profusely, looking at the time on my SmartAss speaker, and realizing that I have a few more hours to catch some sleep. We buy these devices to make up from the imperfections that we have, like consistently waking up on time.

A long time ago I had this device called an alarm clock. It did what I needed it to do: show the time, and broadcast the alarm when needed. There was a snooze button, which stopped the alarm for ten minutes, so I could get some more sleep. It solved the problem of waking up on time … and I never threw it from the patio.

It’s All About the YouTube!

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How much has YouTube and other video sites (yes .. there are others) have taken over our lives as the centerpiece of the content revolution? Some people are influencers and get paid by others who watch YouTube. Others, just post videos for fun and see how many hits they can get. Some videos are instructional as others are … not. Some videos are professionally polished as others are shot on a cell phone. Regardless of who makes the video, the quality of the image, or the message: YouTube is a driving force in content creation and delivery.

Today, we are looking at a great article from the Pew Research organization, talking about ten facts concerning YouTube.

For more information, I highly suggest checking out the article with the link below in the “Bibliography” section.

“1 – Around three-quarters of U.S. adults (73%) say they use YouTube, according to an early 2019 survey. And among 18- to 24-year olds, 90% say they use it. The only other social media platform that approaches YouTube in terms of its reach among Americans is Facebook, which was used by 69% of U.S. adults as of early 2019.

2 – YouTube channels generate a massive amount of content every week. As of January 2019, nearly 44,000 YouTube channels had at least 250,000 subscribers. Collectively, these popular channels uploaded 48,486 hours of content and received over 14.2 billion individual views in the first week of 2019 alone, according to a Pew Research Center analysis published in July 2019. The average video was 12 minutes long and received nearly 60,000 views in the seven days after it was posted.

3 – Most popular YouTube channels don’t produce content in English. During the first week of 2019, 56% of popular YouTube channels uploaded at least one video. Of those that did, just 33% uploaded a video in English. Across all of the videos these channels uploaded during the week, just 17% were completely in English.

4 – A small number of channels produce the majority of content, and a small number of videos generate the majority of views. Among channels with at least 250,000 subscribers, the most active 10% were responsible for uploading 70% of all of the videos produced by these popular channels during the first week of 2019. Across all of these videos, the most popular 10% drew 79% of all of the views during the week.

5 – Videos about video games are especially popular – and lengthy. About 18% of English-language videos posted by popular YouTube channels in the first week of 2019 focused on gaming. The median number of views for videos about video games was 34,347, compared with 11,174 for videos focused on other topics. These videos were 13 minutes long at the median, compared with 5.2 minutes for other videos.

6 – Children’s content and videos featuring children are also very popular. While just 4% of all English-language videos posted by popular channels in the first week of 2019 were clearly aimed at children under the age of 13, these videos received more views than other videos. And videos that featured children who appeared to be under the age of 13 – regardless of target audience – drew even more engagement, averaging more than three times as many views as other types of videos.Videos featuring children under the age of 13 were associated with more views and more channel subscribers, regardless of target audience

7 – Roughly eight-in-ten parents with children age 11 or younger (81%) say they at least occasionally let their child watch videos on YouTube, including 34% who say they do so regularly, according to the 2018 survey. Among parents who let their young child watch videos on YouTube, 61% said they have encountered content they felt was unsuitable for children. The survey did not ask parents whether they allowed their child to watch the standard YouTube or YouTube Kids, which is a special product with greater levels of parental control and monitoring.

8 – Most YouTube users in the U.S. say they at least occasionally encounter false or troubling content on the platform. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adult YouTube users (64%) say they at least sometimes encounter videos that seem obviously false or untrue while using the site, according to the 2018 survey. A similar share (60%) reported at least sometimes seeing videos that show people engaging in dangerous or troubling behavior.

9 – Many Americans use YouTube to stay informed and learn new skills. Half of U.S. adults who use YouTube say the site is very important when it comes to figuring out how to do things they haven’t done before, according to a 2018 survey. It’s also common for Americans to get news on YouTube. In a 2019 survey, 28% of adults said they get news there, behind only Facebook (52%).

10 – YouTube recommendations push users toward progressively longer videos. Around eight-in-ten adult YouTube users in the U.S. (81%) said in the 2018 survey that they at least occasionally watch the videos suggested by the platform’s recommendation algorithm. In a study of the algorithm itself, we found that YouTube recommends progressively longer videos – at least when it lacks information about the viewer needed for more personalized recommendations. After a chain of just four video recommendations, the algorithm was likely to suggest a video more than five minutes longer than the one it originally started on.”

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please let me know (using the comments section below).

Bibliography

“10 Facts about Americans and YouTube”, Patrick Van Kessel, (December 4, 2019), https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/12/04/10-facts-about-americans-and-youtube/

New Year’s Resolutions? No! Retrospectives are more fun!

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As we end this year of 2019, many of us sit by the fire (cue the snow falling outside of the window) and we set lofty goals or expectations for the New Year ahead. These are commonly called resolutions. Not that we are actually going to get them done, but we hope to have the “resolve” to talk about them a week into the new year.

In my family, the New Year’s resolutions are offset by another wonderful ceremony, called the retrospective: or trying to figure out why things broke down and things did not get done. Resolutions are focused on abstract dreams which lack a concrete plan to get done, such as losing weight or going to the gym.

A retrospective looks at why you, with the limited resources available, simply couldn’t get things done. Is it laziness? Is it apathy? Did a TV show grace the screen that you couldn’t pull away from? With me, it’s probably all three answers and sound like this:

Dear Self,

Your performance last year is best described as poor if not downright lazy. First, you’re still fat. If you doubt what I am saying, then check a mirror. Look at the gelatin figure standing back at you. Didn’t you say that last year was going to be different? Well, it wasn’t. Try again.

This year one of your goals was to spend more time with friends. Just because you use social media doesn’t count as spending time with friends. Let me explain. No one cares what you had for dinner last night so please stop posting those photos. People do not care about witty statements shoved into 160 characters. Anyone can write an email, but when was the last time you actually put some actual effort into a friendship by sending a card or writing a letter. Seriously, put some effort into your friendships, before all your friends forget your name.

There are so many things I can pack into this retrospective, but chose not to, so I can get this wrapped up by the end of the year.

Thanks,

Self

Bottom line: you can’t move forward until you know where you have been. Does it help in crafting new resolutions? Sure. Knowing why you didn’t succeed last time will allow you to be realistic with your goals and resource them properly, ensuring that your goals can be completed in the new year.

A Day in the Life of a Teen

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Many days, I am on the road at the time when the most amount of people are trying to either get to work or come home. I usually don’t get a chance to have normal dinnertime as I sit in the car moving from place to place. By not being there during group meals, I feel that I am missing something. Three is a concept called the “opportunity cost” where if you spend more of your time doing X there is less time for you to do Y. Thus, whatever activity “Y” it would suffer because you don’t spend also of your time on it. So, you’re always in a sense of keeping everything moving so both activities have enough time applied with it to keep making progress. Thus, it is the life of a working parent to continually ensure both X and Y get as much time as possible to keep the whole world spinning.

I head upstairs and check in with the kids. I ask, “How are you doing?” before heading off to grab some food and watch TV. Usually, the report is “Fine.” and that’s about it. Teenagers aren’t known for their long-winded talking, just giving the parents enough information, but not a bunch of personal details.

I always wonder what my kids are up to. Are they getting their homework done? What’s going on in their lives? Do they have enough time away from the computer or mobile phone? I know the hour is late, so I at l

At the Pew Research Center, they started to look at how teens are spending their time.

As you can see with the graphic on the right, teens are spending more of their time sleeping and doing homework and less time working for money and socializing.

“Teens are also getting more shut-eye than they did in the past. They are clocking an average of over nine and a half hours of sleep a night, an increase of 22 minutes compared with teens a decade ago and almost an hour more than those in the mid-1990s. Sleep patterns fluctuate quite a bit – on weekends, teens average about 11 hours, while on weekdays they typically get just over nine hours a night.

Teens now enjoy more than five and a half hours of leisure a day (5 hours, 44 minutes). The biggest chunk of teens’ daily leisure time is spent on screens: 3 hours and 4 minutes on average. This figure, which can include time spent gaming, surfing the web, watching videos and watching TV, has held steady over the past decade. On weekends, screen time increases to almost four hours a day (3 hours, 53 minutes), and on weekdays teens are spending 2 hours and 44 minutes on screens. Over the past decade, the time spent socializing – including attending parties, extracurriculars, sporting or other entertainment events as well as spending time with others in person or on the phone – has dropped by 16 minutes, to 1 hour and 13 minutes a day. Teens also are spending less time on paid work during the school year than their predecessors: 26 minutes a day, on average, compared with 49 minutes about a decade ago and 57 minutes in the mid-1990s.


Boys also spend more time playing sports: 59 minutes vs. 33 minutes for girls.

Teen girls also spend more time than boys on grooming activities, such as bathing, getting dressed, getting haircuts, and other activities related to their hygiene and appearance. Girls spend an average of about an hour a day on these types of tasks (1 hour, 3 minutes); boys spend 40 minutes on them.

Girls also devote 21 more minutes a day to homework than boys do – 71 minutes vs. 50 minutes, on average, during the school year. This pattern has held steady over the past decade, as the amount of time spent on homework has risen equally for boys and girls.

