Why Being a Dad in America is so Great
There was yet ANOTHER article on +Military Spouse about cheating spouses. This time the wife had become friends with the victim and their husbands worked together. Go check out the article and come back... First of all, I can respect Life Coaches but I don't consider them any more value-added to a problem than a Kleenex to a runny nose. Their education and training consists of "helpful opinion" to "guide" the counseled towards a solution they find, eventually, on their own. Let's stay specific... if you're having relationship issues, seek emotional counseling which may reveal deeper issues either clinical or symptomatic of a greater issue. At any rate...

This spouse was writing in to ask "what should [she] do" because she "feels like every time [she] see[s] her, [she's] hiding a secret." Guess what, you are! Without addressing the husband/co-worker role in this I'll dive into the meat and potatoes... TELL HER!

If you see someone robbing a bank you don't have the option to withhold that information from the police, even if they don't ask you! If you see someone jumping the fence to your duty station are you going to keep quiet about that, too? I would hope not! But why do we feel so empowered to tattle on someone when the outcome won't affect you, or so you think. Do the right thing and report that bank robbery you witnessed and you'll be called into court as an eye-witness. Report the base-jumper to the Security Forces and you'll be asked to make a statement. The bottom line is that righteousness demands conflict. If you see someone or something wrong you must confront it or it will get worse!

In this person's case, she should have thought of creative scenarios that would have required her husband to be around when he had to "be at work" or come up with cunning questions that would have made her "friend" question herself and her husband's actions without being dramatic. Let's be honest, females can be cunning when they want to be and this specific scenario just looks like a chicken-crap friend.

Another blogger posted a similar response with video. Check it out here... Apparently this is a pretty ongoing dilemma since divorce in the military exceeds 60% with infidelity being a leading cause.

Men, we MUST live in righteousness and in such a way that the thought of infidelity would never
cross our spouses minds. We must hold one another accountable and I'm not talking about tattling here. If you see something, say something! We work together every day and spend more time together than we do with our wives. If something seems "off" with your battle buddy, ask them! Encourage one another's relationships because we all know that there are SOME times we'd like to push one another off a cliff; it happens. What we HAVE to do is remember that she is the one we chose, the one we said we'd put on a pedestal and worship. If something within your relationships have changed then that needs addressed and not brushed under another skirt.

Do the right thing, talk about the right things, treat one another right and it'll be alright.
In September of 2013, +Forbes had published an article that ...Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work in 35 States. This was based on a study performed by +The Cato Institute and subsequent results published by Michael Tanner and Charles Hughes in a document entitled The Work Versus Welfare Tradeoff: 2013 (link provided). Basically the government has made it more prosperous to be poor than employed.

"The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work." And that's straight from the horse's mouth! It reminds me of a line from Office Space; "Why
should I work any harder? So Initech ships a few thousand more units? What's in it for me?" Why work harder than you have to when you're getting paid MORE to do LESS, in 35 states at least.

Then there ARE some people who try to compare apples-to-apples which is where I like to dwell... Let's talk about the "average" worker who earns minimum wage. And I'm going to stick to fast-food establishments to make it easy. I realize that there are tons of secretaries and delivery people on the same boat but, let's keep it simple. The +NCSLorg (National Council of State Legislatures) lists minimum wage by state and includes all future amendments in a table. In Florida, for example, Federal minimum wage will go from $7.93 to $8.05 in 2015. But back to the average guy... This is the person who shows up on-time, does their job, leaves on the dot, and doesn't incur foolish workman's comp fees. Sure, minimum wage for that guy! He did "the minimum" required for his job to KEEP his job. What about the "above-average" worker? The one who's early, preparing for the challenges of their day, always polite and professional, finds busy-work to do, and generally the epitome for others to follow? I say give that person a $2/hr raise! And why not?! They've earned it!

My point is that if you keep everyone on the same pay-level/scale then you're going to have a workforce of mediocre operators. If everyone in the military got paid the same, no one would be motivated enough to accept the challenges of leadership! Yes, military members are ALSO monetarily stimulated. Think about it though; what if you hired a complete shift of workers at +McDonald's and paid everyone in 50-cent to $1 per hour increments, from the bottom up? Your manager makes the most and your register-person makes the least. Of course I understand that this wouldn't work in a perfect world since all team members are capable of filling in any position at any time, but think about it like this for me and tell me your thoughts. What IF you had a system established on rewarding achievements by rewarding pay?

<------------  I love this image. It illustrates my point exactly. Let's say that they've all received a boost. No one is making minimum wage in this example, illustrated by all boys standing on a box. The tall boy is enjoying the game and might catch a foul ball. The middle boy thinks it's a good game to watch and enjoys his view while the shorter boy can't see the game. He sees how much the other two are enjoying the game and is motivated by their perception of their individual success (seeing the game). He is motivated to work harder and goes out finding another box. The boxes equal hourly wage and the height of the children represents their potential/desire to succeed. In the left picture, the wages are the same (box height) and the taller boy is thinking "why should I work any harder, I'm getting paid the same and have a better view!" While the shorter boy might also think, "no matter how hard I work, this is the view I'll always have!" Certainly you can expect the quality of their work to differ but what's the motivation?

The picture on the right illustrates the effect of differing wages. Now, all workers have the same view. The shorter boy (harder working/better quality of work) is reaping the reward of his work. The taller boy who is performing to "minimum" standard now receives minimum wage and the others are being paid according to their performance level. Why don't we do this?

Well, business is business. If you pay someone more then the money has to come from somewhere and that's the shareholders. They certainly don't like missing money but at the end of the day it's the worker that suffers so how can we affect that change? BE the change! Perform to our best! Do our jobs with a smile knowing that everything you do affects everyone around you. If you mop the floor and you're too lazy to put out the 'wet floor' sign and someone slips it's going to be your fault! What YOU do affects everyone, everyday! When it comes to setting those wages though, businesses have to look at your "value". What are you bringing to the table that will enhance their business? How is paying you more going to make them more money? +Entrepreneur published an article called How to Set Salaries. While you may not own the business you can certainly arm yourself with the knowledge that other business-owners will judge you by.

