Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Lloyd Dobler…

So…that is the monologue that goes through my mind anytime one of my friends starts to pitch me on whatever particular multi-level marketing brand has captured their imagination (or their soul…you decide).  I would personally like to go back to calling these life-sucking, personal-relationship-ruining, predatory marketing schemes what they are: pyramid schemes.

I could write and deftly defend a thesis on why these pyramid schemes fail as a road to financial success, but I will leave that to Penn & Teller, as they have done a stellar job with that, already.  No, I would merely like to make one single point in my plea for a return to sanity.

If you are my friend, it is because I value you as a person and enjoy your company.  That does not, however, give you the right to sell me stuff or to enlist my help in selling your brand of stuff.

Now that we’ve gotten the main point out-of-the-way, I would like to let you know how I feel about said attempts at recruitment (or opportunities for AMAZING financial success for those of you who have been drinking the Kool-Aid).  I know that we all are living in a struggling economy and that good, solid, full-time jobs are hard to find.  I know that many of you have chosen a lifestyle of one working parent or home schooling your kids and want to have some sort of way to work from home.  I respect those types of choices and this is a mostly free country, so you have every right to make those decisions.  There is, however, one fact that I would like you to consider and that is this:

I, like millions of other Americans, work from a workplace.  I always have worked from a workplace and even when it was my job to sell auto parts for my father’s business, I sold them at someone else’s workplace.  I didn’t try to sell to them when they were “off-the-clock” and I surely didn’t try to sell to them while they were at home…that would have been rude.

I understand that you folks have listened to a very convincing sells pitch for your respective brand and that you really believe that your products or services are going to affect positive change in the lives of your clients.  Also, some of you folks are among my best friends, so please believe that I am trying to be as loving as I possibly know how when I tell you this:

You have become the dinnertime telemarketers of our generation.  You are damaging your relationships with people in order to create opportunities to sell your product or services.  Not only will you not get rich, but you will awake one day to find that you have damaged some of your most valuable attachments to people in this life.  Your companies have poisoned the traditional bonding activities of dinners and parties for the pursuit of sales and recruitment and even the expanding realm of social media is quickly becoming just another venue in which you can solicit.

Please.

I beg of all of you multi-level marketers.

Just stop.

Don’t invite me to dinner unless you just want to share a meal.  Don’t invite me to a party unless it is just to hang out and have a good time.  Don’t try to get me excited about an “amazing business opportunity” on Facebook.  I don’t want your products or your services and every second that I spend listening to your sales pitch is time that I’ll never get back.

Keep your supplements, your cell phone plans, and your juices or whatever other snake oil that you happen to be selling.  Before you approach me with anything, please apply what I like to call the Lloyd Dobler Paradigm.  I don’t want to buy, sell or process anything that you are selling.  If you can respect that simple philosophy, then we should be just fine.

I swear, the next one of you that approaches me with a multi-level marketing scheme will become the test subject for my reality therapy solution for those afflicted with involvement in such companies.  I will take your home address, cell phone number, email address, and Facebook account and fill out interest cards and forms with as many of your local door-to-door religious proselytizing sects as I possibly can.

A funny thing happened on the way to my last post…

So I sit down at the computer to do some writing for a blog post at about 10:30pm on May 22nd.  After about 20 minutes, the door to the back porch blows open and slams into the wall.  The sound of rushing wind continues for about 10 seconds and subsides about the time that I get the door closed.  Jessica, who had been asleep on the couch with Bruce, is startled and immediately gets up to help be check on what had just happened.

We check on Naomi and she is sound asleep in her bed.  Then, we check the back porch and everything has been blown around.  There is so much rain and so many leaves sticking to the screen that I have to open the door to see what is going on in the yard.  I am surprised to find several trees down and not be able to see to the parking lot.  Next, I check the office and I find that all of the keys for the properties that I manage have flown off the wall and that the light fixture in the ceiling has fallen.  At that point, I open the outside door on the office and I find that I am looking at the awning, which is now flat against the side of the house.  Finally, I go out the front door and I still can’t see the parking lot because trees are in the way.  At that point, I call my boss and the madness begins.

Just so you know, this is what things looked like the next morning:DSC00129 DSC00135 DSC00121We had apparently experienced a micro-burst tornado.

Fast forward to July and the madness has finally subsided and things are mostly back to normal.  Although both cars still ran and drove, they were totaled because the tree hit them both in the A-pillar which is integral to the unibody of both vehicles.  So I got to say goodbye to my Jetta, which had been an amazing car for the last 8 years and 200,000 miles and to my Jeep Cherokee, which was just awesome.  We’ve made a lot of progress on the vehicle front and they just finished all the repairs to our house, so it looks like things are returning to normal.

