Opinions, Writing

Is the price of an opinion too high?

When someone offers an opinion, they are essentially “putting in their two-cents”.

If someone wants to know what you think, they might say “a penny for your thoughts”.

These idiomatic expressions both suggest that the value of an opinion isn’t worth much monetarily.  I believe that the value is even less if that opinion is offered by the news media and/or the panel of “experts” that they love to assemble.

I prefer to define the word “opinion” using this analogy: When one seeks an opinion, they are usually looking for an accomplice.  In other words, they really don’t care what you think, they just want you to agree with their position so they’ll feel better.

Is two-cents too high a price to pay for free speech? Of course not, but two-cents is two-cents more than I would ever be willing to pay to sit for 5 minutes and endure the constant barrage of opinions being offered by the media.

Everyone seems to have an opinion…and a motive. Maybe if we closed our mouths, opened our ears and turned off the TV, we might just…who knows? But that’s just my two-cents.

Here are a few thoughts from a gentleman speaking to George Strait in the movie “Pure Country”.  It’s short and he is right on point.

Writing

So I had this idea…

I woke up this morning feeling innovative.  I had an idea about a new business. I grabbed my glasses, sweats, a shirt, my bunny slippers and headed downstairs.

59C64483-7A24-4B09-895E-F149C88C1B8D

I settled in and quickly realized that my glasses were so dirty that I really couldn’t see. Oily skin, the bane of all glasses wearers.

I better take a shower first, clean these stupid glasses and get my mojo together before I let the creative juices flow on my business idea.

Then I had another idea; I’m sick and tired of washing glasses and trying to get the dust and oils off.  What would happen if I just left the damn things on when I washed my hair? Who’s the Thinker now!

9BB04906-D6E0-4E4D-B681-20C67A196A6B

Well, it kinda worked, they are cleaner.  Not so sure this was a good idea though, don’t want to look like an idiot.

41EB67AF-71EF-4A0F-B0A0-7960FB1E30B0

And…I still had to wipe them off and clean them anyway. Oh well, lesson learned. Back to the drawing board.

Opinions, Writing

The Dilemma of the Modern Family

The word “family” is defined by Google as “a group consisting of parents and children living together in the same household”.  That broad definition seems appropriately vague, considering the modern family dynamic of today.  So, which is “better”; two adults who create “biological” children, raising them together in a genetically matched family or a mish-mash of DNA brought together by two adults, forming a genetic melting pot of a family.  I believe that both arrangements can have positive outcomes and that one is no better than the other.

Throughout our history, families were considered to be “broken” if the parents divorced, suggesting that the children, who were now from a “broken home”, had a significantly higher chance of failure in what ever life threw at them.

Many studies on the effects of divorce and the family have been commissioned and published, mostly by religious groups, with the results influencing generations of parents to continue a “bad” marriage, usually to the detriment of the children. Of the parents who did divorce, many of their children were led to believe that they were now somewhat different, less-than or flawed as human beings.  These myopic conclusions have been used by elements of our society, mostly to further an agenda or religious belief that supports their position on an issue.

Society, as a whole, allows this stigma to continue by labeling children as either this or that based on the parents choice of family structure, forgetting that the child rarely has a choice in the matter.  The first step is to stop with the traditional religious dogma that suggests that divorce is against God’s will and accept that divorce, while hopefully not a couples first choice, is a reality and is going to continue to be an option, regardless of the church’s position. In addition, I believe that this “pressure” adds to a child’s feelings of shame; as if he or she needed more things to feel bad about.

I am the product of a “broken home”.  My mother and father divorced when I was an infant, each remarried, had children and the “new” parents brought with them, additional children.  Suddenly, I have half-sisters, a step-brother, step-parents, step-grandparents and so on.  Growing up, they were all I knew.  The “step” title seemed to only appear when I wanted to create distance from someone who had irritated me. Unfortunately, the world made sure to draw the distinction and was never remiss at reminding me that despite my parent’s failures, I could make it in life if I didn’t make the same “mistakes” and followed a more traditional and usually biblical path. Oddly, I didn’t feel that I had a problem. My “other” father lived two hours away and there I had a brother, sister, and another mother.  At worst, I would describe this dynamic as “messy”.

