Sunday, December 29, 2013

The new sites are live!

After much frustration, aggravation and caffeine... I have reworked both websites. Take a minute to check in and let me know what you think. Over 150 posts this year between the two.

For the men who want to be better husbands...

For those poor souls who have decided to make a career of audio or video production....

And my first book is done.
The Art of the Soundcheck book

Thanks for all the support guys.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I am moving it all over to Wordpress

I have been reduced to doing all my work on an iPad. Blogger is a massive pain to edit and write when all you have is an iPad.
The last few posts wouldn't even load properly. I surrender.
So. From here on, except for an occasional update, everything goes to Wordpress only.
There are already several new ones that aren't on here.
Go see.....
Erik's Blog

I have also started a second blog about my time in the pro audio world. Some advice and tips for the new guys in live sound and studio work.
The Art of the Soundcheck

I had hoped to post on blogger and Wordpress simultaneously, but blogger is just too aggravating.
Feel free to visit the other sites. Thanks

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The main reason you aren't scoring brownie points

A pastor explained something to me years ago that was pretty simple. Should have figured this out on my own. There's a big difference in doing a good thing versus doing the right thing. Sometimes it's the same. Kinda like they told me in school about squares and rectangles. A rectangle is always a square but a square isn't always a rectangle. Something like that. The right thing is always a good thing but a good thing isn't always the right thing. 
Example. I come home, the family is at the grocery store picking up stuff for dinner. I have the house to myself. The kitchen is a mess. In anticipation of the family returning home soon to cook dinner, I clean the kitchen. Even though email and the sofa and the Xbox are patiently waiting for me, I clean up the kitchen. Then hit the sofa. 
That is an example of doing the right thing and a good thing. Wife comes home, pleasantly surprised. Life is good. Brownie points achieved. Yay me. I could do a good thing and still blow it. If she had asked me to clean the kitchen, and I didn't, that's bad. Ignoring a request from your wife is a bad thing. ( sorry if I sound like a preschool teacher here ) We are going to train our brain to do the right thing. Not just good things. Here's the difference. 
If she asked me to wash the dishes, I could go in there with great intentions and wipe the counters. I could run through the house, grab all the dirty laundry and wash it. I could clean out the refrigerator. I could mop the floor. I could mow the lawn, wash the car, paint the house, cure cancer and save the world from imminent doom. I could do any number of amazing things, worthy of brownie points, and she would not be impressed. Even though we did a lot of GOOD stuff, we didn't do the RIGHT stuff. Most guys still don't understand this. We did something great, where's my pat on the head? 
She comes in with groceries. Walks past all our achievements, and stares at a sink full of dirty dishes. She is not happy. Even though we may have just produced our greatest life's work, she isn't impressed. We sometimes confuse that response with not being appreciated. We sometimes make up pet names to mutter under our breath during those times. We sometimes get stressed enough to vow that we will never do anything for her again. We have those kind of thoughts. We assume we did something good, we should be thanked or rewarded. Yeah, like toddlers or something. 
What does she expect from us? Why isn't she thankful? Because she asked us to wash the dishes. We agreed to wash the dishes. There are still dirty dishes in the sink. She is not happy. How is it possible that a few dirty dishes can cause so much stress in the house? Because it proves we aren't listening. It tells her that she isn't our priority. It tells her we will be good husbands, but on our own terms. We will do things that we choose or that benefit us. Not just because she asked or to be good to her. Doing good stuff is still good, but if it's not the right stuff, it's kinds the wrong stuff. 
Does that make us bad husbands, monsters, for not washing dishes? Nope. It just means that we aren't listening. It means that we still have work to do, if we are going to become the man of her dreams. It means that we still haven't put her into the proper place in our world. She is that important. Every little thing we do tells her how we feel about her. Make it count. Watch for opportunities to do the good stuff. Make sure it's the right stuff. 

You might want to read this one, too.No expectations

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A night on the town with Bozo the clown

Just a quick observation. Recently went back through some old photos. Yeah. Photo albums. Not on a computer. In fact, before we really knew what a computer was. I noticed something. I dressed like a clown. I actually found a picture of myself wearing zigzag striped, yellow and blue Bermuda shorts with half a black mesh shirt. That was scary looking when I was 175 pounds. Can't imagine what I would look like in those at 225. 
Through all those pictures, I looked like a four year old boy picked out my clothes. Even when my clothes weren't ridiculous, my hair or beard still ruined it. Even my tuxedo at the wedding was goofy. I intentionally picked the same one John Lennon wore on the Abbey Road album cover. Fortunately, they talked me into wearing shoes. But. Have you ever seen someone wear size 13, white, leather shoes? If they had been red, they would have been clown shoes. 
Even farther back, I found high school pictures. Wow. We have tried to convince our children that there was a time when we were cool. If they find these pictures, that argument is dead. We were 80's kids then. Just like now, influenced by movies and music. Pick random music and movies produced between 1983 and 1989, then find pictures from a mall the same year. ( try here. <a href="">80's mall photos</a> ) Looks like the cast of Fast times at ridgemont high. 
Yes, there's a point. Bozo. Not the classic sharp dressed man. I took my wife on dates dressed like an idiot. I married her looking like a dork. We visited relatives while I dresses like a toddler. I have been seen in public, on hundreds of occasions, looking like I robbed a clown and took his clothes. Dang. Even now. I realized I am wearing the same worn out shirt and basketball shorts I wear around the house constantly. I used to go out in public with this on. As recent as last week. What kind of logic pushes us, as men, to choose our appearance? Why do Hollywood celebrities hire people to dress them? Because they don't want to look like a clown. 
And what's up with the clothing choices as we age? Young guys emulate the actors and singers in their clothes. Middle age guys wear work clothes or pajamas all day. The old guys wear whatever is comfortable. Nobody seems very concerned about how they look to anyone but themselves. Honestly, I still have work to do in this area. A lot of work. But, I understand it now. I see what she has been living with. 
I live in Florida. The standard dress code for men here is this: partially unbuttoned printed shirt, random shorts, sandals, five o'clock shadow and the aroma of someone who ran out of deodorant several days ago. These guys are in public with their wives. The wives apparently surrender and quit caring about their appearance at some point, too. I guess they got tired of resisting and let themselves go. 
Not trying to make a big, life changing commentary on this one. Just an observation. Our wives have given themselves to us. We are their "prize." They have to be seen with us sooner or later. For most women, their whole identity is wrapped around their husband and kids. They deserve to have a better looking husband than what we have given them. We shouldn't be an embarrassment to them. Not in our words and actions, or appearance. Our wives shouldn't feel the need to apologize to everyone they meet in public. ( "You will have to excuse him. He's really a good man. He's just trapped at the emotional level of a three year old and dresses like people on 80's tv shows. He should grow out of it in 30-40 years. ) 
The only suggestion here is to ask her opinion. If you have been a butthead to her for years, she will hesitate to give it. After she sees you actually listen a few times, you might get her honest opinion. When you get a haircut, ask her what she thinks BEFORE you get the mullet again. When you pick out clothes, ask her opinion BEFORE you get the striped shirt and plaid shorts. When you pick out a car, house, neighborhood, etc., ask her opinion. Make it easy on yourself. Ask her BEFORE you have made up your mind. Let her be part of the process. Then listen. If it has to be your way, your choice, your logic, your decision or whatever, it's probably your funeral. Her opinion is worth as much as yours. Her life is as valuable. Every minute of her life is valuable. Don't make her waste it on time with a clown that won't listen to her opinion.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Preaching the gospel of intolerance