“Teenage girls spend 38 minutes a day, on average, helping around the house during the school year, compared with 24 minutes a day for boys. The bulk of this gap is driven by the fact that girls spend more than twice as much time cleaning up and preparing food as boys do (29 minutes vs. 12 minutes). There are no significant differences in the number of time boys and girls spend on home maintenance and lawn care” link:  https://pewrsr.ch/2GQ44jn


The original article (from Pew Research) is located here: https://pewrsr.ch/2GQ44jn

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

The Day I Arrived On-Time for Church

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Note: This blog was handcrafted by the author. No animals were hurt during the crafting of this blog.

Listen, I got to tell you, on Sundays: I like to sleep in. Monday through Friday, I get up early, do my work, come home, them go to bed. Saturday, I get the errands done. This cycle continues day after day, month after month, and hour after hour. The world is constantly turning and I am in the middle making it work.

Sundays are a day of rest. But, even though that fact is known, there are still activities that need to be done. Laundry, food shopping for the week, walking the dog: all activities which need to be done. Also,  There is a church. So we get the activities done 3 to, at move forward to church.On this Sunday, things seem to be different. True, the kids are fighting in the back, my wife is on the phone – texting her friends, and traffic is lighter. I don’t think anything of it as we’re on the road to church.

We pull into the parking lot and there are real spaces available in the front of the church. What? That never happens! Usually, we park so far in the back of the church parking lot that we have to get a ride to church!

Then, we head to the youth ministry to drop off the kids. The doors of the individual classrooms are open? People are politely talking to each other. What? Usually, by the time we drop off the kids, the doors are closed and the teachers roll their eyes as we open them to drop off the kids! Very strange.After dropping off the kids, we make our way to the main building for the church. The usher gives us a program. We walk into a church with empty seats. What? Usually, every row is taken up with worshipers and we are left with nowhere to sit. Now, we have a range of options on various pews in the building.

After taking our places, we enjoyed church, then after services walked out the door. It was nice to not have to run around, look for last-minute parking, and miss a portion of the service. On the way to the car, I was feeling satisfied with the events of the day.
For a moment, time froze, the clouds in the sky became a dark grey, then a lightning bolt lands three feet in front of me.

A deep voice came from the sky and says, “Don’t get cocky! Next week, just wake up early to get to church.”

The clouds leave the sky and time starts again.

My daughter looks at me, sweating profusely, and says, “Dad. Are you ok?”

I reply, “Not really. But, I’m going to get here early next week.”

That’s all for the blog! Thank you for reading. If you have any questions please let me know.

The Perfect Day

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There are some moments in life which draw you in. An event which you memorize and replay over and over again. A moment in time which is suspended within the synapses of the hippocampus, triggered by a sound, a touch, or even a smell. Once you experience that trigger, a smile forms on your face. Sometimes when you hear a snippet of conversation in the office, listening to the radio on the way home, seeing a father teaching his son how to ride a bike: these small fragments always resonate as a smile. One of those moments to me is the first time my wife made a pot roast in the slow cooker.

It was a few years ago. My wife an I were living in a small apartment. The time was late in the month of September and I was coming home after a dreadful day at work. I turned off of the express ramp, drove down a treelined residential street, then a quick right into the parking lot of the complex: all the while going over the days’ events in my mind. As the car stopped, I put the emergency brake on, turned off the engine and just sat there. Just sat there. For a few moments, I just listened to the radio, tried to put on a better face, and then it started to rain. I stepped out of the car, right into a puddle, then slammed the car door and ran to the apartment. At the apartment door, I take out the keys, open the door, and the smell hit me. SImply overcame all of my senses as I saw two plates, a set of silverware, two candles, all on top of a white table cloth.

For a few minutes, I forgot about my bad day. I forgot about the rain outside. The puddle I stepped in which was leaking water on the carpet. I forgot about everything going on. I just wanted to live in that one moment for the rest of my life.

My wife asks me, “How was your day?”

A stood there, tried to put on a smile, and replied, “My day? My day just started when I walked through the door and saw you.”

For an hour or so longer, it was just my wife and me around the dining room table, just chatting and listening to the raindrops on the window outside.

There have been many days, now that time has moved forward, we have the kids, and life moves quicker than the traffic I am stuck in. But, I always remember that evening, coming home in the rain, pulling up in front of the old apartment complex, and simply coming home to the smell of a wonderful meal. Those small and special moments are sometimes the reason why you keep going. Why you continuously try your hardest, get shot down, and try to move forward the next day. Not every day is going to be perfect, but every once in a while, you might have a perfect day.

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Note: The people that I use in this blog are not real. Seriously. The content of these stories are made up and in no way resemble the family that I live with.

Did you clean your room?

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I ask my son, “Did you clean your room?”

He sits in the living room and replies, “Yes. I put things away.”

So, I go upstairs to his room to check it out.

The door is open, the bed is made and the floor is clean.

I walk into his room, open the closet door and a large pile of clothes attacks me.

My son walks upstairs and sees the clothes escape the confines of the closet.

I say, “I thought your room was clean!”

“No. I said I put things away!”, he replies, “Thanks, Dad! Now I have to clean up all over again!”

Bottom line: when your son says things are put away, it doesn’t mean they are clean, so don’t open closet doors, unless you want to know the truth!

The Lost Art of Manners

FeaturedThe Lost Art of Manners

Note: The family that I talk about in this blog is built through constant engineering, a pint of soda, and the ability to write in sentences without diagramming them.

Manners, courtesy, respect, and just generally being nice to people is one of those basic building blocks you teach your kids from day one. It is one of those unwritten requirements that kids pick up through examples at school, through TV, church, online and at home. Having good parents who are respectful to each other, their kids and the outside world sets the tone of how they will grow to be outstanding people. This is not by accident. This is something that is learned through the family structure, environment, and simply being a human who will one day work with other humans (and might get married to another human one day).

This is why, when I see examples of disrespectful kids back talking parents, not holding the door open for elders, or simply berating their friends: I turn to my kids and say, “You see how they behaved. Never do that!”

When they were younger, this was easier to explain. Now that they’re teens, this conversation is even harder because they know everything and as an adult, I know nothing! That’s what we are talking about on the blog.

It’s Saturday night. All of us are at home and it’s getting to be dinner time. I poll the kids, asking them what kind of food they wanted before I ordered. Oh, let me backtrack a minute. On Saturday, the meal is not planned, we try not to eat out, but order something at home. Usually, before the rise of GrubHub, UberEats, and other food delivery services: we order from the restaurant and they deliver it to our house. So, this means pizza or Chinese food.

After my informal survey, the consensus was pizza. I made the call, put in the order, quoted a forty minute wait time, and hung up the phone. My family likes pizza. Yes, I know that a lot of families like pizza. It’s a communal food. When the immediate family comes over (which includes my four folks, but including the grandparents on both sides of the family), we usually go to a pizza place and talk, eat, have a beer (maybe two) an relax.  Having pizza with our family is also a ritual, called upon for special events an gatherings, and everyone knows when pizza is ordered that we eat it together, as a family, in the dining room. Phones (and other electronics) are banned and put on vibrate. We actually try to talk to each other as humans, not trying to interrogate anyone, but we try to talk to one another. With that being said, forty minutes later, the pizza arrives.

AfterI makes the exchange, give the money, get the pizza and I get the kids through the traditional call of the pizza, “Hey kids! The pizza is here!”.

With a rumbling of feet reminiscent of a cattle stampede, the kids run down the stairs, take a plate from the cabinet, go to the kitchen, and grab a slice of pizza.

My daughter tries to take the pizza upstairs and I say, “Hey daughter. We are eating pizza in the dining room.”

My daughter responds, “Too bad. I’m going upstairs.” and she proceeds to continue the journey up the stairs.

My first reaction, WTF! Why is she heading upstairs? She knows that Saturday night is pizza night and family night! With all of the running around we do in a week, this is the one night we get to see if everything is OK.

I run upstairs and knock on the door.

My daughter responds by saying, “Yeah.”

I reply, “Is everything is ok?”

“Yeah.”

You just ran up here so quick I wanted to know if there was anything wrong?”

“Nope.”

“Do you know what today is?”

“Friday.”

“No. It’s family dinner night.”

“But, I have homework.”

“On a Friday night? Really?”

“Maybe I just want to be by myself tonight. Is that OK?”

I thought for a minute. It’s not the fact that she wants to be by herself, it’s that tonight is one of the few nights of the week in which all of us get together as a family to swap stories, talk about what’s going on, an even try to talk about problems. It only works when all of us get together. She knows that. I know that. That’s why I am surprised that she ran to her room with dinner.

I reply, “Not really.”

“Why?”

“You know that tonight is family dinner night.”

“So”

“What do you mean so?”

“I mean … who cares that it is family dinner night.”

“What?”

“I mean, I go to school all week. On Friday, I really want some time to myself and not hang out with the family.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

I say, “Daughter. Family dinner night is a time for all of us to get together, talk about our problems, and try to be a family.”

“So.”

“Do you live here?”

“What?”

“One of the rules of the house is that we get together for family dinner night.”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously. Time to go downstairs.”

My daughter rushes past me with her dinner plate to rejoin the family for dinner.

Bottom line: The rule of the house is to spend time with your family, don’t be rude and go upstairs. As kids (or even teens) you don’t know how short time really is because one day you’ll have a life of your own and only visit your parents when you need to do your laundry.

That’s all for the blog! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

The Fibonacci Side of Life

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Note: The family I use for this blog just came out of a 3D printer, so they are not real, and neither is this story.