But this was my life. I had friends whose parents were not divorced and they seemed to have a life similar to mine. Initially, I remember being jealous that everyone in their house had the same last name.  Other than that, we all grew up, graduated high school and went about our lives.  It was then that I realized an important point.  It wasn’t the divorce, blended or non-blended, step this or that; it was the parents.  I noticed that how you turned out had very little to do with your parents’ marital status, but was more accurately reflected in how you were parented.  It didn’t seem to matter whether you had one parent or two.  It was in how they, the parent, filled their role. In my large circle of friends, some had deceased parents, divorced parents, a single parent, two parents, either mixed or biological.  Some were even raised by extended family members.

Whether you turned out, whatever that means, seems to have been based on three things: 1. The influence of the adults in your life, 2. the choices that you made and 3. a bit of good luck. I hoped I would do well as a parent and an adult, only time would tell.

Then at 20, wondering what kind of parent I would be was no longer academic, it was suddenly very real. What kind of husband would I be? It is said that we are the sum of our life’s experiences and at this time, I didn’t add up to much. I thought of all of my parents and what I had learned up to this point.  Each parent stopped being part of the “parenting group” and became an individual.  Jack, Rod, Kit and Helen were my role models and I would pick and choose the positives of each hoping to become the best parent that I could.  It was then I realized that I was alone and that ultimately, I would be responsible for my own behavior, as upon closer inspection, I really didn’t want to follow any of them, especially Jack and Rod.  I realized that I didn’t know Helen very well and that Kit (my mother) had been the most influential person in my life but didn’t appear to have enjoyed being a parent in the way that I wanted to be for my children. (Two points: 1. I was a “mouthy” teenager and 2. Her childhood was less than ideal). Regardless of whether she enjoyed it or not and because of her efforts, I turned out and have done quite well.

This had, in my opinion, cemented my belief in that it doesn’t matter whether you are raised in a “traditional family” or a “blended family”, it’s the people who surround you who make the difference.  Staying together “for the children” or because the “bible says so”, do not make parents better people anymore than a captain who goes down with his ship, makes him a better captain.  Dead is dead, either in the physical sense or the marital one. I have also learned that your children do know the difference and if you are delusional enough to think that you have fooled them on your success at staying together for them, you’ll certainly learn later when they choose their path at parenting and use your relationship as an example of the kind they want to avoid.

In addition, your adult children are the measure of your success or failure.  They know all and are not fooled, ever, by any efforts to hide who or what you are.  No one will ever know you better or love you more, despite your misgivings.

A step further, since it doesn’t seem to matter how your family unit is biologically constructed, I suggest to you that with decent parenting, a child can actually become more enriched from a blended family structure. Let that soak in. To purists of a traditional family structure, this idea is akin to choking down a brick. This is not to say that traditional is bad, it just has limits. Imagine a blended family that has a racially diverse makeup.  The advantages are obvious.

After our first child, we had two more and then divorced. I married Lilly, who already had two daughters and now there were seven of us; three daughters, two sons and us, the parents.  That was a long time ago and the story continues happily. The story did not begin that way though.  Does the end justify the means? Only our children can answer that question.  In the beginning, there was chaos and many suffered.  To me, this is where the traditional family scores the most points.  But only here.

As the marriages came apart, the children suffered in ways that only time will truly reveal.  When my parents divorced, I was an infant and I have no memory of the event.  Our children weren’t so fortunate.  The “other” parents suffered tremendously.  They, for the most part, didn’t choose this new path, although their behavior ultimately had a part in its creation, and they were dragged along for the ride.

Anger, frustration, jealousy and sadness were thrust upon them and I regret being a part of it’s cause.  The children, who had a front row seat to the carnage, were forced to make choices and accept that they had very little, if any, control of their environment or future. It was bad and there we were. It was time to parent and all four of us, to different degrees, did just that.

I remembered the blended family that I was raised in.  Lilly remembered hers.  To me the core was simple.  No one is a “step” anything. I now had five children, they were all mine and I promised Lilly that I would never treat them otherwise. We would provide a home which was rich is the celebration of the normal.  Lilly made sure of that.  Holidays, birthdays and family trips were big events and life began again.  The “other” parents (I honestly don’t know how to address them here) participated and remained an active part of the children’s lives, making significant contributions when and where they felt it necessary.