Yes. That's right. I am intolerant. Go ahead and get mad now. Start making up your opinions of me. All set? Good. Here we go. 
When I say intolerance, you already have some preconceived notion of what I mean. I am pretty sure this isn't what you are thinking. It's not racism or anything like that. Hardly. It's about deciding what kind of world we want to live in and doing something about it. 
My dad told me that my freedom only goes as far as the next guy's nose. He meant that we are free to do what we want until it affects other people. We don't have the right to interfere with someone else's freedom. Pretty good advice. Another guy told me something else. Pastor Don Thomas in Macon, GA said this. "The things we tolerate are the things we allow to exist." He was speaking about things in out life that need to change. Things we wish were different. Things we need to do something about. That phrase has stuck with me for over twenty years. I think about it constantly. 
When I think about that phrase, I think about the world my kids are growing up in. The world my grandchildren will end up with. There's a classic quote, that apparently nobody has been given credit for; "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Still not sure who said it, but it is incredible. It says to me, that if you want a crappy world, just sit on your butt and wait for it. Don't do anything. Everything dissolves into chaos eventually if it isn't maintained. Like your lawn. Your car. Your family. Your marriage. Your neighborhood. Your city. Your country. Your planet. If we just sit back and wait, it will all become something we didn't want. Then, we don't even deserve to complain. We let it happen. 
So, when I say I am intolerant, here's what I mean. I am not going to sit back and wait for the stupid stuff to take over my world. I have no intention of letting the things that matter get lost or damaged. I intend to do something about it. I have minimal influence on the world, but I will do what I can. I am starting out small. Suggesting you consider doing the same. 
Where do we start? Our home. If you know something upsets your wife, fix it. Don't tolerate your own laziness or immaturity. Fix it. Change it. Do something positive for your marriage. If you know she wants something, make it happen. Take up the challenge, be the man. What about the kids? Something upsetting them? Something they need? Don't tolerate bad situations or stressed out kids. Do something about it. 
Think about your neighborhood. What isn't right? For me, I absolutely hate it when the local meatheads race through my neighborhood. I feel like my kids are threatened. It's dangerous and stupid to run 45 miles an hour or more, through a residential neighborhood. So, what did I do? Several things. I started flagging down the drivers or following them to their house. ( I am still a big, scary looking guy. Haven't fixed all that yet. ) I offered several the chance to slow down on their own, voluntarily. Others refused to speak to me. I let the sheriff talk to them. I called the sheriff every time they did it. I did it enough that everyone knew who I was and why I called. Several people moved out of my neighborhood. Others just slowed down. I also called the city and got new signs installed on my street. I did something. Yay me. 
I am intolerant of men who are bad husbands. Not just the abusive, scary guys; the quiet ones, too. If you are mean, rude, neglectful, abusive, manipulative or any other aggressive kind of jerk, you are a bad husband. And..... If you are the passive guy who just lets stuff happen and does nothing about it, you are a bad husband. If you aren't actively working towards a better life for your family, you qualify. I am notorious for offering unsolicited advice. Believe it or not. When I end up in a conversation with a miserable wife or bonehead husband, I have to say something. I am morally obligated to inform people that life can be better. They can argue all they want. I am living proof that the worst marriage can be saved if the husband will make the effort. 
My kids had a few bad teachers over the years. I don't like it when my kids are upset. I went and talked to the teachers. Tried to get both sides of the story. Went to the principals after that, put my comments in writing in case it happened again. Most ended up working out just fine. Sometimes my kids were moved to a different class. Once, a teacher was fired for bullying my kid. She did that one. She wouldn't tolerate being bullied. 
I don't tolerate racism. Real racism. Not the crap everyone calls racism. Not political posturing and playing the race card. I don't want to hear your jokes. I don't want to know how you feel about someone different. My brother married a black woman. She is one of the most wonderful people I know. Her family is amazing. I love them all. I have several close friends in mixed marriages. They put up with a lot of crap from stupid people. I don't like that kind of intolerance. The kind where you just hate someone for a reason they have no control over. Like their skin, or language, or family. Get over it. I spent three months in a juvenile facility when I was sixteen. It included 475 of us, locked up together. Fourteen of us were white. Racism goes both ways. I lived in that world, too. Threatened daily, watched white kids beat up daily. Racism isn't just something white people do. It's a fact. Get over it. Use your intolerant energy for something that makes the world better. 
Start with your own family. Figure out what you hate about your life and do something about it. Get some counseling from smarter folks before doing anything ridiculous, but get it in motion. Figure out what makes your wife upset and fix it. Figure out what is bothering your kids and fix it. Figure out what is wrong in your neighborhood and fix it. Figure out what is wrong with your life and fix it. 
Become positively intolerant.

Exactly how stupid can someone be?