My final position is not that minimum wage should be $15, but certainly raised to cut tax benefits that continue to empower people to NOT work whereby making it more lucrative to remain on government assistance than staying employed. For your situational awareness there's a website at ConvertUnits.com that will tell you roughly how much you would make based on an hourly wage. It's pretty eye-opening and I encourage you to check it out.

This handy chart tells you how many hours you need to work to afford a one bedroom apartment. Pretty amazing when you consider the "reality" of the above graphic and compare it to the graphic at left.

Ultimately I feel that this attitude of what I call "owe-er ship" stems from our establishment of childhood values. I've spoken with several parents who give their children money as an allowance but they don't do any chores. I've also spoken with parents who have practically "slave labor" for no allowance! I prefer to meet somewhere in the middle... Our 4 children make their beds, brush their teeth and hair, and put their clothes in the dirty hamper; these are their mandatory duties. While two of them are too young to understand value, and not just in the mathematical sense, of money they can still earn "points" towards rewards such as a movie date with my wife or I, sleep-overs, junk-food Fridays, or other rewards. Their points come from extra duties we assign them. Google has tons of chore charts and ideas for this but my input is that it MUST be visible! Put it somewhere the kids can see it and directly correlate how their behavior affects change.


#minimumwage #hourlyrights
When I ask if we influence or determine our children's futures, I'm adding the emphasis on "or". So the question is really, do we influence their futures whereby they can still choose, or do we determine their futures in which we play a leading role in deciding their careers, colleges, etc.?

I've always loved aviation. I can't remember a time when I was doing something, heard or saw an airplane, and didn't watch it in amazement. If I was born earlier, the Wright brothers and I would have been best buds. I say all of that because my mother is a nurse and I'm not a doctor. I'm an aircraft mechanic. Don't get me wrong, I love medicine and if I wasn't almost 40, I'd go for medical school. But, I'm not.... and like I said, I love aircraft. My mother never told me stories of flying, I've just always loved it. My grandfather on the other hand was also an aviation buff and told me lots of his WW2 stories; about his time in the Navy and Guadalcanal, growing up on a farm in Arkansas during the depression and becoming a rocket scientist (You can thank him for the Apollo program), and how he always wanted to fly but never took the opportunity.

I'm sure that deep down in my brain he had a large influence on my love for aviation, but I want to share this with you.

If A=B and B=C then A=C, right? Okay, that seems simple enough.

This was me as a boy...

20 years later...

So.... Using the same logic; this is my son this Christmas...



As our children grow, are we identifying their gifts and helping them develop them or are we deciding that 'it would be nice to have a doctor in the family' and push them to this-or-that academic endeavor instead? Our youngest daughter is a tiny-little thing and has already shown outstanding promise as a cheerleader. She weighs 10 lbs less than our youngest boy who could play for just about any football team he wanted to. So, do we, as parents, foster these gifts and nurture them? What about reality? What about the fact that less than 1% of high school baseball hopefuls "go pro" when they grow up? The football jocks? Only 1.7% of college players are playing after graduation. Those facts are from +Business Insider and a 2011 +NCAA article on the same. So how about setting them up for success?

My "cheerleader" daughter? She's equally gifted for gymnastics... I was talking to another "dad" friend and had asked him if he knew of any good gymnastic gyms in the area that would prepare them for college, potentially earn her a scholarship, etc. He brought up a good point. He said that "if I saved the money every month (or invested that) I would normally pay to a gym, I'd probably be able to pay for college anyway!" So, if I paid $60 a month to a gym for my daughter to hopefully get a scholarship to a college I'd pay $7,200 over the next 10 years in membership alone, not to mention uniforms, competitions, and God knows what else! Not a bad gig but not cheap either!

So, do we influence our children's futures by identifying their gifts and allow them to develop within them or do we look at our "cheerleader" daughters and push them to be neuro-surgeons and make them work on academic programs? 

Obviously I'm not the first to think it, especially after my 5-year old asked his mother, "Aren't we supposed to do Thanksgiving before Christmas?" An article posted from a Houston, Texas, newspaper, The Observer, said that "Thanksgiving is that kid that no one wants to play with on the playground." Another blogger, Robert Loftus, posted on +Ask A Great Dad that his favorite holiday is Thanksgiving but "as soon as Halloween was over, the American public was forced to focus on Christmas, and not the religious aspect, unless your religion is consumerism." Again, a true statement...

So, whatever happened to Thanksgiving? Typically it's been a Holiday of excess (mostly food) when most people develop their annual aversion to turkey after consuming it for at least one week in a variety of leftovers. Thankfully (no pun intended), +Allrecipes has an array of recipes that should keep your lunch pails diverse enough to subdue your aversions... until next Thanksgiving at least. Another, more unfortunate tradition, and obviously not nearly as intentional, are motor accidents.

The +National Safety Council anticipates/predicts 418 auto fatalities this season; the second highest since 2007. The study, presented Nov 6, 2014, can be found here. Aside from statistics and depressing numbers, I echo the sentiments of my peers...


Well, first a brief history lesson... According to +HISTORY, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated after the Pilgrims' first successful corn harvest (coincidentally in November); thanks largely in part to the Wampanoag tribe. This 50-year relationship also "marked the sole example of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans." Don't believe me? Read it for yourself! It wasn't until 1863, "in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November." So there you have it, 'how it all began'.