The seven of us grew stronger as a family.  Each child is different and special in their own way.  They meshed incredibly well and see each other as brother and sister.  Our family gatherings are a celebration to the diversity of the gene pool, to success, where failure was possible and a reminder of the path that was taken.  The failures of four adults has been turned into the success of five wonderful children.  Lemonade from lemons.

So which is better? I have known no other way, nor has Lilly.  Our children have and they will judge which, if they choose.  If the initial divorce carnage could be eliminated, I feel the blended family offers more variety of life than traditional. I like to think of it as either being raised in a small town or a large city; the opportunities for growth and learning can be greater in one, more so than the other.

When I started this article, my intention was to argue that the blended family was actually “better” for the overall development of a child.  Unfortunately, while writing this, I was forced to remember the pain which made this story possible. There are no easy answers to marriage, parenting or life. It appears that the only solution, without the pain is, well…polygamy.  I’m quite certain that this “solution” won’t fly with Lilly.

The antiquated “broken home” label needs to be eliminated. We are all broken in some way. Blended families represent “a celebration of diversity” and this description more accurately reflects the aspirations of today’s Modern Family.

 

 

Writing

Intimacy is pain

Intimacy is pain

It is to be vulnerable

It begs for honesty

Intimacy is fear

of being known

of being discovered

Intimacy is knowing

Who you are

who you love

Intimacy is the end

the masks are gone

the truth revealed

Intimacy is human

an ending

a beginning

Intimacy is peace

to accept

to endure

to live

 

 

Opinions, Writing

We’re Acting Like Animals? If Only We Could Be that Evolved.

FC8F71EB-DBFA-45C8-919A-F1D88D020734

Another mass shooting occurred today at a small church in a small town in Texas.  At this time, at least 26 have died and the suspect has killed himself…again. Same story, same ending; again and Again and AGAIN!  How often? I checked on-line for statistics with the intention of going back 20 years.  I made it to 5 and my hand was aching from all the writing. Yes, 5, V, FIVE,🖐 years and I had found 18 incidents of violence in the United States where at least 3 people were killed in a related event on a given day.

Date                 Location                    Dead   Inj.   Susp. Sex   Susp. Dec’d?    Notes

  1.  11/05/2017  Sutherland Springs, TX      26     Many      M             Y      Church Shooting
  2.  10/01/2017  Las Vegas, NV                       50+   500+       M             Y      Concert Venue
  3.  06/14/2017  San Francisco, CA                3        0             M             Y      UPS Co-Wrkrs
  4.  06/05/2017  Orange County,FL                5        0             M             Y      Co-Wrkr Killing
  5.  01/06/2017  Ft Lauderdale, FL                5        6+           M             N      Airport Shooting
  6.  09/23/2016  Burlington, WA                    5        0             M             Y       Macy’s Store
  7.  07/08/2016  Dallas, TX                              5        9+           M             Y       5 Police Ofcr’s
  8.  06/12/2016  Orlando, FL                          49      58+         M             Y       Night Club
  9.  12/02/2015  San Bernardino, CA            14      22           M F          Y       Hus/Wife Killers
  10.  11/29/2015  Colorado Springs, CO         12       9+           M             N       Plan’d PrntH’d

Ok, that’s half of my five year list. I’ll stop at 2 years and 10 incidents; you get the point. The numbers suggest that we are not safe anywhere, that males are more likely to kill and that when they do, most likely they will commit suicide when cornered. It’s that last part that really defines us; animals don’t commit suicide. What’s wrong with us? That question is for a far greater mind than mine to answer.  I have a few thoughts though, actually cliche’s.

  1.  Growing up, I was told not to hurt people, “it’s what separates us from the animals”.
  2.  In Humor, regarding the treatment of pets, “Animals are people too”.
  3.  Humans? “Oh, we’re at the top of the food chain”.

Unfortunately, I feel that we’ve managed to fool ourselves into believing that we have actually evolved beyond that of, well…us.  Our ancestors, hoping that humanity would improve with the passage of time, set the bar too high. They hoped we would become more civilized, intelligent and maybe put down the club; I mean, we’re not animals, right? Some have suggested that it is our intellect that makes us superior to animals, I’m afraid that it has just made us more dangerous. Human evolution? At this pace, we are going to “evolve” ourselves right out of existence. What is wrong with us, why are we killing ourselves at a record pace? I suspect that the answer lies hidden somewhere within our “animal instinct”.

 

 

Aging, Opinions, Writing

Why I write articles and what I want from you.