Been thinking about some of the greatest idiots I have met over the years. Some were as bad as me, some were worse. I think my only advantage was in only thinking and doing stupid stuff. Some guys brag about it. 
Let me introduce you to the King of the Rednecks. I spent most of my life in Georgia. Born in Atlanta. By most definitions, I probably qualified as a redneck, no problem. While living in rural Georgia, I met the king of the rednecks. Somehow, he was a friend of a family member. They worked together, I guess. He was a normal redneck by most accounts. Multiple dogs roaming the yard, more than ten acres of land, more than ten minutes from town, more than ten cars in the yard, only one runs, double wide trailer, etc. Normal redneck stuff. He was loud and obnoxious. Drank a lot. Liked to wear overalls with no shirt under them. But, he was special. This guy thought he was king of the world. He had everything figured out. Everything in his world made sense to him. All those junk cars; his cars. All those dogs; his dogs. All that land; his land. All those rowdy, stinky kids; his kids. That timid, lonely woman in the kitchen; his wife. He was in control. He was the man. He made the rules. He was in charge. Got the picture?
We visited his house once. Just once. After more than enough of his opinions and expert advice, he offered up the crown jewel of his wisdom. Wen someone made a comment about his wife taking care of all his stuff, he said it. "The only thing I need a woman for, is to grease my pole." His words, not mine. He announced to everyone that her only value in his life was to satisfy his sexual needs. A man like that is probably more than qualified to handle that by himself, too. Probably won't be long before he has to.
 I can't even explain what it felt like to hear that. What was her life like? It wasn't enough that he was a complete jackass, he was bragging about it! I want to take a few minutes to think about their relationship. Guys and ladies. Be honest. Was it a always like that? Would any American female freely agree to marry that guy? Nope! Because when they got married, he wasn't completely stupid like that. He evolved into that ape over time. I am sure there were warning signs, but she apparently overlooked them. Not saying it's her fault, just wish she had taken an honest look at this guy before the wedding. Her life would have been better with anyone else. So, what do you think happened?
They met somewhere. School, work, church... Who knows? He probably thought she was a pretty little thing. She probably thought he was cute, or handsome, or charming. Doubt she thought he was an abusive jackass. Not many dates happen after that first impression. He had to ask her out at some point. They had to spend some time together. Had to meet friends and parents at some point. A wedding was planned and then it happened. They bought land, set up a house, made a life. Had sex, had kids, became parents. Then they got dogs, junk cars, broken and rusty crap everywhere. He became an abusive drunk, she got fat and miserable. Then they lived happily ever after. The end. Right? 
I wish I could tell you a simple answer why a woman puts up with all that. There's a lot of reasons that make sense to them. Mostly fear of something. My wife put up with a lot for a long time. I thank God daily that she gave me enough time to grow up a little. I am very thankful that she is still here. But I also know this. Until my world was rocked by her leaving me, I had no reason to change. I was really not much different from him. Different conditions, similar attitude. Just keeping her around for my benefit. 
<a href="">Joel and Kathy Davisson</a> teach abusive husbands how to get past it and save their family. They taught me. Saved my family. One thing they taught was hard to face because it was all me. Abusive husbands always start out as rescuers and heroes. I don't think I can explain it as well as they can. Hit their site, they are better at the counseling than me. They said that in almost every abusive marriage, the wife had a rough life and the husband swooped in to save her. He became her way out. He was going to make it all better. He became superman to her. 
I did it. My wife had a rough life. Pretty much every bad thing girl could ever deal with happened. Daddy left when she was little. Mom fighting for survival with two little kids. Mom ends up with one super loser after another, most are abusive to her and the kids. Things are ok for a while, things are awful for a while. She went through things I can't even talk about. People hurt her. Then I came along. We became friends, best friends. We did everything together. We had fun. Got married, got houses and jobs and kids. 
Somewhere along the line, I got some bad ideas. I got ambitious, just trying to do better for the family. Work more, gone more. Then my work had to matter, had to be something I enjoyed doing. The work became the focus, the career was what mattered. I had to prove myself and my worth to the whole world. 
Then, we got caught up in a sacred church tradition. ( yes, I am going there right now. ) We got under the traditional teaching about the submissive wife. Now, the bible has a lot to say about relationships and marriage. But, this particular teaching told us that I was the boss and she was to just follow and support me. Even though I didn't know which way was up or have and business sense at all. Even though I was clueless about almost everything. Even though I had never learned anything functional about a solid family. My wife was taught to blindly follow and support me. Which she did. She was the strong one. I would have never supported her the way she supported me. She put up with more crap from me every day that I ever got from her in a lifetime. The submission message is meant for mutual submission. We listen to each other, take correction from each other, care for each other, put each others need before ours. That's what it was meant for. Not turning our wives into mindless doormats. I will cover that in detail soon. 
So, king redneck. Can you imagine how their life together started? Can you imagine how it transformed? Did we learn anything about ourselves today class? Our family is our priority. Not the job or the stuff. The family. Your wife doesn't exist to serve you. You have a wife because you were someone she wanted to be with. You made some promises and commitments to her. You planned to spend your life together. That woman is what matters. Making life good for her is what matters. That's your first job. Everything else is just support for the family. Not the priority. If you have become a man like king redneck, it's time to change. Time to become the man she wants again. Get busy.