Unfortunately, like our friend Robert Loftus said, it would appear that our beloved Holiday has been reduced to commercialism and Christmas anticipation. So how can we bring back the feeling of "thankfulness" and gratitude? After all, shouldn't we celebrate the memory of our ancestors who had the guts to get on a ship, sail across an unknown ocean (to them at least), and open their minds to the spirit of exploration? The accompanying vessel, The Speedwell, sprung a leak and was forced to turn back. At first appearance, it would seem that they had the brunt of the luck since Pilgrims aboard The Mayflower faced a harsh winter and disease which killed-off more than half of them before seeing their first New England Spring.

Nowadays we're faced with Black Friday ads, "Door-busting deals" and commercials that resemble more of a Nation of consumers than grateful descendants. But why not? We invented the wheel!! Well, practically... Like it or not your neighbor's Christmas lights are up, your kids are already telling you what they want for Christmas (as opposed to hoping Santa brings them that new bicycle they wanted all year) and then providing constant updates to this request every 10-15 minutes as new commercials pop-up on our televisions. So what's wrong with commerce? Nothing, I say. Commercialism? It's what makes our world go 'round doesn't it? The buying and selling of goods and services providing income for our families, right?

Well, I won't be a neigh-sayer since I particularly enjoy all the "deals". To be honest, I'm the guy walking around the store slowly, clogging up the aisle with my empty cart, who has no intention of buying anything. Yes, I get my kicks from frustrating everyone else. I think I'll enjoy it more this year than any other. Mostly because all of those "great deals" that people are camping-out or waiting patiently by the door for can be found online, with free shipping, and guaranteed in-stock. Don't believe me? Check out the most recent ad from +Best Buy and see for yourself. This is only one example but believe me, +Amazon.com has some great deals going on, too! Go on, shop 'till you drop, and feel free to go around me; I'm just browsing.

But don't let all that commercialism get you down. Just don't forget how you got here. Unless you're of  Native American descent (of which less than 2% reported on the most recent +United States Census Bureau) the majority of us got here on a boat, somehow, within the past 400 years. Thanksgiving isn't the only holiday that's being re-labeled as a "sale" though. Veteran's Day saw record commercialism, i.e. advertising as well as consuming. In a 2008 article from BusinessPundit.com, the Fourth of July has turned into fireworks and Bar-B-Ques, shaking your grandfather's hand and saying 'thanks for your service' while the other 364 days of the year find us squabbling over our "rights" and "freedoms" that we, as Americans, believe we have an inherent 'right' to simply for being born here; just don't forget how we got those freedoms on those other 364 days and try celebrating the opportunity we have to even HAVE differing opinions. Celebrate the views of others and agree to disagree, for lack of a better word...

Ultimately it's up to you....Celebrate Thanksgiving how you want. I'm going to politely ask though, that you turn down your Christmas lights for another 24 hours, please. So where did Thanksgiving go? I live it everyday. I'm thankful for waking up today, for making it to the end of the day 'happy, healthy, and safe', and for being home with my family. In the words of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."

#thanksgiving #BlackFriday #Pilgrims
Before I get too far into this I had to share this...+The Holderness Family . really outdid themselves with this one.

So it's back to school time and for us, a homeschooling family of four, that can be very different... but not this year! We decided to put all four of our children in school which has turned out to be quite a blessing. The oldest was accepted to a Baccalaureate-prep school while the three younger were accepted to a Charter school nearby. Yea, us! Then there are the typical fears that go along with public schools that we've already seen in the news; how do you avoid that?

The most prevalent fears from students though is bullying, in all forms, whether it be because you don't have the newest Pokemon cards or you just dressed funny. I posted two separate articles on the subject back in August of 2013 and again in September of 2013. I encourage you to check them both out as they have some excellent resources. I think it's safe to say "If you see something, say something!" Often times people, not just children, feel powerless about something that's going on because they don't believe they can stop it. Someone can! But you have to say something first. There's a huge anti-terrorism campaign run by the +U.S. Department of Homeland Security that revolves around this slogan as well. I would encourage anyone to use it when they see something happening. 

Parents may wonder "what to do while the kids are in school?+Circle of Moms answered this question recently. The most popular answer was, "ME time", and I can't blame you. The next most popular answer was "volunteering at their child's school" which is practically going to be my wife's second job! The charter school our younger three attend requires 20 hours of volunteer service PER child PER year. That's not really colossal when you say "60 hours a year", but remember that a school year isn't that long and most part-time jobs are 40 hours a week, to put it in perspective. It looks like public school will keep us busier than homeschooling! But isn't that the fun part?

Finally, the first time-ers... you know who you are! The one in the drop-off line that is crying, holding and hugging, and keeping the rest of traffic backed up almost a mile down the road because you just now realized that your child is going to be gone for 8 hours of your day for the first time in their lives and it just occurred to you! Our youngest started Kindergarten this year and I didn't get to drop him off, mom did. But I shared that moment through pictures and Google+ posts and honestly, probably got the better end of it. I wasn't chasing children around, brushing hair, etc. I got to enjoy the moment through photos. But... mom walked them to school and saw them off so she could sob on the way home. Thoughtful mom... They all did great though!

I just wanted to share this video with you and maybe add some advice to your already hectic day and hopefully you can encourage or support someone you know with the tips found here. Be safe out there!

#Pokemon #Back2School #SeeSomethingSaySomething 
Make sure to like/follow my page for an upcoming series of topics which will include:

  • Spirituality/Faith
    • Discovering, defending, and exercising your faith.
      • Why I am/am not a Christian?
      • What are your commitments?
    • Tithing
    • Worship
  • Finances
    • How do we teach our children to develop good money-habits?
    • How to teach our younger, non-bank-account-holding-age children to practice good spending habits.
  • Friendships/Relationships
    • What are they?
    • What is a "healthy" relationship?
    • Why are relationships important?
Spirituality and Faith are the first of topics I will cover and briefly, without regard to specific religion, discuss some of the factors within society that draw people to a faith. We will also talk about the importance of some of the challenges of various faiths and overcoming those constraints.
Secondly, we'll talk about finances and how we can teach our children to develop good money-habits. We'll also look at ways we can teach our younger children (non-bank account holding age) how to save and "grow" money. We'll use a lot of +Dave Ramsey references here and specifically +Financial Peace University to examine this topic.

