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The Unrealized Hope of the Millennial Generation

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I’m no spring chicken anymore. I mean, I’m not a youngster, but in the workplace, I have almost 25 years under my  belt. Those of us who have been working for that long have seen changes come and go in corporate America–mostly go–but few changes have seemed as optimistic as the promise of “A New Way of Life” as demanded by today’s up and coming Millennials.

What a disappointment that’s been.

I saw an article today on LinkedIn praising the work ethic of the millennial and the first thing that came to mind was, “Well that sort of flies in the face of their demands now doesn’t it?”

For the last few years we’ve heard all about how millennials won’t be slaves to the workplace like boomers and GenXers and how they will demand flexibility and a new breed of “benefits.”

I must confess, I’ve yet to see anything change. In fact, I’m working MORE hours now, for a slower rate of return on my earnings, than I have at any point in the last 25 years (minus my days in the military).

Maybe I’m working for the wrong companies. Truth be told, a healthy number of the “young” people who have started working where I work, spend less than a year there. So maybe I need to join the Clampetts in California and try and get work with some cool, socially conscious startup–if they’ll have me.

Or maybe it’s like the old saying about being a liberal until you get older…and millennials are finally starting to realize that nothing is free, not even that hybrid car they’re so fond of, nor are all of those hip restaurants tucked away in the corner of some cozy NY City alley.

I had high hopes for this up and coming generation and their Brave New World of flexibility and high income, but once again, it looks like success will come from good old plodding, boring, hard work.

Movie Review – “A Very Murray Christmas”

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About this time each year, or maybe a few weeks earlier, I start watching my old favorite Christmas movies; Christmas Vacation, The Ref, and A Christmas Story, to name a few. But, I’m always on the lookout for new ones, and I couldn’t help but notice the promos for Bill Murray’s new Christmas special – “A Very Murray Christmas.”

Now, who doesn’t like Bill Murray? Certainly not I, so when it came out on Netflix on Dec. 4th, I promptly pulled it up and started streaming.

Now I don’t mean for this to be a movie critique, but it kinda is so I’ll just lay it out there.

The movie starts out, seemingly, that Murray has been planning a huge NY Christmas special, only to be upstaged by a major winter storm that prevents pretty much everyone from coming. Left with a dark, empty stage, being televised to untold millions live, Murray tries to kick off the show, but just can’t pull together enough umph to make it work. And here’s but one of the places where you have to suspend your disbelief, or at the very least, try and overlook one of the HUGE plot holes–because apparently, the major network running his live show, has no issues with him just walking off the stage in a childish fit of “this sucks,” and then picking it back up again 20 minutes later. I guess we’re to believe they ran commercials for 20 minutes (it could happen).

In a fit of despair, Murray begins wandering around the hotel and finds Chris Rock and manages to coerce Rock to join him onstage, only to have the power go out and Rock disappear. One of Murray’s producers declares that this “act of God” nullifies the contract requirement for her to be there and she, and others, walk off the set and leave Murray and Co. alone in the dark in a random NY hotel.

So far, so-so good.

Thus begins a halfway decent tour of the hotel running into various B-list stars, some of whom have really decent singing voices, and the middle of the movie is at least interesting, if still a bit weird (These B-list actors aren’t playing themselves in the movie…or are they…one is never quite sure).

But then, Murray passes out and the rest of the movie is a Murray Fantasy(land) of fake snow, candy canes and…Mylie Cyrus in a skimpy Mrs. Clause outfit belting out Christmas carols while showing off her dozen or so arm and side-breast tatts.

I’ve nothing agains tatts, or even Mylie Cyrus for that matter, but was that really the best talent Murray could drum up for his Christmas special?

Needless to say, it was not Murray’s best  efforts, even if you look at it through the lens of “Well, Bill Murray is known for doing wacky things.”

I guess I’ll stick with with the classics next year.

When did charity get so expensive?

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I remember when I was growing up, that my parents had a “Christmas Club Account,” which they referenced around this time each year; usually in the context of being thankful they had it to help offset the costs of all the gift-getting.

I’ve always been pretty money-conscious, so I have my own Christmas account and though it always seems to burn up pretty quickly once I start shopping in earnest, there’s always a bit left that I try and use to help someone out during the holiday season.