Why attitude is everything

It really is. Trust me. Looking back on my life, I see where my attitude made me and broke me. I also see where it almost cost me my family. 
Think about my marriage issues. (For those who are keeping up with my blog) We married very young. We have children. We moved around too much. We struggled financially. We lived with both sets of parents at different times. I had problems holding down jobs. The good jobs didn't last, or didn't pay well. The bad jobs wore me out. We couldn't afford nicer things. We worked our butts off for the things we had. We gave up too much. Our kids went without too much. We had to ask for help too much. We lived in places we didn't want to be. We dreamed about things we couldn't have. That's just life. 
None of that is what broke down my marriage. My attitude did that. The way I responded to all that stuff broke the marriage. My wife is an amazing person. Everything about her is incredible. She has always been out of my league. She is tough and lovable. She is virtually perfect. She can adapt and thrive in almost any situation. She grew up in tough conditions with a single mom who went through hell. She survived a tough life and still had a great attitude. She was fully willing and able to survive and thrive in whatever situations we lived in. She could handle anything. Except living with a husband who had a horrible attitude. 
We started off great. Best friends. Did stuff together. Had fun. Enjoyed life. All that stuff that makes for a good marriage. But somewhere along the way, my attitude deteriorated. I got ambitious. I was looking for ways to achieve more, become somebody. I wanted better for my family. More money. Nicer things. Work that mattered. Feeling like I was somebody important. Something that made me feel like my life wasn't a waste. I started looking for something more important than my family. I took on a career to support my family, then expected my family to support the career. They just didn't understand why it was important. They couldn't understand what it felt like to carry the weight of the family. They didn't know how much I stressed about providing for them. They didn't appreciate me. Nobody did. Blah blah blah. But that's the thought process. That's where it started. Then it got worse. I got angry at all the people who didn't pull their weight. People who made promises they didn't keep. People who owed me things and didn't come through when I needed them. People who used me and people who lied to me. Again. That's life. Welcome to the real world. 
We have minimal control over the world around us. We have no control over the people around us.  We have some control of our circumstances, but we are at the mercy of life. We can't control the weather, the stock market, traffic, mechanical failure, human failures, the price of oil or when the cat throws up on the carpet. The only thing we have absolute control over is our attitude. We decide how we respond to the stuff around us. We are completely free to decide to enjoy life and make the best of it, or just freak out and be miserable. Really. Your choice. 
So, short and sweet here. You can be like me. Let everything in life get to you, get angry about everything and make your family miserable. Or. You can be like my wife. Learn to appreciate little things. Look for the good stuff. Enjoy life. Laugh as often as possible. Ignore the people who think bad about you. Keep moving forward. Spend your time with the people you love doing things you love. Choose to be happy. Choose to defy the crap that is being thrown at you and find your smile. I choose to be like her. That's what is making it possible to be with her. 
I heard someone joke, years ago about his marriage. He told his wife, "if you ever leave me, I'm going with you." Do that. If you have become that guy with the bad attitude that his wife wants to get away from, leave him. Become the guy she needs. Become the guy she wants. Don't look for someone else. Someone who understands. Your wife understands perfectly. Try listening to her. Your ticket to the good life is wrapped up in her.

How do you really know if you are successful?

Most people only see cash as success. The amount of money in the bank determines whether or not they are a success. I think there's a lot more to it. 
I am technically retired from the music industry. Didn't go out with a bang. Spent the last thirteen years in the business surviving and trying to open the studio I always wanted. Well, we barely survived and the studio is closed. My push to succeed almost cost me my family.
To most people, I qualify as a complete failure in the music business. None of the albums I recorded were hits. None of the bands I invested in went anywhere.  ( at least not with me.) None of the other studios, businesses or ministries I poured my life into ever made anyone rich. Even my own precious studio became another issue that was damaging my family. After all those years of pushing, I finally got almost exactly what I was after. Less than six months after opening the doors, I was tearing gear out and selling it off. It had to go. To save my family, it became a necessary sacrifice. 
All that time away from home, including studio time, damaged my relationship with my family. They figured out their place in my life. Everything was second to me doing what I wanted. 
Anyone crying, yet?
So. Still struggling financially since starting our life over completely. Still not sure where we go from here. Still salvaging our relationships. Still working on that family time/work time balance. Just establishing that I don't begin to qualify as a success by most standards. 
However, by a different standard, I do. I was told once that success without a successor is ultimately failure. If we take all our training and wisdom to the grave, we have essentially wasted it. I blog because people need some help sometimes. I work hard on this map of the minefield. I am willing to share what I learned, to help you guys navigate through the minefield without hitting the stuff that almost got me. You're welcome. 
Twice in the last week, someone thanked me for something I hadn't really thought about. Kinda blew me away to think about it. One of my best friends needed help with his business. I came on for about a year to help him grow the audio side of his company. Trained him, helped get accounts, etc. That part of the company is now supporting the rest of the company during a down time. He thanked me. 
The other one was a young guy I have known since he was a little kid. He got stuck working some shows, church events and other stuff like that for several years. I was always a butthead when it came to production work. Bossy, pushy, opinionated, obnoxious and demanding. He hung in there through a lot of tough gigs. Great guy. Tough kid. He thanked me for helping him get started in the business. I was thoroughly humbled. Got to see him this week for the first time in four years. He has his own business in Nashville now. Doing pretty well. Working with some legendary performers and they love him. Check him out. <a href="">Riley Vasquez</a>
About that success thing. I had honestly written off my time as mostly wasted and nonproductive. I felt like I had failed in the production world. Even though it hurt my family and never paid off like we had imagined, good came out of it. Several young men got a head start into an industry they love. Several ministries were blessed and able to continue doing what they do. Several businesses were able to do things they couldn't have done. Several good bands got an opportunity to record and perform that never would have gotten a shot any other way. Even though I was mostly pushing a selfish agenda, I still managed to do some good. I managed to sow some good seeds and invest in good people without realizing it. 
All I really wanted to say here was this. We are quick to judge ourselves and others by someone else's standards. What the rest of humanity might see as success won't really matter at the end of your life. To the general population, I utterly failed in the music business. However, to the people who I helped, I am not. It feels pretty good to realize it wasn't just wasted years. We can't always predict or choose how things turn out, but we can choose how we respond to them. We can also adjust our priorities and make better decisions. We can learn to invest our time and energy into the people who matter. Family first, then everything else. 
I consider myself successful by the standard that most of the important people in my life love and respect me. The people who matter, not everyone else. Our relationships are that important. 

Going to take the rest of this post to introduce you to some great people I worked with over the years. Some helped me, some I helped. All very important people from my years in the business. Feel free to visit them and see what they do. 

<a href="">Larry Howard</a> Evangelist, Bluesman 
<a href="">Harvest Cathedral</a> Powerful church in GA
<a href="">Bill Hardin Music</a> Music store, online sales
<a href="">Buddy Lovell</a> AV crew in GA
<a href="">Nathan Lee</a> Video editor for Habitat for Humanity
<a href="">Riley Vasquez</a> Production monkey
<a href="">Prison Fellowship</a> Great ministry
<a href="">Mike Cox and Flip Cruz</a> AV crew in DC
<a href="">Keith Watson</a> New City Church and 567 music venue

There's plenty more, but most of those slackers don't have websites.