Finally we'll look intensely at relationships from the child's perspective and understand why it is so important to develop healthy relationships. We'll also define a healthy relationship wherein you may discover that your own relationship could use some examining, too. 

I hope you'll "like" my page and "follow me" from here as we investigate some of these topics as they are "Taboo" to a lot of people, and maybe you're unsure on how to approach these topics in children.
I've made some pretty amazing wood working projects in my day, but this guy is amazing. He's made a couple of things but this one takes the cake. The first project I saw from him was his pneumatic Tooth Fairy transportation system on +Make:  This time he decided to one-up his dad-man-ship to making a complete Mission Control station.... what a jerk!------------------------------------->

While I don't advocate "one-up-manship" I will have to meet this challenge. I loved this so much I had to share it. Then again, his mission control doesn't compare to the REAL one. Realism, HA!

The Fourth of July is for celebration! A time to remember the sacrifice and bravery of our fore-fathers, as well as the commitment of our service-men and women of today. In commemoration of this event my daughter has crafted a lovely piece for those of us sophisticated enough to sport such fineries...

If you like it (it's a bowtie) then please feel free to visit her website at www.abouttheneck.com and browse around. This one is found here.....

For those who may be un-educated I offer the following from +USA.gov, some facts and history of America's Favorite Holiday. In remembrance and observance of this joyous holiday we must remember some important safety facts.

1. Stay Hydrated!

If you're anything like me, you like to enjoy holidays with as much pomp and circumstance as the situation can afford! For me and mine, this means the great outdoors. If you're fortunate to be able to enjoy some outdoor fun this weekend, remember to watch out for one another, and yourself. Even if you plan on partaking in adult-beverages, we must remember how important water is to our body!

The +Mayo Clinic lists the symptoms and treatment of dehydration and I provide for your viewing pleasure the "How Dehydrated Am I?" urine chart...

The Family Health Freedom Network recently ran an article on a woman from the UK who decided to challenge herself by moderating her intake to a healthy dose and just check out what happened!

2. Car Safety

+USA TODAY boasts that "road travel will be up" this Fourth of July so follow this simple list to make traveling easier, especially with family:
- Plan ahead; no amount of preparation is wasted when your family's safety relies on it. Kick the tires, pack the night before, fill up at the pump before you get on the road, and anything else that can wait for tomorrow but doesn't have to.
- Pack like it's going to be YOU in the back seat; +MomsMinivan is a great resource for things for your children to do/occupy themselves with while stranded two rows back. Being that we just purchased a fancy, new Honda Odyssey from +Brandon Honda, we're quite savvy to these tips ourselves.
- Check the traffic and weather; you're going out in it, you might want to check on it! Ever walk out the front door straight into a rain storm? Same effect, open a window and make an educated decision on your traveling environment.

Road safety isn't the only thing you should worry about. For some reason there seems to be a rash of incidents involving child deaths in vehicles lately.

Don't think that a quick trip into the convenience store is an excuse to leave your kids in the car! The Department of Earth and Climate Sciences at San Francisco State University have compiled an extensive list of resources to include the number of deaths as well as resources to avoid this untimely circumstance.

3. Grilling Safety

Finally, grill safety tops my personal list of safety reminders. It's a common point of contention among men as to whether propane grilling is an "acceptable" method or not. Most men prefer the charcoal grill and even more prefer to drag their fresh kill, flesh and all, to the nearest hole in the ground and char it... well, cavemen do anyway. The +National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has some tips for those of us lucky enough to enjoy the sunny weather and urges everyone to pay particular attention to the dangers of propane grilling. And since I know that everyone loves shiny pictures... here's a nice one about not giving your family food poisoning...

#4thofJuly #FourthofJuly #outdoorgrilling #grillingsafety
So, after several hours my auto-save function proved worthless. In my attempt to re-write the post I submit the following, which is really a super-edited version of my original:

Why We Home-school

1) No one can keep my kids safer than I can.

     +ABC15 Arizona ran an article using +Google Maps to illustrate the 120 attempted assaults thwarted in
the past 10 years. When you cross-reference that with a list of completed assaults then you may realize that you can protect your children better than anyone else. While I recognize that +Wikipedia isn't a "source", the list of references at the bottom of the list, are.

     I know that the chance of someone walking into my kid's elementary school with a gun is slim-to-none, but what isn't reported in either one of these metrics is bullying. When my daughter was in kindergarten, she was poked in her private parts by the kid next to her. While this may seem exploratory in nature and not necessarily an intentional act of violence, it was not an act of "learning". He didn't do it because he was curious and he didn't cause harm, but it wasn't a science experiment either.

2) I'm smarter than they are.
     Parents often wonder if they're smart enough to educate their child. While a typical response may be, "yes, I graduated high school", it's not the most appropriate. Florida has the lowest High School graduation rate in the nation, fortunately, I wasn't educated in Florida.

     How smart do you really have to be? That's not to encourage some parents, because I've met families that home-school that should go back to school themselves. My point is that education standards aren't getting any better. My 10-year old recently tested at a 12th grade level for reading. While I enjoy hearing her read, I shudder to think that most 12th graders can't read that well.

     We need to continue to challenge our children to excel in all areas of education. We constantly compare ourselves to China in the world market but in education fall far behind.