I just thought that I would take this opportunity to let everyone know where I’ve been and why I haven’t had time to write.  Honestly, you should expect several posts in the coming weeks, because a lot has been going on and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to put some thoughts out there.

Hey Facebook, I caught what you just did!

I don’t want to come off like someone with a vast assortment of tinfoil hats, but I caught something on Facebook today which disturbed me.  I have two friends who independently shared the same article within a couple of hours or so of each other.  It was this article, about being gay at Liberty University.  Now, I’m not attempting to weigh in on the issue of gay marriage, as I certainly feel that more than enough is being said about that from both sides and my natural inclination is spray both sides down with a water hose as one does to stop dogs from fighting.  What I’m attempting to do is demonstrate how Facebook and the media are trying to shape what you believe and how you feel with some creative editing.

Here’s the most concise version of what I’ve found:  I read both posts with reference to the article.  I thought that it was something which I would like to read when I had a minute, but it was quite long and I was busy, so I decided I would follow the links and read it at a later time.  Later, in about two hours, I went back to Facebook to find the posts.  Oddly, neither were in my news feed under either type of sorting.  Also, neither was in that little list of things on the far right corner…no matter how far I scrolled.  Finally, neither post was on either of their walls or timelines.  The posts were simply not there, like they had never existed.

Now, here is where it gets interesting.  I contacted both people and asked them why they had removed the post; assuming that there must have been some controversy of which they had each grown tired which prompted the deletion of the post.  Nope.  Neither one had acted to remove their post.

I had to do a Google search in order to find the article and read it.  After reading the article, it was plain to see that it was written by a gay person who was seeking to empathize with, educate, and perhaps lessen the tension between the polarized extremes of the gay marriage debate.  An article which seemed to say that many Christians (even the Southern Baptists at Liberty) show love and care for those with whom they may not agree and that many gays are closed-minded and judgmental when it comes to Christians.  It seems to be an honest attempt at helping everyone to get-along.

Here’s the problem with that article…it exhibits a stance that might actually increase cooperation and dialogue.  Cooperation and dialogue don’t sell papers or cause people to stay glued to the news channels.  Accurate and compassionate understanding of the other side’s members and positions doesn’t whip people into a frenzy.  Rather, these attitudes lead to harmony and an ability to move through and past the issues which divide us.  Making progress with these issues doesn’t make for good television and it allows us to unplug from social media.  Nothing makes one stay plugged into Facebook more than a good controversy over a posting.

So, with all of that in mind, here is my theory:  Facebook purposely edited those postings out of the timeline.  There was too much of an attempt to frame Christians in a positive light, so they killed them.  There are too many factions that have too much invested in keeping the American people at each other’s throats.  If a company like Facebook can go this far to control its content, then it isn’t a stretch for you to realize that the companies which control your media and entertainment are in the business of controlling how you think and feel about almost every subject.

“You gotta have some kind of back-up plan, right?”

So, this short video clip pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling since I was about 21.

Constantly.

Without ceasing.

It sometimes keeps me from easily falling asleep at night and it is often the first thing that I think about in the morning.

I first became aware that this sort of thing might be a real problem when my dad had some mini-strokes back in 1992 and I ended up running the family business for a while.  Nothing sobers you up like having the responsibility of making payroll for 27 people (people with families) and taking a hard look at the financial books and business prospects.  That’s when I discovered that new corporate-backed competitors were getting ready to obliterate independent auto parts stores nationwide.  They had already started opening up in town and my father’s only response was to continue doing business as we had done since the early 70’s, hoping that our service and long-standing relationships would trump corporate volume discount pricing.

It didn’t.

We got to sell our part of the family farm 12 years later when the floods came in 2004 and I learned that the way Dad had kept the last of his businesses open was to take $125,000 out against his and Mom’s house.  Not exactly the back-up plan I had hoped for.

Later, as I was finishing-up college, I worked with some friends and we did Christian summer youth camps.  When we became successful, I started noticing that people almost twice our age were looking to us as if we had the answer to where youth ministry and even the evangelical church, as a whole, were headed.  We were young and unmarried,  with no kids, no mortgages, and we had few responsibilities beyond keeping our grades up.  How could someone with all of the things we lacked in addition to a master’s degree possibly be looking to us for answers?  Didn’t they have a plan?  Didn’t they know where we were headed?

Next, I graduated and started working as a youth minister in Baptist churches.  Every staff meeting, deacon’s meeting, or planning session left me with an ever-growing sense that instead of “The Great and Powerful Oz” that there was merely some bumbling man behind the curtain to which I wasn’t supposed to be paying attention, because if I was paying attention I would certainly learn that he didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing.  Was it possible that we were on a train with no engineer at the controls?