The other knuckleheads I met this week

Not just once, but twice this week... I ran into myself. At least the guy I was a while back. Creepy. 
For the sake of clarity, I am in no way saying I have arrived at perfection. Ha. Hardly. I still qualify as a knucklehead. Just a different knucklehead, one my wife likes again. 

  • The first time I met myself this week. We have a semi-regular date night, for the last few months. One of our favorite spots is on Flagler Beach. Johnny D's is a small beachside bar and grill with killer burgers. They also do a lot of live solo music and karaoke. For most of my life, I have worked in pro audio. Concert sound, studio work, corporate shows and stuff like that. I was always on the other side of the microphone. The thought of attempting to sing in front of people was horrifying. The people who sing karaoke have always been amusing to me. They seem to fall into one of three categories. People who are having fun, people who think it's a legitimate way to show off their talent and apparently people who just do it because someone talked them into it. I am the third type. Prior to this week, there was absolutely no way I would have ever gotten up and taken a microphone. But, things change. After listening to a few others, and watching my wife laugh and smile a lot, she did it. "You should go sing for me." Crap. Every logical fiber in my soul panicked for a moment. Then, whatever new stuff is in there woke up. "Your wife just asked you for something. She just hinted at something that would make her night better. She just suggested something that will make happy memories of us for her." So, before the logical side could argue, I just ran up there and did it. She loved it. I sucked worse than I thought I would. Got lost and messed the words up, even with the words right in front of me. She didn't care. It ended up as a great night. However, after putting the mic down and wading through the cheering throngs of my new fans, I saw myself. Didn't even notice this guy all night. But I saw him on the way back. He was wearing a black shirt, the standard uniform of guys like me. He was at a table alone, but leaning over trying to talk to the people around him. He was making fun of the singers. He wasn't involved, he was a critic. I could see him laughing at me on the way back. He stopped when I got closer. ( I am still a fairly large and intimidating person, apparently. ) I watched him start right back up on the next person. He sat the there most of the night. Nobody really talked to him. He was alone. He was critical of everything around him and wouldn't participate. It was tough to watch. That's been me most of my adult life. Felt bad for him. Don't want to be him anymore. 
The second time I ran into myself this week. I met a mutual friend of <a href="">Joel and Kathy </a> this week. Met him before, seemed like a nice guy. Well, his facade cracked this week. He is miserable. He is angry at everyone, everyone owes him an apology for ruining his life, he expects perfection from everyone else but wants them to understand his faults. His life is a frustrating mess because he can't forgive people and move on. His wife is my wife. She loves him, but he is making her crazy. He is so self absorbed with his problems that he has almost forgotten to be a husband. It all revolves around him. She looks like she has had about enough. It tore me apart to talk to him. I saw myself. I saw what my wife and everyone else had to put up with. I saw why she wanted the divorce. We talked for a while. Actually, I talked. He had the appearance of someone listening, paying attention to someone who had an answer he needed. I told him that he was the first person I ever met who could really understand where I came from. Our lives were so similar it was scary. The only difference was that I was able to let things go and move forward. He knows that was the difference. He knows how I changed. He sees the changes in my world and how my wife is healing. I honestly thought we were communicating and he understood. But then, he turned around and picked up the same arguments as before. I got up and said goodbye. Not worth wasting my breath. He wasn't going to listen. He wanted us to think he was listening. He was respectful enough to sit there without arguing, mostly. But he heard nothing. He wanted freedom. He wanted to move on with his life, but he can't until his past is resolved. He is waiting for perfect answers and apologies to ease his mind and make sense of his life. It's not going to happen. 
If you are like these guys, stop it. Please. For the sale of your friends and family, stop being a jackass. It's not all about you. Stop building yourself up by tearing others down. Stop living as a critic and get in the game. The critics look funny from this side. If you are that self absorbed jerk who has to make the world perfect for himself and miserable for everyone else, stop it. The freedom is to forget about your garbage and focus on making life good for the people who matter. My life got so much better once I quit trying to make myself happy and focused on my wife. Making her happy makes me happy. I just wish I could make those guys understand. Before their family has had enough. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Planning a wedding? Here's a few things to consider

Ok. Someone just pushed my buttons. I read another blog and it got me thinking about our marriage counseling and pre-marital counseling. The article was asking for readers to offer advice to young brides-to-be. ( ) Nicely written, charming article. However, you guys know me by now. I had to throw in my two cents worth. 
After screwing up the lives of my wife and kids, I got to witness our older daughters go through divorces. They blissfully married these wonderful guys, who ended up doing the same stuff I did. The difference? These girls decided that they didn't need to wait 20 years to get rid of them. They were both divorced within two years. They, apparently, learned from my wife that they didn't have to tolerate an abusive or neglectful meathead. Now. I am not saying that just because a guy is a selfish, immature, spoiled rotten toddler that you should run to a lawyer. But. I am not telling you to stay in an abusive or neglected position either. My girls figured out, quickly, that it wasn't getting any better. I am proud of both of them. I am just as proud of my wife. She took enough crap from me and decided she didn't want any more. I still have the divorce papers. She was dead serious. It was over. Twenty years of being dragged through life my an angry toddler was plenty. If we didn't have two young kids at home, she wouldn't have even hesitated. My kids bought me enough time to get things worked out. Not fixed, but in motion. So, back to the advice....
She asked for one piece of advice I would give to a young bride. At the point I jumped in, only women had responded. Here's my letter.

Anyone else noticed that only women have responded so far? Know why? Because you, ladies, are alway more concerned with the relationship. So. As a man. Here’s my advice. Sorry, can’t do just one.
Make sure you both understand what it means for a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. If he understands that, he will be the best husband you can imagine.
Stay friends. Do stuff together constantly. Have fun together.
Don’t tolerate immaturity. He’s a big boy, expect him to act like it. Don’t coddle him. Selfishness is bad enough on a two year old. It looks really ugly on a 40 year old.
Be very careful about most marriage counseling. It almost always puts the weight on the wife.
Go into marriage with your eyes open. This fantasy is about to get real. Make sure you really know each other.
Last. Be willing to take advice from those parents of yours. If they love him, awesome. If not, find out why and listen.
I blog for husbands and fathers. I made every mistake and want to help them. I believe God wants better for his girls that they know.
Try this one.