     As a homeschooling family I can make my curriculum whatever I want it to be as long as it meets the minimum requirements set forth for that grade. Some public school parents might argue that their son/daughter is in +AHS National Honors Society and that's great! That's certainly an achievement, especially with all the social distractions going on like +Bullying Awareness and extra-curricular activities but, is your son/daughter prepared for the future? In a post by "ologsinquito", "according to data released by ACT... 75% of incoming freshmen do not meet the criteria to succeed in four key areas - English, math, reading, and science." You would think with all the homework and studying that these honor society students have accomplished that they'd be prepared!

     A lot of parents are "afraid" to start into homeschooling. Some of them are worried that they won't receive enough socialization, others that they won't get "enough" education, and to those I say, "check out my giant picture!

3) We can do better!

     This whole experience stemmed from a post I made on my G+ from +IFL science about the UK removing creationism from it's publicly funded schools. This brought on over 220 posts in less than 24 hours. The POINT of my post was that removing creationism and still teaching evolution was, in my opinion, wrong. When you teach only ONE opinion, without a balancing counterpoint, then you support it as law. There are very few "laws" in the world. Math is composed of laws such as 2+2=4. Science has some laws, +LiveScience posts their Definition of Scientific Law.

     While it may be obvious that I support creation, that is not the intent to my opposition. I believe in many theories of evolution and teach them as well. Ultimately, on this topic, there is no definitive "answer" because scientists are still searching for it. The POINT is that I believe we should be teaching our children to think outside the box, find answers for themselves, and be open to all manner of thinking! If Ray Crock hadn't thought outside the box, you wouldn't have +McDonald's. If we limit our child's thinking process then they'll have a harder time breaking free of those limitations to challenge themselves and those around them.


     We love our children, the freedoms we partake in, the opportunities to share with others and learn from people and things around us. Homeschooling isn't for everyone, but as a military family it offers more freedoms to engage in the world around us. We're active in one of the many homeschool groups around us and my wife has a degree in Education. If you're afraid of starting out yourself, just ask! Homeschooling families range anywhere on a spectrum from crazy-to-brilliant and are more than willing to share their opinions on curriculum, involvement, and the basic day to day operation of a home AND school.

     By homeschooling we have:
- Reduced the number of physical and sexual assault to ZERO (no more bullying, no more getting poked with pencils)
- Eliminated physical AND gun violence in school (I'm the soldier, I have the guns)
- Increased educational potential by over 300% (as quantified by their testing scores)
- Significantly decreased the amount of "tardy-s" and "absences" by almost 99% (some days we just get up when we want)
- Socially engaged MORE with sports programs and peers (after school programs are crowded and the same places offer day-time classes)

     Like I've said, this is a list of WHY we home-school. My wife would be the one to talk to about the BENEFITS of homeschooling. I can tell you from experience, it's not a waste of time... investing in your children never is. And if you don't believe that homeschoolers ever do anything with their lives, here's a list of famous people that didn't seek traditional education. Not too bad for a bunch of "un-socialized weirdos", eh?

#militaryhomeschool #homeschool

It happens all the time; we say something and don’t understand or realize the severity of the words coming out of our mouths. I’m not just talking about an “ugly comment” or one of the many times during our day when we berate a peer or the guy that cut us off… I’m talking about the things we read, the oaths we take, and even the promises we break.

Last night during our regular Lodge meeting, we initiated three brothers into Freemasonry. During the ceremony candidates are required to take an oath belonging to the degree, before God and man, and without revealing too much, we are simply stating that we won’t reveal any of the secrets of Freemasonry, in ANY form, to anyone that is not “worthy”; also known as a fellow Mason. But how often do Masons reflect on those words, especially the oaths of any of the other two degrees of Freemasonry? They aren’t just words to repeat at an altar, they’re essential to maintaining the framework of our Fraternity as well as the system of morality which we exemplify.

How often do we pray and “go through the motions” and not sincerely reflect on the words we are saying? Take “The Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 where Jesus instructed us how we should pray, essentially providing a framework for our devotion. Do we really understand the words we are saying? Do we really want God’s kingdom to come right now? Do we really want God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in Heaven?” There are several sermons on the subject that provide much needed insight into each stanza that show us how intense the words really are.

In either case, the oaths, promises, and obligations we speak or say privately aren’t just words or we should simply refer to them as such. Rather, we often times repeat these things frivolously and without an ounce of sincerity leaving us open to accusation for failing to meet the standards of these requests or obligations. For example, as a Mason I am obligated to “help, aid, and assist all poor or distressed Brother Masons” as much as possible “without causing material injury to myself”. But how many times have Brothers called on us for help and we’ve made up an excuse for our own comfort? How many times has the church reached out to us to help out in the nursery one Sunday but we didn’t want to because we didn’t want to spend a Sunday morning changing a diaper or coloring a picture with a child?

The point is, if they are simply words to regurgitate for the sake of “checking a box” or appeasing someone around us then save your breath. If you have no intention of keeping your promise then don’t bother uttering the words. Our children are the greatest victims of our broken promises. They live day after day with broken promises, and not the “I promise I’ll make your baseball game” but simple “yes, we’ll do X, Y, or Z today”. I’m the worst at it and play the “wording game” where I change “we’ll do” to “we’ll try to do” something. I may have no intention of complying with or fulfilling the request but I just want them to stop asking! Well, that’s wrong.