I write two Blogs. Travelinggump.com and Thesunflowermuse.com. The first, mostly for travel and travel tips/ideas, the second, for opinions, thoughts and articles about our social condition. I post on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and Facebook. Three sites are “blowing up” (Instagram, WordPress and Twitter) with followers. Facebook is “meh” and I would like that to improve.

What I know:

1. If I don’t write or post articles of value and interest, I should expect nothing in return. Generally, I put an enormous amount of thought into most of the articles that I write, especially on Thesunflowermuse. I’m trying to get to the core of the issues.

2. That there is a “process” for getting your posts to the right audience, which I’m working on.

3.  That people are inundated with “stuff” and “like” whatever is easy to see/scan and are generally too busy (understandably) to read in detail. Hence the enormous popularity of pet pictures/videos. Ugh.

4. That despite having a large amount of followers, I am not getting the traction I want, especially on my personal facebook page, which supports the theory; “You can’t be a prophet in your own land” and/or you really need to improve your articles. The first I get, the latter I don’t feel the need to change at this point. Going forward, I’m going to try and confine myself to the two sites listed above.

What I want from you:

1. If my articles are of no interest to you or my opinions are too this or that, leave.
If they are of any interest, entertain you, provoke or evoke a thought or passion, acknowledge it somehow.

2. On Thesunflowermuse.com, my thoughts and opinions can be challenging and are written to be thought provoking. Feel free to complain, gripe or even correct my grammar (please!), something! If you don’t agree, say so!

3. And lastly, on Travelinggump.com, I am fortunate to have excellent advertisers (Amazon, Holiday Inn, Expedia, Orbitz, Trivago etc…). Please search and book through my page as it costs you nothing extra and helps me to keep them happy.

There is so much “noise” on the internet today and I am trying to rise above the cute animal pictures/videos and provide great Travel Tips and Ideas (https://travelinggump.com) and Thought Provoking Stories and Opinions on The Human Condition and Society (https://thesunflowermuse.com). Please Engage.

Best Wishes, Michael

Opinions, Writing

Winners and Losers? Wow, did I miss the mark…

I recently wrote an article, “Winners and Losers. The intellectual cost of labels”, in which I attempted to make the point that “labels” are dangerous to our intellectual development.  I received some interesting responses:

  1. “This is a very Liberal article” and “if everyone is being told that being second is of no consequence, why would they ever strive to be first?”.  She makes a few further points, “Growth depends on our ability to want to become more” and “I think it’s sad that kids are not allowed to “fail”. How will they ever feel the thrill of winning?” (The above quotes are a few of the many points that were made)
  2. Another reader commented that “I didn’t like being the last picked to play in sports”
  3. A reader stated that she liked the statement “Most successful people lose more times than they win” which she found helpful in lifting her morale during a challenging career event.  She further adds “Although I do want my kids to realize and understand winning and losing, it doesn’t have to be in those exact terms”  She further says that “kids who lose a game or something, don’t need to be punished when the winners are taken out for ice cream.  Losing isn’t a bad thing, because so much growth can come from it!”

I am both thrilled and thankful for the opinions.  However, I’m afraid that the point that I was trying to make was missed.  I genuinely hope this helps to clarify my intended position.

I don’t like labels, whatever they are. I chose winners/losers as the article’s primary focus but it could just as easily have been crazy/sane, smart/stupid or kind/cruel.  It really doesn’t matter as the thought that I was attempting to communicate was that once we label someone and no one asks “why’, we’re done.  The label sticks and the brain stops.

Instead of defining ourselves with labels, we should be trying to learn “the why”. Why did I win, why did I lose, why are others calling that kid stupid, cruel or crazy?  Thomas Edison scored a “win” because he made the light bulb; ok, I get that, but he’s bigger than that term. It should be, “tell me about the WAY in which Thomas Edison made the light bulb, including both his successes and failures”.  And after the soccer game; “I know that I won/lost, but talk to me about “why” I won or lost. Either conversation improves me!”

My point is:  Don’t label me or someone else and then move on, TEACH ME “THE WHY” SO THAT I CAN THEN LEARN.  Why did I win?, why are you calling him cruel or stupid?  STOP LABELING AND START EXPLAINING.  It’s easy to label someone as this or that, but to have to explain it, especially to a child… It is at this humbling moment that we may actually, finally start to grow.