No responses yet. But it's only been about half an hour. Not patient by nature. 
So. Some advice for the young couples? Gladly. 
Our pre-marital counseling in 1989, involved sitting at a pastors house for three short sessions. I don't remember anything but bad coffee. No useful advice. No sage wisdom. No cautions. Nothing. He pretty much sat there. He watched us talk about getting married. Said nothing useful. We were two immature kids. Obviously drinking and smoking pot heavily. Obviously not prepared to be responsible for anything. Already living together. I was 19, she was... Uh. Well. She is perpetually 29. So she was... Well. Not old enough to understand what marriage was really about. 
Later. Our marriage counseling involved a lot of talk about how we treat each other. About our responsibilities within the marriage. About bonding and loving and dishes and laundry and whatever. It was all about stuff that was just going to become her problem. You could have swapped me out for a house cat and the counseling would have had the same results. 
"Now I want you two to go home and show mutual respect to each other. Love each other. Both of you do your part to make this marriage strong." The wife, honestly listening, agrees to whatever she has to do to be a good wife and make the marriage work. The cat is busy licking it's butt. Or something equally stupid. The husband is almost always let off the hook because he expects HER to step up first. If she does it, he might do it. That's crap. But that's standard counseling. 50/50 spilt of responsibility. Mutual respect. Do your part. Whatever. It doesn't work. All counseling eventually concedes that the real work of the marriage will fall to the more responsible person. Well, who do you think that is? Who normally changes diapers? Raises and disciplines kids? Takes care of the house? Manages the house, money, bills, groceries, meals, laundry, etc? Well?
Ok. Now. Who normally takes responsibility for a job that they would have even if they were single? Who grills meat? Who can laugh to tears over a fart joke well into his senior years? 
So who is the more responsible one in the marriage, almost every time? The wife. Almost every book we have ever read, almost every counseling session, every marriage conference.... Dumps most of the weight on the wife. I believe this has gone on long enough. 
To that young bride. Expect more. Don't settle for a loser. You won't change him. Of he's a self absorbed, immature, toddler now... it won't get any better. Watch how he treats his mother or sisters. You won't get any better. And, if he expects momma to constantly wipe his butt, he will expect it from you, too. Really. 
Guys. Men don't take failure lightly. We cry over football games. We go into depression over lost money on investments. We become superheroes when we realize we are going to fail. We can't fail we must win. We are conquerors and competitors by nature. Why does that apply to everything but our family? Why is it acceptable to fail as husbands and fathers? Stop it! It's not ok to let your wife carry the weight of the family. Step up superhero. Do the right thing. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why this will be the best Father's Day ever

I expect this one to be amazing. Want to know why? Because it will be different. Because I am different. Because I see things differently than I ever have before. So, you ask, "Erik, how will it be different?" Glad you asked. 
In my glorious days of being the abusive, neglectful, oblivious, selfish tyrant.... It was always about me. Not that I am completely perfect, or assume I am even close. But now I am aware of how my attitude and actions affected my family. ( Again. Becoming a better man. Not there, yet. ) Every conversation, every decision, every plan, every choice was made based on how it affected me. It all had to benefit me. Yep. I was convinced that I was king of this castle and all my loyal subjects existed for me. I was trained, thanks to slightly twisted theology, to believe that my wife was less than me. Her purpose was to serve and support me and my never ending trail of stupid ideas. Like Jim Carrey said in the series of unfortunate events movie.... All I ask is that you do each and every thing that pops into my head. I didn't see it, of course. It seemed perfectly logical, even beneficial. But not quite right. All the pressure of the family fell to my wife. All the pressure of making big decisions, paying bills, grilling meat, mowing grass; those fell to me. Grunt, grunt. Funny how that works. All the pressure I had, would have been there even if I was single. All the pressure she had only existed within the family we created. Hmmmmm. So anyway, as said before, I have been a jerk. A jerk with good intentions, but still a jerk. 
So what about Father's Day? How will it be different? I no longer see my family as subjects, or nuisances, or baggage, or whatever degrading term fits. They don't exist to serve and obey me. Every Father's Day, I have had expectations of them rushing to my side with extravagant gifts. I expected them to go out of their way to make me meals, bring me offerings, do special displays of affection, generally treat me like the king I thought I was. JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR!!!! If it didn't live up to my expectations, I complained or pouted or sulked. Don't just look at me. Look at yourself, too. You do it. Admit it. If anyone doesn't live up to our expectations, or completely satisfy us, or give us the respect we think we deserve... we complain, sulk and pout. We make that late night push for sympathy or compassion, hoping our wives will coddle us like toddlers and give us something to make it all better. Waaaah. Just like a toddler. Immature, selfish, spoiled, demanding and unappreciative. I confess it. I own it. That has been me, most of my married life. 
It will be different this year. I already told the family that I want nothing. Do not spend a penny on me. No gift. No effort on their part, just mine. I want this Father's Day to be a chance for me to just be with them and reassure my family that I love them and want to be with them. Want to. Not have to, should, need to, etc. I want to be with them. They are different to me this year. They matter. Their needs are more important than mine. Their time is more valuable than mine. I exist to serve and care for them. My purpose in life is to love my family and make life good for them. To make their world a joyful place. To teach them that love is not selfish. Love means they are my priority. They are more important than anything else. When they need me, I move. When they want something, I move. When something appears to be a threat or problem for them, I move. They have to know that every minute of the day, I choose them over everything else. All the things I have been awful at for most of my life. 
So, the plan is to spend the day together. Doing things that they want to do. Just being with them. We are hoping to make a road trip and see the kids who didn't move with us, and hopefully our parents. Hopefully. Whether we can or not, I just want to be with them. I want my kids to live without any doubts about how much they are loved. I don't always do it right. Sometimes I am overbearing, embarrassing, overprotective or just outright stupid. But, they will not be able to ever consider the thought that daddy doesn't love them. 
To my kids, who may actually read this one day, I love you. You are my heart and soul. You are wonderful. You are the ones who give my life purpose. You are all the best part of me. You are loved. To my dad, in case he ever reads this... You are a good man. You were no different from me. You made bad decisions and learned the hard way. You struggled with all the same crap I struggle with. But, you have come around, too. I see it, my kids see it. You have matured and become a good man that I am proud to call my father. Thank you for being the good man you are. I love you. And, to my wife, who will probably read this..... You are still the best thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you for allowing me the privilege and opportunity to be a husband and father. Thank you for spending the last 8,576 days of your life as my wife. Thank you for giving me another chance to be your husband. A chance I did not deserve. I love you. Thank you, so much. Thank you for another Father's Day with you and the kids. 
I honestly expect this to be the best Father's Day ever. Let me know how yours turns out. Love to hear about it. 