Children, being the greatest victim of all scenarios since they are unable or incapable of controlling the events surrounding them, live a simple life of learning. They learn from our interactions with one another, our spouses, their siblings, and especially media. If we, as parents, are in control of these influences (or we should be) then we should make an extra effort to ensure that we are modeling upright and worthy behaviors. I think it’s a general consensus that we don’t want our 10-year old daughters modeling Miley Cyrus’ behavior so why would we allow them to listen to her music? Why would we not moderate their media input and do our best to regulate social influence? I’m not saying we, as parents, should lord over them on the playground because valuable lessons are learned from making mistakes. However, if we let our children “go over to Timmy’s house” and we know his parents smoke, for example, what are the chances of our children asking us if it’s wrong before they try it on some playground out of our sight or on a walk home from school? Sure, we should discuss habits like this and perhaps even condemn them (if that’s your opinion) but at least moderate their social influence by heading off these potential bad habits before they begin. Here’s a good personal example; at our Lodge we meet about an hour or so before and enjoy cigars together. At home, I do my best to wait until after the kids have gone to bed and my wife and I will retire to the porch to chat where I’ll no doubt indulge in a cigar myself. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion a child has wondered out of bed to “ask Mommy a question” and “caught” me smoking; a habit we have explicitly described to our children as “bad” that has numerous health risks. Now, cigars and cigarettes are two different demons but they both have negative health risks associated with them, that’s obvious, but I’m an adult and can assess and accept my own risks. Children are not that enabled. At any rate, on one of the many “out of bed” incidents, our 5-year old son has observed me partaking in such activities and one day announced that he “can’t wait to smoke”. Uh oh, someone’s in trouble…. Caught in a unique situation of operating against the standard of “smoking is bad” I was forced to inform my son that cigar smoking was “ok” and the only excuse I could come up with (because, let’s be honest, it’s just an excuse) “when you’re a Master Mason you can smoke cigars at Lodge.” Well, he was happy to comply with that and now he can’t wait to be a Mason. Win one for Freemasonry, strike one for parenting.

Throughout my children’s lives I will be the male-example or “role-model” for their behaviors. My promises and obligations must be met with sincerity and if I consistently act contrary to the rules I outline for them, how successful do you think I’m going to be? We see it in social classes as well and dismiss our racism for “that’s so typical of them” comments. The point is it happens every day and we’re the worst kind of criminal for committing the crimes… the crime of broken promises and dismissed obligations. Matthew 5:33-34, and 37 tells us “…don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true…. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

#promise #brokenheart
It was 1987, I was 9 years old, and after a trip to see the +St. Louis Cardinals beat on the +Los Angeles Dodgers I was hooked on baseball. I did whatever it took to make a few bucks; I mowed yards, did chores, put out hits on neighborhood kids (maybe not "hits" but definitely made fun of) all so I could spend that hard earned cash on baseball cards. Back then the deck to collect was Topps and it was a cool .50 for a pack including a piece of gum. I would mow the yard for $5 a month, fold laundry, dust, vacuum, and keep my room up for $2 a week, and if I went to my grandmother's house I'd get $5 to spend on whatever I wanted to keep me busy. For those "not so quick at math" that's roughly $13 a month. Of course, some chores would get skipped, yards wouldn't get mowed so.... now we're talking around $8-10 a month. At any rate, I spent that money on candy and baseball cards. Not a huge deal at 9 years old. The holy grail of collectibles at that time was the Topps 1987 card #170... Bo Jackson.

Believe it or not, I spent an entire summer buying pack after pack trying to get that card and not until Christmas, when my parents bought me an entire box, did I finally get one. Think about it for a minute, in 1987 I was spending .50 per pack looking for one card!

I was in +Target the other day and looked over at the loot in the checkout aisle; you know, the stuff they put next to the gum that makes your kids drive you nuts with the "I wants"... For giggles I pulled out a pack of Topps baseball cards and quickly dropped them. $2!!! Who the heck?! What just happened? It was a fun .50 hobby! $2!!! I purchased my remaining necessities and pondered exactly how much does a childhood cost? Not only did I collect baseball cards but my brother and I found comic books (which aren't .75 anymore), comic book cards, posters, etc. Even with a "comparable" allowance my kids could never afford hobbies!

According to Westegg.com's handy little inflation calculator the same .50 pack of cards should only cost $1.01 today. So what's the deal?! A quick look at +Marvel Entertainment showed that the .75 comic I bought in 1987 now costs $3.99. Using the inflation calculator it should only be $1.51. So how much DOES a childhood cost?

I was an only child, as was my wife, so before we got married we discussed how many children we wanted. Side note... being an only child definitely presents a false sense of adequacy (we were totally not ready for 4 kids) but we're happy with our decision. Anywhoo... Let's just say that we have one kid that wants to collect baseball cards, another that wants to buy Lalaloopsy books, another likes stickers, and the last likes to draw on the walls... We'll keep it cheap and reasonable (I don't want to give anyone any false pretenses). Remember also, that this doesn't include the "necessary" extra-curricular activities which include memberships and associated costs. I, literally, need to sell a vital organ per month to keep up with it!

I'll ask again, how much DOES a childhood cost? Of course our children are all involved in activities and they truly do not have any "wants" but I don't have enough grass in my yard for anyone to cut to earn enough money to buy more than one pack of baseball cards per month! Let him push the mower around the neighborhood? Sure, that sounds safe (if you've followed my posts before then you know this is sarcasm). I'm not worried about him chopping a toe off, I'm worried about something happening to him, period! And the girls? Well, I should have the cleanest, most spot-free home in the world if they were to polish door knobs and sweep floors however, there's not enough surface area in our home to keep clean to warrant earning more than $5 per month, per child!

This isn't a "child-hood bashing" contest, it just occurred to me, that's all. For all of us parents out there that had happy childhoods, pass it on! I've got to rush-off and make another organ donation, my son just found model rockets...

#chores #childhood #mowinggrass #BoJackson #SummerJobs
+Military Spouse ran an editorial called Skinny Spouse Confessions in which the anonymous author talked about her struggle with weight gain and how she constantly gets comments like "gosh, you are so skinny, you could use a cheeseburger." While this is a topic that pales in comparison to its opponent, weight loss, it is still a real thing. Yes, skinny people need love, too!