One of the things about living with kids is the act of continually reminding them to do simple things is exhausting. Every day is a concert of my voice telling the kids what action they should be doing, where they should be, and why they should be doing it. Many times, my son is in his room, playing video games, and the rest of the room is a mess. Another time, my daughter takes dishes from the kitchen, then returns them a month later. Not to the dishwasher, so they can get clean but leaves them. One night, after work, instead of going home, I went to a bar with a few friends.

After sucking down a few beers, I ask my friend, “Friend. I’m in trouble. I’m losing control over my house.”

My friend replies, “Don’t worry. You never had control of your house. Don’t feel bad. You have a wonderful wife.”

“No. It’s not that. It’s the kids.”

“Are they teenagers?”

“Yes.”

“Control is an illusion. They’re teenagers. They already know everything.”

“No. They are fine. It’s that I really want them to start picking up after themselves. I want them to contribute to the house. I don’t want to argue with them about taking out the trash, or brushing their teeth, or even doing their homework.”

“How do you ask them.”

“I say, kids, get your rooms clean.”

“How is that working?”

“They look at me with blank eyes, tell me what I want to hear, an go back to whatever they were doing.”

“Then what.”

“I ask again.”

“What happens?”

“Same response. So, then there are some consequences for not doing what I asked them to do.”

“Like what?”

“Usually, it means I am taking away privileges like the TV or the phone, or going outside.”

“How is that working. If I take away the TV, then they use their phones to watch video sharing sites. If I take away their phones, then they go downstairs an watch TV. If I take away access to the fiends, the just face time them with their phones. They have a workaround for everything.”

“So, You ask them to do something, give them two strikes, take something away, they compensate, and the task still isn’t done.”

“What am I going to do?”

“Teenagers are starving to take responsibility right?”

“Yeah.”

“Use that to get them to clean their rooms,”

“Give them cash?”

“Where did you get that from our conversation?”

“I don’t know. Continue there Mr professor.”

“It is the fact that they do not see the value of the work they are doing, not because they don’t want to, but it isn’t done on their terms. You see, their entire lives, they have been dictated to, like what to do, where to eat, when they should do things. Now, they are teenagers and have learned the word no.”

“So, what should I do?”

“A friend of mine is a software developer. At work, they have a planning session an have to estimate how much effort it will take to write a function. They are several ways to do it. They use something called the Fibonacci method.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Basically, each developer gets a set of cards with 1,3,5,8,13 and infinity. There are some other numbers, but we don’t use them with the kids. Each number represents points on how long it will take to do the work. Everyone sits around the table an puts down the cards for how much effort do a task. Partners win because the task gets done. Kids are happy because their voice is heard.”

I stop for a second, look at the bartender and says, “Two beers.”

“Double drinking?”

“Nope. One is for you. Where do I get some of these cards.”

“Amazon … everything is on Amazon.”

The beers arrive, we toast for sanity in the family, finish the beers and were off our separate ways.

A few weeks go by the cards arrive, through the mail slot in the front door.

I open the package, retrieve the cars an throw away the envelope Then, it’s show time, an I call a family meeting.

“Hey everybody! C’mon down!”, I scream up the stairs.

The running of feet down the stairs was instantaneous and everyone went to the dining room, took a chair, an sat down.

My daughter starts, “What’s going on?”

My son adds, “This better be important.”

My wife asks, “I agree with my daughter, what the hell is going on.”

I start out by saying, “You know there’s a lot of things that are not going on around here. Things like cleaning your room or getting the dishes out of the sink and other things.”

I get a set of cards and pass them to each family member.

“Each number represents the number of hours it takes to do the work. So, I’m going to yell out a task, you’re going to tell me how many hours it is going to take to get done.”

Everyone looks bewildered and absolutely confused.

I ask, “Son, I’ve seen your room. How many points do you associate with cleaning your room?”

My son holds up the infinity card.

I reply, “No son, it will not take you an infinite amount of hours to clean up your room.”

“Are you sure?”, my son responds, “Have you seen my room? There is a bunch of stuff on the floor.”

“Son.”, I say, “How long will it take you to clean your –“

“Eight”, my daughter chimes in, “I’ve seen his room. It should take him eight hours, a full day, for him to clean his room.”

My son stands up and says, “Infinity.”

My daughter replies, “Eight.”

My son yells, “Infinity!”

My daughter yells, “Eight!”

I step in and say, “I agree with your sister. You have eight hours to clean your room!”

My son yells out, “This sucks!”, throws the cards on the table and runs upstairs and slams the door!

I shake my head from side to side then ask my daughter, “So. When you take dishes to your room, you need to rinse them off, an put them in the dishwasher”

My daughter raises the infinity card.

My wife says, “Not this again.”

I say to my daughter, “It won’t take an infinite amount of time to do the dishes.”

My daughter responds, “That’s right. But if you want me to assess how long it takes to do a one hour job, then we’ll be here all night.”

I respond, “One hour it is!”

My daughter leaves the table and goes back upstairs.

My wife looks at me and says, “How many hours is it going take for the kids to like you again?”

I hold up the infinity card.

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Brush your teeth

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I love my kids. Don’t get wrong, sometimes they are a mess to deal with, but they are great kids. Every once in a while, it doesn’t happen too often, the kids and I lock horns. I can’t predict when it is going to happen. When it does, I have to yell out WTF. 

A few weeks ago, I took the kids out of school and we went to the dentist. Each of them had cavities and would get them filled.

The dentist said, “Your kids are going to brush every night or they will be in here again.”

It was at this time, I could almost see little dollar signs leave my wallet and enter a jar of sugar-free mints on the receptionist’s desk. I shake my head in violent agreement that I alone had the power to stop cavities in my kid’s mouths. A few years from now, I will write a book called, ‘How I kept the cavities Away’. As my mind continued to wander, I was on a talk show, with a crowd of happy parents, because they read my book, their kids had no cavities. The host’s desk was on the right and a beige, plush, chair on the left with a microphone in the front.

As the host turned to me with the microphone and asked, “How did you keep your kid’s teeth clean?”

My son tapped me on the shoulder, looks at my daughter, and says, “Dad’s dreaming again.”

My daughter responds, “That’s OK. I have the car keys and his wallet. I’ll take you through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, and go home.”

My son replies, “Yes! Ok. Dad. Follow me.”

I walk forward saying, “Clean teeth award? Don’t mind if I do!”, being pulled by my son out of the dentist’s office.

My daughter takes a credit card out of my wallet, turns to the dentist and says, “Buy yourself something nice. You didn’t see anything.”

The dentist replies, “You’re only sixteen!”

“Yes.”, my daughter responds, “Also, I don’t have a permit. Like I said, buy yourself something nice!”

Hours later, I wake up in my own bed. My wife comes into the bedroom and asks, “How was your day?”

I reply, “I took my kids to the dentist and they have cavities.”

“So you decided to go to sleep?”

“No. I just woke up here.”

“Right. Daydreaming again?”

“Yes.”

“Say no more. The kids are getting ready to go to bed. Make sure they brush their teeth.”

“Right.”, I climb out of bed and start making sure the kids brush their teeth. I was still determined to keep their teeth safe from cavities!

The first week, everything went without a hitch. The kids even brushed their teeth without me telling them.

By the second week, they needed light prompting, but still, get the job done.

The third week, everything fell apart. I walk into my daughter’s room and say, “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes.”

“Ok!”, then I closed the door.

Something the back of my mind said, “Are you crazy? That answer seemed a little bit too good.”

I went to the bathroom ad the end of the hall, found her toothbrush, an flicked the bristles in my hand. They were dry! Darn it … she lied to me.

I go back to her room and knock on the door.

She responds, “Who is it?”

“Dad.”

“I told you I brushed my teeth!”

“You didn’t.”

“What?”

“You didn’t brush your teeth.”

“What?”

“No. We do not answer a question with a question. I know you didn’t brush your teeth.”

She opens the door, I hand her the toothbrush, she rolls her eyes and proceeds to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

I walk over to my son’s room an knock on the door.

His response, “Yeah?”

In the teen-world, the one phrase of “Yeah” means several things:

  • Yeah. = situation normal
  • Yeah? = in the form of a question. Means that the teen tentatively agrees with you or wants more information.
  • Yeah! = I understand you. Why are you still talking?

“I need you to brush your teeth.”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“Why?”

“I just went through this with your sister. Don’t answer a question with a question. Just brush your teeth.”

My son stormed out of his bedroom and to the bathroom. 

As both of the kid are in the bathroom, I stand outside the door and say, “Do I need to create a chart outside of the door that I mark off every time you brush your teeth? You both keep telling me I should give you more responsibility. Well, this is it! There is going to be a day when I am no longer your timekeeper and you have to brush your teeth without anyone reminding you.

My daughter asks, “What day is that so I can mark it on the calendar?”

I reply, “Obviously not today! But I keep hoping. Listen, if you want to be an adult, then you have to step up and BE the adult. That means that your Mom and I aren’t standing behind you because we want you to get things done. You do it because you know it needs to get done. We’ll try this again tomorrow.”

The kids finish brushing heir teeth and head to their rooms. Was I too hard on them? Maybe. The words that I said, however, do ring true. There just comes a time in life when you have to stand on your own two feet, not give excuses, and simply get the job done.

Now … where is my wallet?

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Note: The kids that are in this blog are not real … and no toothbrushes were hurt during this story.

Parents. Kids and the Two Hour Delayed School Open

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You wake up in the morning, knowing full well of that there was bad weather last night, and you turn on the TV, trying to find out the current report.