Another victim of the monkey trap

I saw a documentary about monkeys, when I was a kid. I can't remember anything about that show except the scene where they had to catch them. Don't remember why. Just that they were catching monkeys. 
The technique was amazing. They had glass jars, like jelly jars, that they tied to a tree. All it took was a few sugar cubes in the jar and a few on the ground, to draw a few monkeys in. They ate the cubes off the ground quick, then began frantically digging around for more. Eventually, one found the jar. He shoved his hand inside the jar and grabbed all the sugar cubes. All the monkey hunters had to do, was walk up and slip a collar and leash on him. He couldn't get away. No fight, no guns, no blood, no mess. The monkey never got hurt, just captured. How did the trap work? 
He trapped himself. His empty hand slipped into that jar easily. Once he made a fist around the sugar, it wouldn't come out. The jar was on a rope hanging from the tree, he couldn't pull it off. So, can't break the rope, can't get his hand out. Can you imagine what he felt watching those men come out of the bushes, walk up and put a collar and leash on him? He must have been in full panic. Overwhelming fear as the others ran off and escaped, leaving him alone. Taken away to somewhere he didn't choose to go by people he didn't want to be with. Poor monkey. 
I think they were tagging them to track the monkeys in that area. Don't remember. Ether way, the monkey wasn't hurt, just completely freaked out and later released. Just thought the hyper sensitive readers might need that reassurance. 
It seems to be complete defiance of everything logical and rational, that the monkey wouldn't let go of that sugar. Of course, you would know better if the monkey hunters go you, right? You come across this magical, unexplainable treat. It captures your attention, you have to have it. You enjoy your special treat and want more. There it is! Got it! Uh oh. Now you're stuck. The treat you were having is now having you. And look, here come some people to admire your situation and make it worse. Now your magical treat has taken you into a new place where you have no control at all. Your world has become a very different and traumatic place. Because you refused to give up that stupid sugar cube. That monkey got lucky. He was examined, tagged and released. If those were poachers, it would have been different. He would have become a pet or fur coat or dinner. Lucky monkey. 
I am telling this story from the perspective of a lucky monkey. I had my hand in that sugar jar a few times. Got into things I shouldn't have. Took the magical treat and held on too long. Even the bible says that sin is fun for a season. And it was. But, there's always a payday. It's not always an affair. We get trapped by a lot of different things. That position of influence, maybe. The treat is admiration and recognition. The trap is a life wasted on people who don't matter, and lost on people who do. That special hobby or toy in your life can do the same thing. Addictions are like that. Nobody was ever attacked in their house by a roving gang of lit cigarettes. What choice would they have? It all starts the same way. Find something new, enjoy it, want it, crave it, need it, can't live without it. We have minute by minute decisions to make. We can stay in the trap or let go. 
Most of us have gotten into the monkey trap in one way or another. 
That flirting and attention felt so good, but it led to....
That exhilarating rush of getting away with it once, led to...
The release of letting it all out and yelling at the kids led to...
The smoking sure tasted and felt good, but led to...
You get the idea. I hope. 
I have spent a great deal of my life in the monkey trap, still caught in a few areas. I had my first cigarette around 11 or 12 years old. Some older kids found some, I found some, just experimenting at first, habit later. By the time I was 20 it was about a pack and a half a day. After realizing that my little girl was coughing because of me, and that 90% of impotent men are also smokers, I just quit. Done. Gave away eight and a half packs right then. Quit. For 19 years. Once I realized I was headed for divorce and may lose my family, bought a pack and went right back to it. My choice. As of today, I haven't smoked for a month. Time will tell if I am smart enough to stay out of the trap for good. Like I said. This isn't about me telling you to be as perfect as me. This is me sharing my journey. Becoming a better man. Becoming. Not there yet. 
Other traps have been businesses, church work, random projects, stupid toys, etc. Things that started off as good or harmless or even potentially very positive. But, they became things that caused problems, or stole time from my family, or just stroked my ego or whatever. They put me in a place of frustration and aggravation. They caused pointless stress. They hurt my family. They became monkey traps. It was my choice to stay. I could let go and move on at any time. 
Guys. Examine your life. What are you trapped by? Smoking? Affairs? Attitudes? The condition of your body? What is it? If it's not making life better for you AND your family, maybe you need to let it go before the monkey hunters get you. Before they start taking things away. Or taking you away. Take the advice of another dumb monkey. Seriously. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I can feel... One of my turns coming on

Yes. Pink Floyd. From "The Wall." I completely wore out 2 cassette copies of that album when I was a teenager. Incredibly well made album. Brilliant. Depressing. The last time I heard it, I figured out where a lot of my youthful angst and depression came from. It was a part of me. 