Anonymous talked about how she "could fit into her prom dress" at 31 years old and even went to GNC and purchased weight gainers, which went right through her. At any rate, weight gain is a real struggle for some. I entered the Air Force at 158 pounds and left basic training 6 weeks later at 163 pounds. I was ecstatic because at 6-foot 3-inches I, too, was "made fun of" for my disproportions. I struggled with weight gain for the next six years and spent hundreds of dollars on weight products and countless hours at the gym. I finally made it to 180 pounds before meeting my wife. Now at a sturdy 220 no one bothers me and I offer to eat their cheeseburgers.

Back to the point... The topic of this post is unique in that it refers vaguely to the intent of this topic. If a man buys a +Chevrolet Corvette, something he's been saving and searching for his whole life, what does he do if, after a few years of driving and caring for, it begins to fall apart. All of the constant upkeep, gasoline expenses, tweeks and twerks it takes to keep happy and running... HE BUYS A NEW ONE!

So what do you think I should do if my wife of, let's say 10 years, slowly but efficiently balloons to almost twice her size? We can't go out like we used to, we can't enjoy activities like we did when we were dating, I'm constantly consoling her while she bemoans about the latest barrage of insults, I don't understand?!! I bought a Corvette and now I have a Pinto!

Now let's relate that to ourselves with some specific examples:
Q: He/She isn't the same size 
A: Well, let's be realistic. For her, children do have an impact on a woman's physique. After having four  children though, my wife is still smokin' hot. This is more about the folks with one kid who say it's "baby-weight". Seriously?! The problem begins with "why isn't my spouse attracted to me anymore?" I quickly answer that with "Are you the same size you were when you met?" Remember that men are not only attracted, but stimulated visually. If you've packed on a few pounds for winter, that's one thing. But if you are still eating for two and your child is about to graduate high school... come on, we need to address habits not husbands. Men, your wives didn't marry a Calvin Klein model (obviously) but starting out looking like Brad Pitt and winding up looking like Chris Farley, then she has every right to cry "foul". I mean, the years may get to you and Ted Bundy is "ok" but there's no reason you should turn into a special episode of +The Biggest Loser either. Have some pride! Bottom line here is that if you don't appreciate one-another, someone else will! Financial issues being the number one complaint/reason for divorces, number 2 is all about looks.

A divorce attorney from Marietta, Georgia, lists the top 10 reasons marriages end in divorce. While it isn't an iron-clad statement to say "because you've changed", it is easy to look at the list and say that "#5: Expectations" and "#6: Fulfilling one another's needs" definitely feels the blow in this category. A few questions I hear regularly are:

Q: What should I do to get my spouse's attention again?
A: Going back to the car reference for a minute, no one wants to pull their dream-car into the garage every few weeks only to have it pulled out and dented up again, just to repeat the process. This is exactly what happens every time you break a promise; "I'm going to lose weight... starting Monday", or "I will make a better effort to..." If that sounds like you then you should invest in a balloon company with all that hot air! It's not going to happen over night, but neither did your current condition.

Q: What is the hardest thing I/We will have to do to get our relationship back the way it was?
A: This is a double-edged sword and I begin with "Do you really want it the way it was or do you want to move forward from here?" When my wife and I got married it was awesome; no kids (immediately), tons of money, all the free time in the world, and nothing but one another to focus on. Over the past 12 years I've grown accustomed to the way it is now; sharing my time and life experiences, enjoying our little-bit of time with one another (it makes you appreciate the quiet moments), etc. So, you have to ask yourself, is the way it was the way you want it? Secondly, if you have to ask this question, you're probably not willing to go through with it. If you have to ask "what's the worst that can happen" then you're probably not prepared or equipped to handle it. On the other hand, if you just DO IT and meet the challenges head-on with the resolve to see them through to success, then you're good. You can accomplish anything! Diets, weight gain, weight loss, "cheat days", anything.

Q: How should I begin? Professional coach? Personal trainer?
A: Get one of the free video programs from the library and start at the beginning. It doesn't make any sense to go join a gym when you're not going to be using any of the equipment there. Go for walks, jogs, and build up to runs together. Ride bikes if you want, just do something! Once you feel like you're not being challenged then checkout programs like +CrossFit® or join a running club in your area and meet people.

What we've talked about here is one woman's story and her difficulty with weight gain and turned that into a discussion and resolution bank on overweight spouses, both male and female. I'm sure you've heard of a "dependapotamous" before. Briefly, it's a spouse that embarrasses you in public. There aren't enough people on the planet with inherited hyper thyroid-ism or those that didn't induce it themselves by their poor diet and personal habits. Better yet, we all see on a daily basis the uniformed service-member busting the buttons off of their uniform or the lady in yoga pants and gym clothes that has no intention of going anywhere near a gym. Have some respect for yourself and go get the person you think you lost and discover the spouse you've been missing.

#MilSpouse #underweight #GNC #dependapotamous #neverquit #crossfit #militaryspouse
I can't imagine NOT wearing it! I've left the house without my watch on but this just felt too weird... You know the feeling, kinda nude, not exactly "right", like you showed up to school without any pants on. It's like a part of you is missing, because it is. You forgot to buckle up! On second thought, more people will "lose their minds" if they leave their phones at home (forget a watch) but fewer will buckle up.

You know you're "supposed to" but it'll wrinkle your new blouse, right? You know it'll save your life but the buckle hurts your hip; maybe another time. You have to get home because you work in the morning but you're so tired... no, you can make it, you think.

I could make pages of excuses about people who validated their behavior but that page would be shorter than their "results" page; the obituaries.  Today, according to +10 News said that a family of six was coming back from Orlando after a day of outlet shopping when, shortly after midnight, all but one, the only one in a restraint, were killed or taken by life-flight to a nearby ER. No one was wearing a seat belt and no one was in a proper booster seat except for the infant who survived. The 7 and 2 year old were airlifted and listed in critical condition.