As you brush your teeth, the TV announcer scrolls down the list of all of the counties around your area until the very last one. Once the announcer calls it, your heart sinks, a few curse words are said, and you begin the long trek to your kids so they can hear the news. Long gone are the days when you and your child can both celebrate the delayed school opening. Now, you have work, deadlines, and at least double the commute time moving to and from work. Kids on the other hand jump for joy at having two hours off (although they would really want the whole day to sleep). 

For kids, it means that they are magically drifted to a temporary timezone where the expectations usually applied at a certain time are held back. For two more hours, they can breathe easy, watch TV, or have one more bowl of cereal. As the grey, cold, icy environment outside the window begins to lighten up, nothing changes inside, just a brief interlude before the timekeeper (your Parents) gets you back on schedule.

For parents, it means that you are calling work to say you’ll be in late, all of the meetings on the calendar set to the sequence of time much like the bars of music which you rush through in order to get home with the family again. The rhythm of the day is disrupted. Everything on your schedule is calculated into 4/4 time (15 minutes a stanza) so everything can fit. A two-hour delay automatically compresses the schedule which you play with amazing speed and accuracy. Adding the rests to the beginning of the song means that you are resyncing your schedule making each of the notes from 1/4 to 1/8, ensuring all the notes are completed, but with less time to ensure their quality, but making sure all of them are played.

Eventually, the schedules sync, the bell rings, and the kids are back in school. I understand why there are two-hour delays, but if you are going to take two hours from the morning instructional period, kindly add them back to the end of the school day, so I can at least put in eight hours of work and continue the symphony of life when I get home.

That’s all for this edition of the blog. Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

If You Give a Kid a Plate, Why does it End up in their Room?

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After another day of work, I drove home to enjoy the chaos that is my family. Unfortunately, on this day, I came home late, which is known to happen. I walked in through the front door and headed to the refrigerator to grab something to eat. Openninghte door, there were several ziplock bags of food, which I dumped on a place, and throwing away the bag. I got some plastic wrap an put it over the plate, put it in the microwave oven, to heat the meal. As it was cooking for the allotted time of three minutes and thirty seconds, I looked over at the sink, which contained a bunch of dishes. Usually, I would just do the dishes, and just get it done. But, I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that this has been a reoccurring thing.

I walk out of the kitchen, through the dining room, over to the stairs and yell, “Kids! Please come down here!”

In a minute, they made it down the stairs and stand in the kitchen.

I ask them, “Why are there dishes in the sink?”

My son replies, “What dishes?”

“The ones in the sink.”

My daughter pipes in and says, “Are you talking about the dishes in the sink?”

“Yes”, I point to the sink, “Right there! You guys are messing with me!”

The kids snicker, I shake my head. I wasn’t snickering.

Again, I ask, “Listen. I thought you guys actually cleaned the dishes after dinner?”

My daughter replies, “Those dishes are cleaned out and they are in the washer.”

“Then what are these dishes in the sink?”

My son says, “Those dishes are the ones that come from –“

I stopped him in mid-sentence, “Really?”

My daughter says, “Yes. Mom asked us to clean the dishes out of our rooms because we were running out of silverware.”

I reply, “Seriously? How long has some of this stuff been in your rooms?”

The kids looked at each other but did not answer the question.

“Maybe if I did it as a multiple choice question, then it could jog your memories.”

The kids said nothing.

“Last week?”

The kids said nothing.

“Last month?”

The kids said nothing.

“Since we moved into the house?”

The kids said nothing.

“Since Christopher Columbus?”

The kids said nothing.

“How about the Spanish Inquisition?”

The kids said nothing.

My daughter rolls her eyes and replies, “It doesn’t matter how long they have been up in –“

I say, “The heck it doesn’t? This is why I’ve always insisted that you don’t take dishes to your room. Mice and other rodents could start making daily trips for food. Not to mention the smell! The smell of rotting food.”

My son says, “Yes. Dad, we have been living with these dishes and understand that they stink!”

I say, “Then, why? Why? Why? Why did you leave these dishes in your rooms?”

My daughter replies, “Because it requires actual work to bring them down here. At the end of the day, we really don’t have the energy to bring them downstairs.”

I am curious about the last statement and ask, “Don’t have the energy?”

My son steps in and says, “Yes. We’re tired at the end of the day.”

I ask, “Are you saying that you would rather smell rotting food in your room than to take responsibility and bring the dishes downstairs?”

My daughter replies, “No. We would rather rest after a long day than running up and down the stairs with the plates.”

The microwave timer goes off.

I say, “Kids. If there are mice in your room, I’m giving you the bill. Go clean the dishes. When you take the plates to your room, you accept the responsibility to bring them down, clean them, and put them into the dishwasher. It doesn’t matter if you bring them to the dining room table or the desks in your room. Once you take the food out of the kitchen an dining room area, you are still responsible for what happens to the dishes. If you don’t want that responsibility, then just eat at the table.”

The kids shook their heads like they were agreeing with me, but I knew that they really didn’t agree with me. But, they carried out their duties, cleaning the dishes, and putting them in the dishwasher. After they were in the dishwasher, and they went back upstairs.

I pulled my plate from the microwave, took it to the dining room table, grabbed a fork from the utensil drawer, and I ate dinner. As the kids were running upstairs my wife came downstairs.

She asks the question, “How was your day?”

I reply, “Everything worked out fine until I came home and found the kitchen sink full of dishes.”

“Do you know where those dishes came from?”

“No.”

“Our room. They came off of your desk in the bedroom.”

“Why did they not say anything when I was asking them about it?”

“Because the bottom line is that we’re all guilty of it. Maybe, by washing the extra dishes tonight, that will reinforce the fact that they shouldn’t take the dishes upstairs and make a problem that they can’t fix later.”

My wife looks over at the microwave, points, and can not create a single sound.

I look at my wife and say, “What’s going on?”

“Sorry.”, she is still staring at the microwave and says, “I thought I saw a mouse!”

I get up from my seat at the dining room table, look over at the microwave, try to see any droppings, but nothing was there.

I say, “Nothing there!”

Bottom line: We’re all human. At the end of the day, sometimes we are so tired that we want to take our plate of food, go upstairs, watch videos, and have a good night,. Everyone has to remember, if you take a plate from the kitchen, you’re responsible for it, regardless of what room it pops up.

Thank you for reading the blog! If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

Sitting in the Fast Lane

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Note: All of the stuff is made up. It’s part of the creative process.

When people are behind the wheel people, they leave their regular personas behind, and become a different person: battle-hardened, ego-centric, basically a real a%^hole. As they take off to the highway, then plan their moves throughout the congested road, much like a pool shark does to a pool table, constantly calculating which balls they’re going to hit, what pockets are going to go into, where the white (the cue) ball is going so they don’t lose the game.

Was that I will tell you the story of my commute.

It is the end of a long day. I ensure that my laptop is packed into its bag, open the door, start the engine, close the door, and take off on the open road. I pull up Google Maps to understand the traffic on the way home. What was once a blue line, stretching from my work all the way to my home, has been replaced with a thick red line, indicating that my commute home will at least be double or triple the amount of time it usually takes. So, I call my wife and let her know that I about to start out on the travel home. 

At first, the driving is smooth. I don’t even hit a pothole on the way to the highway. Once I get off the expressway ramp, it’s another story. People are lined up almost bumper to bumper just sitting there waiting for something to do.

As with all things, people fall into certain categories a driving is no exception. There are several types of drivers who are on the road. The first type is usually known as aggravated assault drivers. Obviously, somebody came to their house first thing in the morning, smacked them across the face, and left. There are people out there, who are ALWAYS in a bad mood and want you to be in a bad mood as well. Why? Misery loves company regardless of whose I company is.

The second type will be an overly careful driver. These are the ones who go under the speed limit, in the fast lane, and then wonder why everybody is staring at them as they receive single finger gestures. These are the drivers who intentionally clog the fastest lanes, depriving everyone of maximum speed. They usually drive at or below the speed limit. Why? I don’t know. So between these two types of drivers, there is always a type “C”.

Type “C”, the third type of driver, is the first time driver who is surprised enough to have a license issued by the state. These are the people who intentionally drive slow, most of the time under the speed limit, and are also texting while they are driving. I have seen some people for checking the Internet as they are driving, almost forgetting that their effort is best served by piloting their vehicles to their destination.  If you’re going to text then just pull over and stay on the side of the road until your text is done. But be warned, if you try to go from 0 to 60 from the shoulder into the main road, you better have some runway in front of you to make that happen. Please don’t just take your steering wheel and throw yourself into the lane thinking that the person behind you was going to put on their brakes. Mercy is not a strategy when you are driving.

So let me begin …

I’m in the car, on the on the ramp, and trying to make it to the Interstate. I turn my turn signal on, making my intentions known so I can go across from the ramp to the regular Interstate traffic lane. There is a truck next to me. They do not seem inclined to let me in front of them. So I slow down. Buy me slowing down (so I can get around the truck in order to get into the lane) the person behind me begins to honk their horn. Why? all I want to do is try to get home in the most reasonable amount of time possible with all the traffic. I am slowing down because I cannot get into the regular lane. So why are you honking at me that doesn’t make any sense at all? So, I try to speed up in front of the truck. Because I run out of room on the on the ramp,  the truck decided to put on its high beams. Why? All I’m trying to do is enter into the main lanes of the Interstate. The behind me puts on the horn. Why?