Finally, I started paying attention to national politics and the news, in general.  At that point, all of my suspicions were confirmed.  Things are out of control because a whole lot of leaders from just about every avenue of life have dropped the proverbial ball.  That’s when I had the exact same realization that Bruce Willis’ character had in Armageddon.

There is no room somewhere with people thinking shit up.

No brilliant answers are forthcoming…at least not for most of what is really ailing us.

I challenge you to take about an hour.  Lay down all of the patent answers and statements that you’ve been accepting from our politicians and our ministers and our media outlets.  The people that we’ve been trusting, like doctors, counselors, gurus and experts.  Put all of those people aside for just a few minutes and forget that they are telling you that they have a good idea for how everything is going to work out.

Now, take a look at the world.  Take a look at our country.  Examine the state of our communities.  Read today’s newspaper front to back.  Hit up Reuters and the Associated Press.  Look at the actual events, not the coverage.  Turn the sound off on your television and flip through all the channels and see what our kids and popular culture figures all look like.  Go to a public place and see how many people are interacting with the people around them and how many people have their face stuck in some sort of electronic device or have headphones jammed in their ears.

After doing all of that, I don’t know where you will end up, but I know where it has left me.  I think we aren’t paying attention.  I think that we are being distracted by people who are trying to convince us (as well as themselves) that they have it figured out.  I think that we are getting hollow platitudes.  I think that some of us need to find a way to walk away from most of the concerns of the American dream and start soul-searching for some better answers.

We need to realize that there really isn’t a room where people are “thinking shit up”…but there should be.  And those people that should be “thinking shit up”?  That should be us.

We are responsible for our own families.  We are responsible for our own faith.  Each and every one of us is responsible for being well-informed, so that we can make the appropriate choices.  More importantly, we need to be able to tell when we are trusting someone that has no contingency plan.

Really? This is some sort of surprise for you?

image

This particular magazine has been the bane of my existence today.  I normally wouldn’t get so upset, but it was everywhere.  It was even in the line at Lowe’s Home Improvement.  Lowe’s, a store that sells lumber and hardware.

Why should I let something like this magazine bother me, you ask?  Because this is the sort of thing that he is ruining young American women.  We are allowing the reinforcement of a stereotypical woman with poor judgement.

I barely know anything about  contemporary pop culture and even I know that John Mayer has had a string of bad relationships.  It has been covered in the tabloids, in the news, and comedians even make jokes about it.  In fact, Taylor Swift went so far as to write a song about the kind of person he is.

Anyone who wants to know what went wrong need only look at the man’s track record.  And yet somehow…somehow, we like to pretend that this is a situation that has a victim.  We like to imagine that Katy Perry has just ended up on the wrong side of love, when the reality is that she should have used better judgement.

This is one of the things that frustrated me the most during my final years of youth ministry. We live in a society that tells us that we can no longer make a decision about another person based on their track record because that would be “judging”.

I can’t tell you how many times I caught flack because I told some girl that her boyfriend was a loser and she could do better.  I would point out the young man’s past record with women advise that this was probably a bad decision. Too often, my advice is ignored and I was left to console the young lady somewhere down the road when the young man, inevitably, showed his true colors.

It has been said many times: “If a dog bite you once, shame on the dog. If a dog bites you twice, shame on you.”  I say that if you see a dog bite someone else and then you let it bite you, then shame on you the first time.

Please Buy One of These…and Learn How To Use It

A time-tested device for not looking stupid.
A time-tested device for not looking stupid.

I wondered what would rekindle the fire that drives me to write.  Would it be any of the number of currently trending political topics?  No.  Would it be some massive and controversial social issue?  No.  It turns out that what I really needed was to read a simple Facebook post.

The items that you see in the above photo are dictionaries.  For the uninformed they are books that contain alphabetical listings of words and their meanings.  These listings even come with handy phonetic representations which help with pronunciation.  I know what you’re thinking.  THAT IS AMAZING!  What an ingenious invention.  When did someone come up with such a thing?  Well, apparently the first ones came into existence around 2300 B.C.E  or over 4,300 years ago for those of you who need a little help with the math.

For those of you who have to have the “latest and greatest”, you may be surprised to learn that they have quite a number of FREE WEBSITES that work in exactly the same way and reference the same material.  In fact, most web services, browsers, computers, and word processing programs come with dictionaries built-in.

Quite simply, dictionaries are an amazing tool that make learning and communicating with a common language very easy…and yet there are a very large number of people who shun their use and insist on looking and sounding like complete morons.