Ever work late and just have to get home? I know the feeling; 12 hour day working in the blistering sun, 30 minute lunch, and now you have to fight everyone else to get out the gate and catch rush hour traffic home. Or maybe you swapped shifts with someone who had to take emergency leave and now you're "feeling the burn". Trust me, there aren't enough +Monster Energy drinks in the world to make it 30 minutes down the road. +MythBusters did a segment on drowsy vs drunk driving and "confirmed" it... they're the same!

The problem is that your decisions have much farther-reaching consequences than just your ultimate end. What about the truck driver that drug the family 400 feet in the news story above? What about the numerous fatal head-on and single car crashes that involve drowsy drivers? If you're unfortunate enough to require EMT or Ambulatory services at your auto accident, do you think it's fair that they have to live the rest of their days envisioning the gruesome aftermath of your ignorance?

Pay attention closely....

Take care of the gifts you've been given and buckle them up... rest your eyes... take a moment and appreciate it before it's gone. If you do not have, or are unable to afford, adequate child safety restraints then check out some of the resources on +Examiner.com at this link. Not sure how to install one? Visit your local Fire Department and ask for some help. Yes, they still do that. Finally, I know of a lot more people that got hurt because they "didn't know" and didn't ask than I do that "knew" and overcame their pride enough to ask the questions.

#polkcounty #tampa #dadecity #drowsydriver #seatbeltssavelives
+Jules Yap runs a blog called IKEAHackers.net and posted a Valentine's Day graphic from +Happify packed with research data from various, reliable, sources. While this minuscule graphic runs practically the length of this post, I would encourage you to view it in it's entirety on their site. The article is titled The Science Behind a Happy Relationship. While a few things may seem like common knowledge there are a few things I wanted to point out and expand on.

First and foremost, communication is the foundation to a happy marriage. As you can see in the graphic, "happy couples spend 5 more hours a week being together and talking." The obvious point is that if you can't stand each others company then you're destined to separate permanently, eventually. Another form of communication is praise. As the graphic depicts, How Do You Respond to Triumphs shows how being a "cheerleader" for your mate bolsters relationships by providing positive feedback for one another's accomplishments. My wife, the stay-at-home-mom to our four children, is more my "cheerleader" than she is her own "do-er". This is purely an occupation-based role since my military duties have included stops in Venice, Italy, London, England, and various other vacation spots, all while en-route to whatever "hole" I was going to be sitting in for the next six months. While she is "happy" for me and the opportunities I take full advantage of as they come, she is also resentful that she doesn't get to enjoy these more pleasant moments of my military career with me. Naturally, the six months of dust and sand isn't made-up for in the 48 hours we're held over somewhere but, going to a vacation destination on the government's-dime is surely harder to celebrate when she's the one stuck at home with a week's worth of pouring rain, cranky kids while her husband is trotting the globe. Even still, it is important that we celebrate and applaud one-another's successes as they were our own. After all, we're married and where I go, she goes, even if only in my heart.

Under the Marriage and Your Happiness title a 20-year British study revealed that the people happiest in their marriages were child-less, college-degree holding, newlyweds (being married for less than 5 years), with the male as the sole-source of income. The way I read this is that 20-something year old, recent college grads, that are still in the "honeymoon phase" of their marriage and don't have any responsibilities are the happiest.... because? This data revealed how shallow we are raising our children. It speaks volumes when cross-referenced with the divorce rates in America and reveals nearly the same data with few exceptions; newborn children, a spouse fired from a job, or simply unhappy with their financial status. None of which change without significant self-improvement, not divorce.

Finally, the information in How Do Kids Impact a Couples Happiness also gives some credence to the largest factor in late-marriage divorce. Immediately following the birth of baby #1, 67% of couples experienced a "big drop in marital satisfaction." This is typically due to the "post-card" image couples have when their first child is born. This dissatisfaction is greatly reduced if they decide to have more children. When the first child is born there is a large adjustment in schedules; sleep, activities, hobbies, and life in general. The mother may experience hormonal and emotional upheaval that is typical with most-all new mothers. Fathers go through a similar emotional roller coaster because of the sudden realization of responsibility now thrust upon them, coupled with the sexual frustration that he may feel more than she (for about the next six months), among other things. Sorry, it happens. These symptoms can be diminished with proper prenatal counseling and sufficient preparation. Keep in mind that there are two things you're never REALLY prepared for; marriage and children. No matter how much you save before you get married or establish yourself in a career, no amount of preparation will ever suffice for marriage or children. In late-marriage divorces, one of the largest contributors is more commonly referred to as "empty-nest" syndrome. It occurs when the married couple takes on their child's activities and forgets they have a life themselves. All the years of driving to soccer games, making Billy's football practice, getting Sarah to gymnastics, and whatever else, takes the place of our own hobbies and interests. As much as most parents would admit they enjoy watching or participating in their child's this-and-that, the reality is that they are as much individuals as their children are. Once they grow up and leave the nest, the couple is left without an identity of their own and the countless years of doing for others and taking joy in someone else's success finally takes its toll. Let alone the lack of observance that each other may experience as one may not notice the other no longer even enjoys long walks or some other hobby they enjoyed together many years ago. Now left with an "empty nest" they are left to re-learn one another and the attitudes they have come to settle into now take over and become their "new persona" leaving nothing to be desired anymore. The answer? Divorce. Avoiding this is another topic in and of itself.

This pretty much summed up my opinion for this graphic and doesn't touch on the added stress of military life but focusing on communication, positive thought, and realistic goals for a marriage, are all encompassing when it comes to married life, on either side of the gate. (That's a Base Gate reference for any civilian readers)

#happify #marriedwithchildren #firstborn #happilymarried #emptynest
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