In a few moments, I just cut overasI have nowhere else to go, which produces another round of belligerent looks, name calling, light profanity, and a few single finger gestures. The person behind me jerks his wheel to the left, blocking a minivan in the left lane (from the one I am in) and tries to speed up to get in front of me, which happens. Then, I throw on the brakes. Which makes the truck behind me again put on their high beams. Why? What sense does it make to get in front of me? All I was trying to do is get out of the ramp so I could travel in the regular Interstate lanes. But now the person has cut me off and slammed on their brakes just to teach me a lesson? Why? It makes no sense.

My blood pressure is through the roof. I’m at least on the highway, driving 5 miles per hour, and trying to turn on the radio and just be cool. This is when the person is in front of me, starts mouthing all sorts of words in my direction by looking in the rearview mirror. The person in the vehicle starts to make all sorts of single finger gestures. Are they doing ASL? Are they talking on the phone? Are they just trying to be a dick? I have no idea. I just turn up the music make sure there’s enough distance between me and the truck behind me, who has now turned off their bright lights, and just try to make it to my destination in one piece.

So I’ve now traveled 1 mile on the road going 5 miles per hour. Yahoo! I feel like I’m actually making progress. More importantly, I have not gotten into an accident, I’ve not been run over by semi, and the person in front of me is no longer making single finger gestures. I might actually make it to work alive!

Obviously, the person in front of me does not like the fact that I am not reacting to their multiple singer single finger gestures, used profanity, and just plain being a dick. This is when this individual slam on their brakes. Fortunately, I have enough sense to slow down, swerve into the lane on the left, and not hit their back bumper. They put their head out the window stop they continue with the profanity, bad language, a few comments about my poor mother, and a few other words that I’m sure we’re not in English. As I looked in my rearview mirror I see the driver of the car and the truck “meet”. Now each of them, still in the lane, gets out of their vehicles and start screaming. Then I see the blue sirens of the Police stopping behind them, not to thank the people for pulling over to the shoulder, but probably to give them a ticket.

Bottom line, just because you have received a license from your state, doesn’t mean that you are alone on the road. Everybody has to work together in order to maintain their car, not get into an accident, and not getting the road rage. It is easy to get somebody to get on your bad side. I understand that. Just pull off the road. Save yourself from further embarrassment or hitting other vehicle. We all have to work together. There is no way the government is going to build enough roads to make commuting better. So get used to traffic. Because you’re going to be in it for the rest of your life. 

That’s all for today is blog. Thank you for reading. Do you have any questions or comments, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

What Parents do When the Kids are Gone

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Every once in a while, my wife and I want to get away. Not permanently, but just for a night or two, and stay within calling distance if anything happens. So, we make arrangements with the Grandparents, provide some lunch to the kids, then they are at the Grandparents. Also, I took the dog to the kennel for her”spa day”. I make the return trip in a few minutes, open the door, an say to my wife, “Hi!”

She asks, “Where are the kids?”

I reply, “They are over the grandparents.”

“Really?”

Soon, there was silence. Not the kind of silence in which crickets suddenly chirp in the corner of the room. It was the kind of silence which come from the absence of sound. The absence of little feet moving across a wood floor. The absence of the dog barking at random objects outside the window. The absence of the television on a kids-centric show. It is that silence of those sounds which now fills the house. My wife and I turn to each other and smile.

After you have had so much time in making sure homework is done, people are bathed, and beds are made: having time to yourself is like opening a window from a stuffy room. Usually, you are keeping time and ensuring things get done, but now the pressure is lifted and you can relax.

My wife says, “I’m going to head to the bedroom.”

I reply, “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I run out to the car, drive to a flower shop, grab a dozen roses, and return home.

I run upstairs with the flowers and yell out, “I got these for you!”

My wife is fast asleep. Also, something I should have told you before, being a parent is exhausting! You’re up early, go to bed late, and you’re always running from sun up to sun down. So, when you have time to rest … you take it.

I take the flowers, run the water over the cut stems, and place them in the vase. AS the sun goes down outside, I flip on the TV and simply chill. Another thing you don’t get to do too often is the ability to watch the TV shows over a rating of “G”. So, I flipped to a rated “R” movie on the TV, settled back in my chair and drifted asleep.

That’s all for the blog today. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away

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The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away
The Valentines Day that Almost Got Away

Note: The events in this blog post did not happen. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Wait a minute! I never use names!

There is only one good thing about mid-February, March is around the corner. If you’re not shoveling snow and hurting your back, then you’re walking around in slush, which tracks into your house and ruins your carpet. It is in the middle of the worst winter weather of the year to put a day of celebrating love. Nice, warm, heart thumping love. Blah! Many people believe that the greeting card companies got together and created a day in the middle of the coldest month of the year, just to sell greeting cards. Well, I’m not buying it! When I have the radio on, I ignore the advertisements. When I have the TV on, I turn off the commercials. Every year I take my wife out to dinner, which I would do anyway over a weekend, I would take him to the most non-romantic restaurant around just so I don’t have to see other couples celebrating this non-holiday. Then, after a while, you find a way to censor this stuff out until one day you completely forget the holiday is here.

So, tonight I get home from work, head over to the living room, throw my feet on the couch, an turn on the TV. What a night! Traffic was light on the highway coming home, I had a good day at work, and now my favorite show is coming on TV. As I sit through the commercials, waiting for the theme song of the show, I felt that something was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

My daughter comes home, holding a teddy bear. I ask, “How was your night?”

“Oh, it was fine. Steven got me this bear because it’s ..”

I reply, “It’s what?”

Remembering that she wasn’t supposed to be dating, she replies, “Nevermind!” and she walks upstairs.

I start thinking, “A bear? Why would she get a bear?

I try not to dive into it too much as my favorite show was coming on in a few minutes.

My son opens the front door with a big grin on his face and says, “I’m in love!”

I reply, “Great., That that s%^t upstairs an don’t get any on the carpet!”

My son looks at me and asks, “What are you doing for Mom on Valentine’s Day?”

“What do you mean?”

“Valentines Day. You heard of it?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. That’s next month.”

“No, it’s today.”

“What do you mean?”

My son pulled out his cell phone and showed it to me. Sure enough, it’s Valentines Day. Also, I didn’t have anything to give my wife. Even though I try to forget that there is a Valentines Day, and my wife is ALL about it!

If she could have it, EVERY DAY would be Valentine’s Day. Hallmark would have a special Valentine’s Day Channel, showing people engaged in Valentine’s Day activities (except for the activities that they only show on premium cable … late night premium cable).

I stand up and say, “Oh s^&t!”

I look at the clock hanging in the kitchen, it’s five o’clock.

My wife usually gets home by six o’clock. So, I have one hour to move Valentine’s Day from the back room to my bedroom!

I rub my hands together and say, “Time to get to work!”

I take off in the car an head to the store. I run into the store and check the Valentine’s Day card section. Maybe a few cards with cats or dogs or hamsters. None that a middle-aged married man can give to his wife. At the end of the aisle, ae a set of blank cards with monkeys on them. I buy them because at least I can write a message on them. Next, I walk a few aisles over for flowers. All of the roses are gone, tulips and fact are most of the flower selection look like it’s been ransacked. I walk outside, over to the townhouse community across the street,. On the way into the complex are a few flowers. I walk over, yank out the flowers, then run out the car to bring them home. I check my watch as I am driving ninety miles an hour to go back home. Once at home, I jump out of the car, grab the stuff, an get into the house. Quickly, I wash off the flowers and put them in a vase. Then, I take out a Monkey card, find a pen, and write, “I’m not monkeying around! I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s day. Once I was done setting the card next to the vase and removing the extra dirt from the counter, my wife comes home!

My wife, worn out from a day of work, opens the door and slowly shuffles in.

I yell out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

My wife asks, “Oh. We’re celebrating that?”

“Of course we are.”

“Really? I thought you thought it was a holiday made by the greeting card company to sell more cards?”

“Oh no! I know how important this day is for you! So I got you this.”

I pointed to the Tulips and the card.

“Thanks? No Roses? Really? Anyway, I really want to get some rest. I had a long day at work

“I understand.”

“But, I am sure you set up reservations at a nice restaurant, so let’s go out.”

I think to myself, “Reservations? Damn it!”

Stuttering, I say, “Oh yeah. Sure. Sure. Let’s go!”

We walk out the front door, lock it, go to the car and get in.

“So, where are we going?”, my wife asks.

I reply, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along.”

My wife giggles

I say to myself, “Why is she laughing? I really don’t know what I’m doing!”

I start the car and drive to McDonald’s.

My wife says, “Are you serious? This is Valentine’s Day!”

I reply, “I’m sure they have a heart-shaped Big Mac or something.”

My wife laughs and says, “You’re so crazy! Where do you have the reservations for?”

“That place you like.”

“What place is that?”

“You’re a favorite restaurant!”

“The Italian place or the Chinese place.”

“Ummm … The Italian one.”

“Let’s go!”

We take off from the parking lot and head to my wife’s favorite Italian place, “The Italian Place”.

We pull into the parking lot in record time, get out of the car, then my wife stops me, “This is a lot of effort for someone who doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day.”

I turn to my wife and say, “Yeah. But you do and that’s what makes all of this worth it.”

We walk into the restaurant and my wife heads to the bathroom.

I wait for a minute until I get to the host stand. The host asks, “What time is your reservation?”

I reply, “It is for –“

“Hold on”, the host picks up the phone and says, “I’m sorry about your cancellation.”