As a public service I would like to take this opportunity to present several serious, salient, and pertinent questions, along with the correct answers:

  • Is it important to use proper spelling? Yes, always.
  • I have a teacher or parent (for the home-schooled) who says that effort is more important than accuracy.  Is that true?  No, they are allowing you to appear stupid and making you unemployable.  Good luck.
  • Is it cool or clever to use hip alternate spellings?  No, it makes you appear uneducated or worse, as someone trying to be hip (which is just sad).
  • What if my spelling skills aren’t that good?  Can I still post on the internet?  Only if you want people to know how little you value a proper education.
  • If my spelling skills aren’t good, what should I do to correct the problem?  I’m glad you asked.  You should BUY A DICTIONARY AND LEARN HOW TO USE IT.  You might also consider taking a course at a local community college in writing, grammar, and spelling.  Remediation always helps.
  • I’m still in school.  What should I do to improve my spelling?  Immediately turn off your computer and go to the library or someplace with no distractions and do your homework or read a book.
  • I’m having problems learning how to spell on my own.  Is there someone who can help me with that?  Yes,
    they are called teachers.  Find one and ask for help.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.  I would love to help.  If you have any negative feedback, please feel free to submit that, as well.  I would love to mark it up, correct the spelling and grammar, and then post it here on the site.

 

Parenting 2.0

Rock!
Rock!

Do you see this picture?  Do you know what it is?  THIS is what it looked like the other night after a song came on the radio with Sammy Hagar singing.  I asked my daughter who it was and she responded “The Red Rocker, Daddy.”  Today, she asked for ZZ Top by name and wanted “that haw, haw, haw, haw song” which meant that she wanted to listen to La Grange.  Other days, it is “Hey Daddy, I want to listen to hey ho, let’s go” and we are of to the races with The Ramones.

Sure, she still listens to little kid music.  She loves Veggie Tales and The Backyardigans.  She sings the songs that she learns at preschool and vacation bible school, so don’t think that I lock her in a vault with a radio set to the local classic rock station with the tuning knob removed.  It’s just that she listens to what we listen to in the car and around the house and she picks up what she likes and often asks for it by name.  I’ll never forget the day that I had to add Crazy Train to one of her programmable toys.  There is nothing quite as funny as a Fisher-Price toy with all its bright colors blasting Ozzy as a three year old listens and shows off her “sweet rock moves” for everyone.

When we first had her, I was scared to death.  The only experience that I had ever had around kids was with the teenagers with whom I had worked for two decades.  She was so frail and helpless and I was just sure that I would never figure out how to be a good parent.  Now, we’ve just had our second child (and the primary reason for the big gap since my last post) and I have had a little more one-on-one time with my daughter while my wife has been taking care of business with our infant son.  I’ve also taken some time to reflect and I think that I’ve found the one thing of which I am most proud regarding being a father.  I spend time with my daughter and I teach her about the things that I enjoy and feel are important.

I know that she has the rest of her life to develop her own interests and passions.  I am also aware that she’ll eventually learn about stuff that I find appalling from her peers at school or in everyday life.  There will be boys that I find stupid, lazy, and worthless that show up to try and take her out on dates.  There may even be a few boys that me and my friends have to bury in Pisgah National Forest because they have overstepped their bounds with my daughter.  However the future unfolds, I know that she will spend a lifetime learning things outside of my areas of influence, interest, and expertise.

My job is to do the best that I can to teach her about the things that I know.  I hope that when she is my age that she will be able to say that she knows all about what I like and what I’ve taught her.  That way, when I’m not around anymore, she will have a good idea of what I would say to her when she really needs some help.  More importantly, I hope that she will know who I really am, so that she will be able to remember who I really was.

My dad took the time to teach me how to work and for that I will forever be grateful.  Unfortunately, he always kind of figured that we would travel when he got older and spend our fun time together then.  It turns out that he had a leaky heart valve that caused some mini-strokes in the early nineties and I found myself running the family business in my early twenties while he recovered.  About the time that he was more or less recovered from the strokes, we lost the family business to a bad business deal and a massive flood and he had to go on anti-depressants for a while.  By the time he got back to normal from that, he had lost his hearing from being around engines, racing, and machine shops for decades.  Even with hearing aids, it is almost impossible for us to have a conversation lasting more than about three sentences.  It annoys him that he can’t hear and talking rings in his head because of the hearing aids, so I just get a lot of smiles and nods.

When I think of my dad, I always see him as he was in the nineteen seventies and eighties because that was when he could still communicate very well.  I love that guy, but I wish that I knew more about his life and his interests; who he was and what he did before he was my father.  I used to be able to glean a lot of that stuff from his close friends, but they are all dying off and I’m only left with sanitized stories that the family will tell.  Pretty soon, he and all of his peers will be gone and all I’ll have left are the memories.

I love Ernest Greene and I thank him for everything that he has given me over the years and I even named my son after him.  He is and was a great man who has seen and done some amazing things.  I just wish that I knew more about those things and what they were.  Hopefully, I will do a better job of conveying my life to my kids.