You may be familiar with Clark Howard–the nationally known radio and television personality known for his frugality. He’s based here in Atlanta and each year he goes from Walmart to Walmart broadcasting on-air, to promote his “Clark’s Kids” holiday charity drive. It’s promoted as your typical “come choose a child to help this Christmas” toy drive.

I’ve tried to get over to the Walmart he’s broadcasting at for a couple of years now, but this year was the first time I’ve really been able to get there. So yesterday, I got the boys out of school early and we headed over to Walmart in hopes of teaching them a bit about “giving” and maybe help a couple of children have a better Christmas.

We arrived at Walmart and sure enough, there’s the local radio broadcast truck outside so at least I knew that we were at the right place at the right time. We headed in and just generally aimed for the balloons near the ceiling cuz, it’s Walmart and it’s pretty big. Arriving at the charity drive, we’re directed a long table filled with sheets of paper, each containing the details of a particular child: name, age, race, and then a list of three items he or she had selected for Christmas.

I encouraged my boys to each look through and select a sheet of someone they wanted to “help” and while they did that, I began to just peruse the sheets. As I did, I noticed a couple of things:

  • The lists were very similar. For instance a “VTech” game thing was a common theme. I asked if the kids were given a list of items to choose from and was told “Yes.”
  • There were some pricey items on the list. I saw a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, bicycles, and other large-ticket items

My own boys came back to me with their lists and on them I saw:

For the 4 year old my youngest son selected:

  • a double-sided whiteboard easel
  • a balance bicycle
  • a little-tykes basketball thing

For the 9 year old my oldest son selected:

  • a Simon game
  • electric scooter (and if you bought a scooter, you were supposed to also buy a helmet)
  • a basketball hoop you mount to your door inside

Let me say here that my expectation was to spend about $50 on each child,  so I asked one of the volunteers how “this” worked; did I just buy a couple of things on the list? She replied that the idea is for you to buy everything on the child’s list, but if you didn’t, it would go back in the pile in hopes someone else would finish it up. No guilt there right?

Now, I won’t bore you with the next 45 minutes we spent walking around, unsuccessfully trying to find the exact items on the list, many of which I was told Walmart didn’t even carry, or me looking at the price of an electric scooter and saying, “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. My own kids don’t have an electric scooter.” But we did end up getting (similar gifts since we could find an exact match for most things) all but the most expensive item on each child’s list (they didn’t have the balance bike) and it still came out to $145 total.

I’m happy to have been able to help of course, but the onsite expectation didn’t match the promoted expectation. And who thought this through? If a kid did get a smartphone from someone, who is going to pay for the cell phone plan? Is a balance bicycle really the best use of $60 when they’re likely going to outgrow it in a matter of months? I don’t know…it just felt a bit “thrown together” and I didn’t feel like I was really “helping” someone.

Being a charity run by the Clark Howard foundation, I’m more than a little surprised. For someone so bent on saving money and making every dollar count, this toy drive certainly didn’t live up to what I’ve come to expect from Clark.

Next year I’ll find someone, or an organization, a bit more “need” driven and a lot less “wish” driven.


Magic Elves – Season 5 Day 2

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Somewhere between Thanksgiving, and the next day, something magical happens each year in our home. Our “Magic Elves” appear. Santa sends them along on a magical slipstream of wind and snowflakes, to join our family for another season of merriment and mischief.

This is the fifth year.

The fifth.

That means we’ve had to come up with more than 100 clever and unique “things” for the elves to do each night. This is challenging, made moreso by the fact that, unlike the “Elf on the Shelf” our elves are completely soft, so they don’t stay in a pose. You can’t bend their arms and have them stay there. They can’t stand on their own. They literally are, like a sock.

But despite these challenges, we persevere. I’ll try and post some of this year’s exploits here for your enjoyment.

Here’s last night’s. As you can see, the elves created cutouts of minions and stuck their faces and appendages in them. Overall, it was cute, but I’m not sure the kids quite got what was going on here. All they saw was the minion toys and everyone drinking syrup. But hey, cross another one off the list. Only 23 more ideas to come up with.


Why I’m Fine Without Facebook

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Four months ago, I made a decision to delete my Facebook page. I went back and gave it a second chance a few weeks ago. I have permanently deleted it (again).

Here’s why:

Before Facebook, I knew that I was often irrational. That my feelings Facebook deletesometimes got the best of me and that I often said things that maybe people shouldn’t say to other people. But then I realized that my parents did it and my parents’ parents did it and we all turned out OK.