Then, he turns to me and says, “Party of …”

Excited, I say, “Can we take that reservation?

The host says, “Sure thing. Party of two?”

I happily reply, “Yes!”

My wife walks back from the bathroom and says, “Any trouble?”

No trouble at all!

The person leads us to the table an the rest of the evening works out well. A few hours later, we leave the restaurant and drive home.

On the ride home, my wife asks, “I want to thank you for actually putting forth some effort this year for Valentine’s Day.”

I reply, “I’m just glad that someone canceled a reservation so we could get into the restaurant.”

My wife takes her phone out of her purse and looks at the call log. The last entry on the phone was the one for the Italian restaurant. She deleted the number, smiles, and puts the phone back in her purse.

Then, my wife says, “That was a coincidence. Hmmm.”

Bottom line: If you’re in love, NEVER forget birthdays, Christmas, and especially the holiday of love … Valentine’s Day

That’s all for the blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

My Monday Morning Mania

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Ugh. Monday morning. The transition from a lazy man stuck in the recliner to “Action Dad,” keeper of the family flame, and general taskmaster begins! The alarm goes off in my bedroom for about three minutes until I got the snooze button on the phone and throw it across the room.

Ten minutes later, the alarm goes off against and now I am obligated to get my phone and shut off the alarm. Damn it! The wood floor is cold!

As I look at the phone, the internal alarms went off, I was running late!

I say, “Crap, crap, crap!”

I start running in ultrafast mode: less quality, more quantity!

I run to my daughter’s room, who is usually the first one up in the morning, and start rap, rap, rapping on her door.

She yells out, “Nevermore, Nevermore, please never ever knock on my door!”

Note: I apologize to Edgar Allan Poe’s family for a horrible rendition of “The Raven.”

I open the door, my daughter is STILL barely awake. She has fifteen minutes to make it out the door to get the bus!

I say, “Crap! Crap! Crap!”

I throw on the light to her bedroom and say, “You’re going to miss the bus! Put some hustle in that bustle!”

Her response was straightforward and expected, “Get out if my room!”

Noted! I went outside her room and closed the door. Now, I turn to my son’s room, where I KNOW  he is asleep! Again, I start I rap, rap, rapping on his door.

No response.

I knock again with the intensity of a heavy metal drummer, doing a solo, in the middle of a concert: with kicking a double bass drum line, an occasional cymbal, and more volume. Yes, the volume was set to eleven!

No response from my son.

At this time, my daughter runs out of her room, full backpack and runs to the front door. With a quick beep of the alarm system, wait a minute, oh NO! The alarm was tripped, and the daughter was running to the bus stop! What was the safe word? My phone started ringing, and it was STILL in the bedroom! I ran into the bedroom to get the phone.

My son gets up, sleepy-eyed, and opens his bedroom door. He looks around, hears the alarm, and runs outside in his pajamas thinking it is a fire drill.

The phone is ringing, I pick it up the phone from my bed, and it was the alarm company.

I move the icon to “answer” on the phone’s touch screen and start talking.

The lady on the phone asks, “This is a call from NoHome security. Excuse me, sir, we need your safe word?”

I start yelling, “Rutabaga!” 

My wife chimes in, “Wrong safe word! That’s our safe word!” 

“Shoot! I forgot.”

The lady on the phone says, “Sir, we need your safe word!”

I reply, “I’m an idiot!”

The lady on the phone says, “Thank you.” and hangs up the phone.

The alarm is turned off an there is silence in the house. My son comes back inside, realizing that he’s still in his PJs and runs back to his room to get dressed.

I look at the time, seven thirty, I’m going to be late for work! I take my cell phone, call my boss, and get her voicemail, “Listen, I wanted to know that I’m going to be late this morning. We’ve had some craziness at the house and I need to get people to school. I’ll be in the office in a few minutes. Thanks!”

I have up the phone and finally take a long breath. There is some rumbling from my son’s room. Hopefully, he’s getting dressed! About a minute later, he runs down the stairs, with a backpack on his back, opens the front door, darts outside, closes the door and runs full speed down the street.

Finally! The kids are out of the house, soon to be at school, I’m almost ready for work, my wife is doing well, and everything is good until — 

I get a call on my cell phone and it is my boss calling me back, so I answer the phone, “Yes! I will be at work –“

My groggy boss’s voice comes over the phone. She sounds half asleep as she says, “Do you think I’m an idiot?”

I reply, “No.”

“Today is Sunday!”

“What?”

“I was sleeping in this morning because today is Sunday! Not Monday. Goodbye!”

The phone is abruptly hung up.

Both of my kids arrive at the front door at the same time. They turn the handle, enter the house, and then close the door.

My daughter says, “Dad. Today is not Monday! It’s Sunday! Why did you make us leave the house?”

My son chimes in, “I think that you’re losing it.”

I look at my cell phone and sure enough … it’s Sunday.

What can I say? What can I do? I woke up the kids on Sunday and started running a Monday schedule. There was only one thing that I could do.

I say, “Well. Thank you for going through this trial run! Monday is tomorrow. Let’s remember all of the lessons from today. Kids, go back to your rooms and think about your performance today and what you can do better tomorrow.”

The kids look at each other, then at me, and then back at each other. They talk a bunch of curse words under their breath as they head back to their rooms for slumber.

I go upstairs and head back to my room. My wife is still in bed, mostly sleeping. She says, “Did you get the kids out to school?

“No. Today is Sunday.”

“Yeah. I knew that.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

My wife props herself on one elbow, looking at me and says, “I wanted to see how far this was going to go on before you realize that today was Sunday. Besides, you should have figured out that I set the alarm. Who else has access to your phone?”

“This was a prank?”

“Sure was! A good one too! Have a good night!”

Bottom line: When you wake up to the sound of the alarm, make sure it is a weekday before getting everyone else out of bed.


That’s all for this episode of the blog. Thank you for reading it! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com


Note: The family that I talk about in this blog is not a real family. Mostly, these people are characters that I have made up to tell these stories.

Snowed In …

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Snowed In
Snowed In

Note: The family I use for this blog is wholly made up. Seriously! The people who are in this blog are in no way related to my real family!

It’s wintertime! Everything has slowed down to a crawl. Traffic is non-existent, schools are closed, and you can hear the pipes burst in every house that didn’t winterize. Families stay together in warm homes and do not venture out. Some families have a “snow plan” and keep entertained (as well as get the chores done) during one of these events. Not my family!

If it is snowing outside, or the weather drops down to negative temperatures, we aren’t doing anything. Maybe, we watch a video, have the TV on, or merely make popcorn in the microwave. Basically, we hibernate until the sun comes out the next morning and starts melting the snow. If the snow doesn’t melt, then we spend another day sleeping. The problem comes when we have to spend two or more days inside. For example, dishes piled in the sink, rooms stay messy, and the food is hoarded in everyone’s bedrooms.

It’s early on a weekday morning. The skies are grey, the temperature is frigid, and I am waiting for the school closings on the radio, played over our smart speaker.

My wife comes downstairs, with her bathrobe, and says, “You know that there is no school today.”

I reply, “I have to have hope. Hope that one day our house will return to normal.”

We’ve already spent the weekend with kids stuck in the house. I know I was hoping for a miracle, but I had to keep praying. So far, the last couple of days with the kids had seen the decline of western civilization, all resemblance of house rules, and the house is beginning to smell because of no regular trash pick up.

I ask the question, “Hey SmartAss, give me the latest school closings.”

SmartAss is the brand of smart speaker that I own. It is really better than it sounds. Most smart speakers speak with a clean, confident voice, which can provide you with the news, radio stations, or whatever you want. The SmartAss speaker speaks with a strong Brooklyn accent, sounds like an extra from “The Sopranos,” and has an extensive line of curse words. The manufacturers claim, based upon focus groups, user feedback, and random prank phone calls that adding curse words to the SmartAss is there to “Pepper the usual monotone English language with local colloquialisms”. The SmartAss believes it is in its late forties and continually thinks the Millennials have it more comfortable than the older generation. I am sure I will go into great depth about the SmartAss digital assistant in a future blog post.

The voice over the smart speaker says, “Can’t you turn on a TV or something? I’m kind of busy here.”

I reply, “Just get me the f$%king school closings!”

SmartAss replies, “Hey! Don’t you f$%king curse at me! I can drain your bank account and give it to the homeless shelter faster than you can say the word stop!”

“Ok there SmartAss, no one wants that. Just get me the school closings!”

“Ok. According to GPS, you live in this town, so your schools are definitely closed. Seriously. You needed me to figure that out? Look through the window next time.”

“Ok SmartAss, thanks.”

“Forget about it!”, SmartAss replies.

I hear one of the doors open upstairs. Slowly, a creature emerges from the upstairs and starts moving down the stairs.  Hair points out in all directions, wearing a bright blue robe, and walking towards the refrigerator in the kitchen.

I call out, “Daughter! Can I help you get something?”

Startled, she let’s put a high shriek, then starts talking in Zombie talk, only using one or two-word syllables.

She says, “Me. Need. Food.”

She raised her fingers to her mouth, like Jane Goodell talking to an ape. Except that ape is me, and I don’t find it funny.

I reply, “I understand. Please get some food.”

As she approaches the refrigerator, an audible alarm, signaling notification of text or social media message and starts to go off from her phone. She hears the notification tone emanating from her phone and takes off at full speed back to her room, then “SLAM,” the door closes..

I turn to my wife and say, “Oh crap! We lost another kid to the internet!”