That song and song title has been stuck in my head since yesterday. It seems like the closest description to where my mind went. Thanks to another type of entertainment, I had a magnificent flashback. The movie, "Something's gotta give." Watched it for the first time last night. Ended up being a great story, but the road to getting there had some rough spots. It's the story of two people who end up in love, completely against their better judgement. The man is older, with a past of just using women and living free of any relationships. The woman was divorced after 20 years and has become content with her life. Through a long adventure, they end up wanting to be together and both completely in love. On the way, he drags his feet enough for another man to slip in and take her away. 
What I need to explain here is how my brain works. I was diagnosed with ADD and depression about three years ago. Wait. It's better than that. My doctor told me I was a textbook perfect case of adult ADD. She said I had almost every symptom she knew to look for. It's not an excuse or a joke, but it explains a lot about decisions I have made. My wife can tell which days i have taken my medication and when I don't. One of the things my brain does, is identify with certain characters in movies to the point of empathy. I sometimes almost feel like I have taken on part of the role. Yeah. Really. Some characters make me laugh until it hurts, some rip my heart out. Sometimes it takes a while to get my head on straight for a while. 
So. The movie. When the man finally comes to his senses and rushes after her, he is interrupted by the other man. He just steps in beside her, surprised to see him there. My wife made a comment at that point that got me. "He waited too long." At that point, my emotions just snapped. I was overwhelmed with all the pain I felt during our worst days. I remembered the thoughts that I had waited too long to get my act together. I had vivid thoughts of my family being torn from me and another man taking my place. Very vivid. Horror like something Stephen King would imagine. I had to leave the room to get myself composed. Hard to describe, but utterly traumatic. 
Guys, I want you to feel something. Don't worry about being macho. Forget whatever reaction you think your friends might have. It won't matter in the long run what anyone but you and your wife think. Imagine yourself as that guy. You have this relationship with a woman you already decided to spend your life with. You still aren't fully committed. She wants the relationship more than you do. You hold back from her. You won't give in and completely commit to her. You keep flirting and playing around. You are sure that she is all yours whenever you want. So you leave her to herself. Neglect her. Avoid her, maybe. Start to see her as a spare tire you only take out when you need her. How's the imagination going so far. Do you see it? Are you living it?
Now, imagine this. Out of the blue, you find out everyone else knows she is done with you. She has decided to move on. She has her own options. Maybe she figures she would prefer being alone to being with you. Maybe she just can't take any more of your crap. Maybe someone else is pursuing her. Someone else has figured out what a catch she is. Someone else has decided to give her their full attention. She leaves. She has become casual about you. She doesn't care anymore. You aren't even an option to her. She doesn't want to see you, doesn't care if she ever does. She has gone completely apathetic about you and your feelings. She takes your kids away. She starts a new life without you. You get to see your kids with a new father. You get to see your wife with a new husband. You get to sort out your emotions every year at Christmas because you are just the ex-husband. The life you had is gone, you are left on the outside. You have to start over, but you still have connections to the family you lost. Maybe you find someone else, another victim? Maybe the cycle starts over. Trophy wife becomes the ball and chain becomes the ex-wife. Maybe. Maybe not. 
If you have survived a situation like this, you have my deepest sympathy. If you are in the cycle right now, humble yourself and save your family. We didn't go this far. As hard as it was, I held on and still had hope. Kathy Davisson at told me the opposite of love isn't hate, it's apathy. When they just don't care anymore. Any emotional involvement, even anger, means there is still hope. Somehow, she didn't make it to apathy. She gave me enough time, not sympathy, to get the changes in motion. It took three years before we started to really become a couple again. This whole scenario was where we were headed. Not maybe, this was the track we were on. 
I had to change. Like almost all wives, mine wanted a relationship with her husband. She didn't expect or demand everything be perfect. She just wanted me as committed to her as she was to me. She wanted me. She just got to a point where she was tired of carrying the weight of holding the whole family together and started considering other options. 
She put up with me being distracted, evasive and abusive for almost twenty years. The last ten of that were awful. She put me through three years of absolute torture. It went from wanting to work it out, to I never want to see you again constantly. She wanted it to work. She wanted to save the family, she just didn't want the same jackass of a husband to do it with. So I changed. I figured out how much I wanted my wife and kids. I had done a lot of damage, it was going to take a while to heal. Still healing. There's still damage to get past. There are still issues we aren't totally free from. But, we are together and conscious of it all. I understand what I have to do and am doing it. 
I can't handle the thought of ever going through that again. I hate the though of any of my friends and family going through any of that. Please listen, guys. Please do the right thing. Please save your family. Everyone gets hurt when dad doesn't do what he should. Whether or not you believe it's all your fault or responsibility, treat it like it is. It's the only way back from here. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

One simple thing you need to understand about marriage

My friends at told me a great story. It was a turning point in their marriage. Joel was also an abusive husband. They were pastors during the abuse. They went to a conference on living free from abuse, where they came to terms with how bad their marriage actually was.
Joel was confronted about his attitiude. He was told that one of his biggest problems was that he didn't think he needed Kathy. His response? You're right. I don't need her.
He was convinced she was simply an accessory. She was just a part of his life. Someone there to serve him. The assistant. The vice principal.  Second in command. First mate. Like Batman and Robin. Skipper and Gilligan. Pinky and the Brain.  One is critical, the other is just there. A spare tire. Comic relief. Maybe a grunt. Whatever. Someone who could be replaced by anyone.
He didn't see her as absolutely critical to his life. He didn't see how they completed each other. Almost a ying and yang kinda thing. Neither is truly complete without the other. 
There is a word used in the Bible when God made Eve. Helpmeet. He said it was not good for man to be alone. So, I shall make him a helpmeet. Not help mate. Not second in command. Not vice principal. Not comic relief. Helpmeet. Very powerful word. Very complex word. Essentially, someone who completes you and makes you more than you can be alone. The help part is the same as another army called in to help with a battle you can't win alone. The meet part is tricky. Like an interpreter that helps get through something you can't understand. A guide that takes you somewhere you can't get alone. She completes you. She is all that you aren't. She sees things you don't. She hears things you don't. She understands things you don't.

( here's another good article The definition of helpmeet  I am not Mormon, don't agree with a lot of things they believe, but the article is really good )

It's not weakness to need her. It's not whimpy to need her beside you. You are not a henpecked, loser of a wus for needing her. You are a wise man who understands how important she is. Her opinion matters. Her fears should be heeded. Her concerns are legitimate. Everything about her matters.
Just like Joel, I had to come to terms with all this. I had to admit it and tell myself, "I need my wife." The sooner you admit you need her, the better. If you say that you want a stronger marriage, you need to take steps to make it stronger. This is an easy one. Take a few days to think about this. Figure out why you need her. Think about times she encouraged you. Or tried to stop you from doing something stupid, that you did anyway.  Think about times she protected you. Think about ways she is a part of you. Don't even think about anything negative. Just focus on the good stuff for a few days.
Say it out loud, so you can hear yourself say it. "I need my wife." Say her name. Tell her you need her. Tell her why. Do it now.