Before Facebook, I knew who my true friends (and family) were. I knew that I could pick up the phone and call a select few people and they would be there day or night. And my Friend list didn’t comprise 400 people, most of who have to rely on Facebook notifications to know when my birthday is.

Before Facebook, I knew that, as a father, I am flawed. I knew that I could be myopic about projects; often ignoring all else in order to finalize something I was working on that would benefit my family. But I also knew that I spent a lot of time with my kids and my wife. That most of my weekends I spend running back and forth from one sports game to another and when not doing that, often playing with my kids in the yard throwing balls, riding bikes, you know…family stuff. But I also knew that I hug my children–a lot. A lot more than I was hugged as a child. And I tell my kids how special they are and how much I love them. And I have to believe, that no matter how I might yell sometimes, my kids can’t help but know how much I love them–because I’ve shown them.

Before Facebook, I knew that 15 years of marriage can make things seem a little stale–that maybe it’s not quite as exciting as it is when you’re first dating. But I also knew that my marriage was strong. That what we have as a couple is the envy of millions of single adults. And maybe we don’t have date-night as often as we’d like, but it’s not because as a man, I don’t care about my wife–that’s just life. You make sacrifices and you live with it. Period.

Before Facebook, I knew that I had a mild case of body dismorphic disorder. Despite being more active and fit than the majority of men I know, I still felt as if I’m somehow not skinny enough, or strong enough, or active enough.

Before Facebook, I could enjoy a person’s company, unfiltered by knowing every proclivity and every opinion they’ve voiced. Their personal political views, or sexual orientation or the crazy things that went on in their heads that they kept to themself didn’t interject itself into our relationship. Who cared? We’re friends because we “jive” not because we agree.

Before Facebook, I could pretend that the people I thought cared about me, actually cared. I didn’t have to wonder why someone I grew up with never comments on my posts, or why they act like I don’t even exist online. If I called and got your vmail and you never called back…I knew to let it go.

Before Facebook, men were men and women were women. However ‘wrong’ society might feel our actions to be, the consequences were ours alone to endure. We didn’t have memes telling us that traditional gender roles are outdated and that we’re somehow wrong if we feel that men should still do these sorts of things and women should do these sorts of things. And before Facebook, if a couple didn’t adhere to gender roles…great…they’ll work it out between them and live a happy life.

And on that note, before Facebook, I knew that my wife worked hard. That her full-time job and the time she spends with the kids often goes unremarked upon. But then, the same could be said of me. I didn’t need a women’s group pointing out how much money I should spend ensuring my wife gets spa treatments or nights out with the girls, while ignoring the fact that I work 10 hour days (incl. commute), come home many nights and cook dinner or bathe kids (or go straight to the ball field) and still do all the many other things required to keep a house from falling down around us.

Before Facebook, no one was constantly pointing out every woman’s successes and demonizing the efforts of men. Sure, maybe there wasn’t absolute gender equality in every facet of life, but we were surely moving in that direction on our own and everyone was benefitting from it.

Before Facebook, I didn’t feel guilty not evangelizing my faith. I’d come to grips with that the fact that I’m more a “James the lesser,” than a John the Baptist and was fairly confident that my sincere belief in God would suffice to qualify me for a seat in heaven, rather than the works that I did here on earth trying to convince others that free will should be trumped by fear or guilt.

Before Facebook, if I didn’t want to purchase a used pooch from the animal shelter, no one made me feel horrible about buying a bred-for-the-family dog from a reputable breeder.

But Facebook takes all of these things…all the things that makes life, life and it makes you feel like you’re wrong for living it your way, while trying its darned best to ensure that you live it “their” way. And that’s wrong. It’s OK if you want to surround yourself with others who live and love and feel as you do and you shouldn’t feel as if every time you look at Facebook, you have to defend yourself or your actions or feelings to someone else just because they post some strongly worded comment or picture-story that has 3,000 Likes from some international agency of change.

So I’m OK letting it go. No more will I be ruled by hurt feelings just because people didn’t agree with my posts. Likely, Facebook just didn’t show it to that many people anyway. It’s playing with our feelings and our lives and I’m quite through with it.

I’m OK without Facebook.