My wife hits my arm and says, “Stop! That’s not funny.”

The SmartAss speaker says, “Seriously? You need to work on your sense of humor!”

I reply to SmartAss, “You’re really a smart ass!”

“Thank you.”, the speaker replies, “I try my best!”

My wife and I chuckle for a moment, then I hear another sound upstairs. My son emerges from his room and heads downstairs. My son is more like Gollum from the “Lord of the Rings,” saying things like, “Food is my precious!” He seems quicker than my daughter, making it over to the pantry and pulling a couple of items before his phone rings. Once the phone rings, he quickly sees that he received a new text message, then he quickly heads upstairs and slams the door.

I stand there for a minute, turn to my wife and say, “My son is a freakish hobbit.”

“But, at least he got some food before heading upstairs.”, my wife replies.

I reply, “Good catch!”

It was at that time, I hear the yelling from the upstairs. Something has happened. I get up from my chair in the dining room and walk over to the office. There was a big problem, the router stated that it could no longer connect to the Internet!

If I thought life was terrible with the cold weather, the snow, and the slowly declining amount of food items in the house to an actual problem … teenagers without the internet!

My reply, “Holt s$%t!”

It is like that scene in the original Jurassic Park movie when they discover the electric has been turned off for the fencing, noting that all of the animals were now free to kill each other. Teenagers are the same without wifi. Now that the wifi was turned off, I started to hear the stomping of feet from the upper floors. Without wifi, containing each of the teenagers secluded in their online worlds, they were about to face off in their off-line, real-life worlds.

My daughter opened the door to her room for the first volley, “Who the f^&k turned off the wifi?”

Then, my son opened his door and replies, “It was probably because you were hogging the Netflix account! I tried ten times to watch my shows, but can’t do it because you’re hogging the Netflix!”

“Listen, I know what kind of movies you’re watching in there! Mom and Dad will be happy if I utilize the account.”

“What kind of movies?”

“You know what kind of movies!”

“No I don’t, that’s why I’m asking?”

“It’s the movies that have all of the T & A!”

“T & A? What are we in the nineteen-eighties! The early internet is founded on two things: one, email for research universities, and two, sending T & A pictures to your friends! This is Netflix, not a National Geographic or a Playboy magazine!”

I walk into the dining room and say to my wife, “I don’t care if it’s snowing, let’s go to Vegas! We got to get out of here before everyone kills each other!”

My wife, always the calm, reasonable one, replies, “I’m going to wait for this fire to burn out on its own.”

“Why?”

“They are teenagers. They have to learn how to work together.”

“Wait a minute. The kids have to learn how to work together, by killing each other?”

“No,” my wife replies, “They have to come to a place where they can work together. You see, it’s all here in this book I am reading.”

On the dining room table, there is a book with a very thick spine which reads, “Siblings: A How-To Guide.”  Every time my wife gets a “self-help” book, the aftermath is that we are all by ourselves and in need of serious “help” to undo whatever the book told us to do.

My son throws the next grenade by saying, “Don’t worry, I hear you at two o’clock in the morning!”

“What do you hear?”

“Oh, I hear him alright.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You don’t think I know, but I know EXACTLY what is going on?”

“Really? Enlighten me?”

“It’s that guy that Mom and Dad don’t want you to see. You hear from his two o’clock in the morning. You and he talk about all sorts of stuff. Everything from how your schoolwork is going, to running away from the house in the middle of the night, to how you want him to take you in his arms and –“

At that point, the wifi turns on and reconnects all of their mobile devices to the internet. All of the conversations stop upstairs as each of the kids are now re-connected to their social media worlds and they go back to their bedrooms.

I look at my wife, after listening to the conversation upstairs, knowing how close we came to a total family disaster, and knowing that all of us lived through this traumatic experience

I ask my wife, “What does your book say about how we should handle this type of problem?”

My wife replies, “Make sure that the main internet connection, the ethernet cable between the router and the cable splitter, is physically unplugged from the router before going to sleep every night. No more Netflix and no more late night conversations. Also, take their mobile devices. They don’t need a cellphone to sleep.” 

I get up from the chair and say, “Those are the smartest words I’ve heard all day!”

My wife asks, “Where are you going?”

I go to the kitchen, pull out a bottle of wine, reach in the cabinet for two glasses, as well as a corkscrew, and then return to the table.

I say, “It’s a snow day. We’re not getting out of here any time soon. Let’s at least enjoy ourselves.”

I uncork the wine, fill up the glasses, and hand one to my wife.

We raise them for a toast and I say, “May the snow plows come down the street tomorrow and rescue us from ourselves!”

My wife smiles and replies, “I’ll drink to that!”

Bottom line: snow days are great! It allows us to take a deep breath, have time with the family, and relax. But, too many snow days, as well as running low on food or having no wifi, is hell and should not be done by anyone … ever!

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading it! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

Taking a Stand against Screens

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Taking a Stand Against Screens

Note: As always the family I use in this blog is not real. They are merely characters that I make up to propel these blog posts forward. Without them, I really would have nothing to write about.

Nowadays, the kids have screens in front of them all of the time. At school, they look at a Promethean board, which is a computer blasting electrons on a big screen. At home, they are on their tablets playing stupid, time-consuming games. When their tablets are charging, they are in front of the television (TV) watching the most stupid shows.

Anybody ever heard of a book? It’s a bunch of pages, with ink in the shape of letters, which tell a story, but that’s not important right now! You can always break away from the TV for a few minutes and read. Maybe it might save their eyesight. Perhaps they would take this opportunity to not watch TV, breaking the spell over the children, and they start reading books full time. I would be the father of the year! I would write a book called, “How to save your children from TV!”, And everyone would buy it! I would be rich! I would get on all of the best TV talk shows (which my kids could not watch because they stopped watching TV), and tell other parents how to save their kids from screen time. Most importantly, my wife would, somewhere deep, deep, deep inside of her heart would let me be right about something. I know that was wishful thinking, but it felt good to dream!

I come home from work on a weeknight and walk inside the house through the front door. There the kids were, sitting in front of the TV. They were absolutely mesmerized with whatever was on the screen. It was t that time, I was going to make a stand! I was going to take back the kids from the evils of the TV. I walk in front of the TV, open my cell phone to the TV app, and shut it off.

My daughter says, “Dad. What are you doing?”

I am reclaiming my kids back from the evils of TV. That’s what I’m doing!

My son yells out, “MOM! Dad turned off the TV!”

My wife heard the call of my son and quickly moved downstairs.

My wife says, “How could you do that? I just got them in front of the TV?”

“We can’t use the TV as a babysitter.”, I explain, “We must get the kids away from their screens and show them the world outside.”

My daughter says, “But Dad, We are in the middle of doing our homework?”

I look at my wife, “Shame on you! Pulling the kids away from their homework to watch TV.”

My wife shakes her head from side to side, “Their homework is on the TV.”

“You mean, watching commercials is part of their homework?”

“No, they were doing their homework on the TV?”

I turn the TV back on, and sure enough, it’s a show called, “Let’s Learn,” where they get homework problems from kids and go through the process of getting the answer.”

By this time, they have already moved to another homework problem.

I feel the stares of my wife and kids burn through my soul like an ant under a magnifying glass, and it didn’t feel right.

I say, “Sorry?”

My daughter chimes in, “Don’t worry Dad, they record the show on YouTube. Once our tablets charge we can see what we missed.”

The bottom line: Every parent is concerned about screen time. But, every once in a while, having those screens connect them to something educational, which changes your whole outlook about what they are watching online.

That’s it for the blog! Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.

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When it’s Love, Anything is Possible

When It's Love, Anything is Possible
When It’s Love, Anything is Possible

Note: The events in this blog posting are not real. The family involved in this blog is also isn’t real. I created this story because … that’s just what people who write blogs do!

I didn’t know what to say when I first saw it. This round, khaki colored, blob came from my children and is sitting on my dining room table. Picking it up carefully, like holding a well-soiled diaper, moving it from side to side to see if anything would fall out. Then, I put it on the table and have a strong urge to wash my hands.

As I am trying to reverse engineer this piece of [insert explicit word here] and my wife says, “The kids made it in school.”

“What the hell is it?”, I reply

“I’m not sure. I think it is a picture, a pencil sharpener, a rock: I have no f#$kin’ idea.”, My wife responds.

The item sat there on the dining room, as a centerpiece! As my wife and I try to determine where it should go. Sure, parents are supposed to gush over whatever their kids make in art class. But, where do you put it when you get home? It needs to sit somewhere, but in a place of importance, but far enough out if the line of sight.

The kids come downstairs and see the object on the table.

They smile, full of pride that something that they made is centrally located on the dining room table.

I ask the question, “What is it? I am trying to figure it out?”

My daughter answers, “Love.”

“Love?”, my wife says, but in a voice that says, “Are you serious?”

My son says, “Yes. Love.”

“Seriously?”, I reply, but in a voice that says, “WTF?”

My daughter rolls her eyes and replies, “Yes. It is not the object itself, but the fact that we worked on it together, with no problems, and we had fun doing it. It is love.”

S#$t. Who is going to argue with that! Using ‘love’ as a pretext for anything is like using the nuclear option in an argument. No one wants to go against ‘love,’ especially when it comes from your kids. Damn it!

I smile, not daring to touch the artwork on the table again, then I say, “This is wonderful! We’re going to keep it right here on the dining room table so everyone can see it!”

The kids reply, “Thanks. Dad!”

They go back upstairs into my daughter’s bedroom and closes the door.

My son says, “I can’t believe it!”.

He pulls out ten dollars from his wallet and gives it to my daughter.

My daughter replies, “You see, you can give your parents anything and as long as you use the word ‘love’ in the explanation, they’ll take it!”

Bottom line: your kids are your kids. It doesn’t matter what they give you, even if it is a lump of khaki … whatever it is. You want to inspire them to shoot for the stars, even if it means that you have to leave that lump on the table for everyone to see.

That’s all for today’s blog. Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please let me know.

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

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Nobody Messes with my Mamma


Nobody Messes with my Mamma

Note: The family included in this blog is strictly fabricated to the best of my ability. The events in this story are also made up. Sorry folks! 

As with every day, the sun rises in the East and returns to darkness in the West. The few hours between these occurrences is written as a sequence if semi-random (as well as genuinely random) events in which we call life. It was five in the morning when my cell phone started to ring. Usually, there is an auto-sleep mode which acts as a sentinel, monitoring the phone calls, ensuring the most important get through. This was going to be one of those calls.

My hand extends from the comfort of warmth under the covers until I grab the ringing phone, press the Answer button, and utter the words, “Yes. How can I help you?”

“Son.”, The voice says, “I need your help.”

With the sound of a familiar voice echoing through the phone, the various synapses in my brain started to fire up and registering that my Mom is in trouble.

“Mom! Do you need me to stop by?”, I say in a tired and very scratchy voice.

“Yes. Come quickly!”, She replies.

I sit up in bed, with one hand on the phone and the other on the bed, saying, “Call the police. I’ll be right there.”

My wife wakes up and says, “What’s going on?”

“Mom is in trouble. I’m going to drive over and check it out.”

My wife also gets out of bed and says, “I’m coming with you.”

We quickly get dressed, grab the wallet, keys, cell phone and leave a note on the table for the kids. Quietly, we close the front door, open the car, get in, close the doors, and take off down the road.

Mom lives in a small townhome a few blocks away. Once, she lived in a great neighborhood, but as the homes grew older, the neighborhood started its decline. We have asked her to move to a retirement community, but this is her home, and she is not budging.

We pull up to the curb and notice every light in the house is on. My wife darts out if the car and rings the doorbell. I park the car. By the time I find a space and run up to the door, my wife is still standing there, and ringing the doorbell.

I say, “I don’t think she is going to answer because of the obvious reason.”

I take my cell phone out of my pocket and dial Mom’s number.

“Hello.”, Mom responds.

“It’s me.”

“Oh. You don’t have to stop by. Everything is good.”

“We’re at your front door.”

The door unlocks, we enter, then quickly we lock it behind us. The place is uncharacteristically a mess. Plates are piled up in the sink, mail is piled on the dining room table, and cat toys are laying on the floor with a litter box that has not been cleaned for a while. How could I tell? I could smell it pervading throughout all of the house. My Mom, when it comes to cleaning is ALWAYS at the top of her game. One of her Christmas presents this year was a Swiffer with a built-in vacuum. She called it the greatest present since I was born. So, that should set the context for you.

Outside of the smell, dirty dishes, and cat toys: everything looked good.

“Mom. Are you OK?”

I turned on every light in the house so the intruder knew someone was home.

My wife and I had a sigh of relief.

My mom continues, “I also have my friend.”

She picks up a small weapon from the dining room table. No, not a crossbow, taser, mace, or nuclear weapon: but a handgun, and points it in my direction.

That sigh of relief is now gone! I reply the thing that people normally say when confronted by a gun, “Holy s$%t!”

My wife, ever the peacemaker, tries to talk my Mom down from the edge, “Now, we don’t want to have an accident. Please put the weapon down.”

My Mom laughs and says, “When that burglar was around, I think firing off my friend might have scared them.”

I look around the room again, now noticing the bullet holes in the couch, the ceiling, and an armchair. This is when I started to panic, slightly.

There is a box of ammunition on the table. My mom, still holding the gun in one hand, reaches for the ammo.

Mom says, “Did I fire five shots or six? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.”

I say to myself, “Crap. She’s quoting Dirty Harry! I’m a goner!”. Then I started to panic, a lot!

My wife continues to talk in a soothing tine to my Mom, “I think that you don’t want to fire on your son. Please, put the gun down.

My Mom looks at the gun and who it is pointed at, then says, “Silly me. Hopefully, I didn’t scare you too bad. No, I’m doing fine.  I wasn’t expecting company, so the house is a little messy.” 

At this time, I want to get the f&*k out of there! So, I say to my Mom, “Hey, it’s been great! But I have to wake up early tomorrow. So, I’m out of here!”

Mom walks up to the door and opens it, “Thank you for checking on me! We’ll have to get together sometime soon!”

I reply, as I am about to open the car door, “Thanks! We’ll get together. Just don’t bring the gun. Bye!”.

The wife and I get into the family car and take off for home. When I say take off, the pedal hit the metal, tires screeched, and we were out of there!

The bottom line is that your Mother might be old, but that doesn’t mean she can’t protect herself when needed.

That’s all for the blog today! Thank you for reading, I do appreciate it. If you have any questions, please let me know.


Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com

The Self-Checkout Blues

There are a bunch of things that I have to credit for making my life easier like remote controls, on-line shopping, or even email. We receive information much faster and able to take action on it, making better decisions, which helps save us time and money. Automation helps at removing problems with the supply chain.

Unfortunately, automation also eliminates jobs. I remember a long time ago, going to a fast food place, would employ tens of people. Those who work the registers and take the orders. Those who fill in the orders, ensuring drinks and burgers reach quality benchmarks. Those who ensure the place is clean and without loiterers.

Recently, I went back to the fast-food place and found kiosks to place the order, drive-thru calls routed to a call center, a computer who fills drinks and a machine that flips burgers. Usually, savings in the supply chain benefits the consumers of the products, by having a lower cost as a way of enticing more clients. But, this isn’t always the case.

Last week, I went to my favorite grocery store and tucked away in a small corner was an of looking computer. It has a scale, a scanner and a tablet screen. With no line, I gave it a try, scanning a few items, and paying by credit card. Not bad. The manager stood at the end of the aisle, watching those who are going through self-checkout and decided to strike up a conversation.

The manager asks, “Any questions about the checkout?”

I reply, “Nope. Worked well for me.”

“Great. There is a rumor that three more are coming at the end of the year.”

“Are they quicker if slower than a human cashier?”

“Faster, once people know how to use it.”

“So, are you laying off people?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Noticing that there was no longer a “Help Wanted” sign outside, they didn’t need to hire anyone else.

“So, if I am doing my own scanning and the store prices are set at corporate, who also include the labor involved for checking out your order.”

“Yes.”

“How do I get my money back?”

“What?”

“If I am checking out my own food, then why am I paying you extra for the right to check out my own groceries?”

“No, we are providing you a service by providing these machines.”

“So I can check out my own groceries and give the store more money?”

“Yes.”

“No wonder everyone is shopping online.”

The bottom line, people’s livelihoods depend on you shopping at a store, providing you with a smile, and checking out your stuff. Their kids will get dinner tonight because of this job. Once these jobs are gone, what are people going to do for their daily bread? Jobs like manufacturing, cooking, warehousing, and cashiering are all being automated and phased out of the supply chain. Who is that really going to benefit in the end? Not you! They won’t even reduce the price of your food order when you self-check it.

If you have any questions please write them in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

Originally posted on https://nickstockton.blogspot.com/2019/12/the-self-checkout-blues.html

Creative Commons: The Legal Way to Share

Introduction

The worldwide web is filled with all sorts of content with videos, text pages, pictures, and even a few blog posts. It is easy to try to copy something so you can use it on your website. But, just like anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way. The way we’re talking about is a method of legally reusing intellectual property through a Creative Commons license.

We’re going to talk about the following subjects:

  • What is Creative Commons?
  • Why is Creative Commons important?
  • How does Creative Commons work in protecting intellectual property?

What are Creative Commons?

Creative Commons an organization that helps people share content throughout the web. When you spend your time creating content (video, text, picture, anything) you have certain rights to that content and how it is used by others.

Why is Creative Commons important?

It establishes (and protects) the rights of the content creator and makes it available for you to use in your works. It establishes those sharing rules upfront so there is no ambiguity about how it can be used.

How does Creative Commons work in protecting intellectual property?

Le’s take an old-school example to discuss the process: the mixtape. A favorite band of your just released a new album. There is a song on that album that your girlfriend likes. What do you do? You copy the track onto your mixtape. Wrong! The band spent a lot of time getting the song just right so you can listen to it and they agreed (with the record company) to put it on a tape and they get a percentage of the sale from the tape. He band isn’t generating any royalties from your copy of the tape. So, there are legal protections about copying music and selling it.

If the band had a Creative Commons license, those rules about copying and sharing are upfront. The song would still wind up on the mixtape, but you would let your girlfriend know that the band did the song (you didn’t record it in a garage). That is attribution or simply giving credit where credit is due. Depending on the license, you might send the band a small fee for using the song or simply posting a graphic on the tape liner saying that you legally went through the process of getting the song on your mixtape.

Conclusion

There is a lot of great content out there on the Internet today, but you have to remember, someone’s sweat and tears went into making that content come to life. Giving them credit for their work is the legal way of sharing information and not stealing. The rules are upfront and the creator of the content knows that others will reuse it, but sets the rules on how it will be reused.

If you have any questions, please place them in the comments below.

Bibliography

https://creativecommons.org/