I’m apparently “That” parent

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Though you probably wouldn’t know it based on a casual conversation with me, I’m very passionate about a few things in lifeSeminoles Football—my family and kids ranking at the top of a very small list.

I don’t have many people I’d call a “best friend” though I have a good number of very interesting people with whom I rub shoulders with infrequently. We can connect as often as it happens and be completely cool with the fact that neither of us have made an effort to go have a beer together, or whatever.

Outside of work, probably the one thing I do the next most of, is spend time either coaching, or watching my kids play sports. It’s a year round thing in our house—football, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, dance—you name it. So in any given year, my kids spend a substantial portion of their free time with anywhere from 5-10 different coaches, and a cadre of assistant coaches, all “carefully” selected by our local city recreational staff.

Overall, our Rec staff do a good job. I’ve coached a number of years, across a number of sports and by and large most of the coaches are just dads who want to be involved. Yes, there’s “Daddy Ball” where a few dads get together and form a “team” to dominate the league, and there’s other politics, but generally speaking, we all have good intentions.

But when you work with that many different people, problems are bound to arise. I’ve had to step in and replace a coach with a drinking problem. I’ve felt obliged to step in and speak with a coach who seemed more a drill sergeant than a teacher—and I’m still feeling the backlashes of that one. There’s also been some very expensive programs where the “volunteer” coaches just want to show up and chit chat rather than actually work with the kids.

And so it was that in one of my recent conversations with our local sports staff, I was told that I’m the most vocal parent he’s ever had—and that made me pause.

It’s true, I’ve filed my share of informal complaints, both as a concerned parent AND as a coach and maybe sometimes I should have given a particular coach a few more days before sending a “WTH?” note to Rec staff, but I also feel like it’s sort of my job, as a parent, to be vocal.

Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play sports and in our case, our kids are actually really good athletes. We’re not a family that’s just happy that uncoordinated Johnny made a team. No, we’re a family who’s trying to make sure our kids are working with coaches who have the patience and experience necessary to help them progress.

So yeah, when I see a coach working his way up through the league based solely on the fact that he’s volunteering just so his average kid can get a spot in one of the league’s top tier teams, even though that coach is a tyrant on the field who bullies parents to the point where they’re afraid of saying anything lest their child get treated poorly (and stuck in the outfield), I’m going to say something.

And yes, I’ll accept whatever blows back on me because of it, but I detest bullies—kids and adults alike—and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family.

My team may not win every championship, but nobody ever cried on my field (OK, that’s not entirely true, but it wasn’t my fault…she was just really tired and didn’t want to be at practice) and to my knowledge, no one ever left my field not wanting to play the sport any longer.

If we win some games, the kids have fun and they learn a little something along the way, that’s a “W” in my book.

When You Wish Upon a Star

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ImageIt’s Spring and that means one thing around my house – baseball! With two boys playing ball, one in “Select” league, it also means that I’m lucky if I’m home two nights during the work week. It also means that CareerMom, who works out of the house, is stuck doing the bulk of the schlepping back and forth. She called me yesterday and–you know how this works–asked if I planned on going to my son’s game last night. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was an undercurrent of hope that I would not.

What happened was that we had an early game last night, which meant getting there really early (coach wants them there 45 mins early), which meant my wife had to either pick my daughter from DayCare early and be late to the game, OR drop off my son at his game,  and then drive ALLLL the way back to get my daughter.

I made it easy on my wife and skipped the game and picked up my daughter and went home. Throughout the evening, my wife kept me updated via text messages, so I got all the benefits of being there, with little of the nervousness.

But a great thing came out of that–I got to spend quality time with Baby Girl. She’s four now and she’s a talkative spirit. After she fell asleep on the couch and then woke up again around 7:45, we spent 45 wonderful minutes on the back porch, under a blanket, watching the stars and airplanes, and making wishes. With three kids (did I mention my friend has five?) that kind of quality time doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you have to squeeze every moment out of it.

When we found out we were having our third child, one of my fears was this very issue of spending quality time with that many different children, plus keeping a marriage healthy, plus keeping my career going. I wish I could say that I was wrong and it’s easy to do, but it’s not. Then again, maybe it depends on your definitions of sucess. All I know is that last night was a success. The first thing she said to me this morning was, “Daddy, do you remember making wishes on the wishing star last night?

I sure do Baby Girl. I sure do.