Unfriendables

When I lead with, “you’re probably going to unfriend me for this…” I need to remember to grab a screenshot so that I can either apologize later for being an asshole or reuse the proven effective content. Though offending someone is never my intention, I’m leading with an apology.

I led with that line early this morning and – sure as shit – was unfriended by someone I genuinely respect. He’s a brilliant writer and has been through hell and back. I actually hoped we could collaborate on a project. It’s a bummer that the relationship turned.

This is where we all (meaning me) need to learn how to say, “while I disagree with you, we can still chat over coffee and be friends. Your opinion gives me perspective, and that makes me a better person.”

I also need to publicly state that my level of sarcasm is an acquired taste. If you don’t find my level of sarcasm funny, that’s totally ok. It’s not directed at, near or even remotely related to you or your beliefs. It’s mine. I find myself hysterical and I understand I’m usually the only one laughing at myself first. I rest assured knowing I beat everyone else to the punch by laughing at yours truly first.

I stopped taking myself seriously a lifetime ago. It’s helped me deal with the rest of your crazy asses since.

That why we’re all still friends. See? It works! So make a joke. Come at me with your best roast or one-liner.

Lighten the fuck up. Aim it at me. I’m your buddy, bring it.

Shitbag 🙂

A Male #MeToo Experience

I was once the CTO of a company that operated clinics across the country. One day during a routine visit to the corporate headquarters, and during a routine conversation with the director of billing and a vendor of our billing software – both of whom were women – I had to diagnose one of the billing computers that was having issues connecting to the network.

That was when the director of billing grabbed my butt while I was under the desk replacing a network cable. She did this in front of our female vendor. The director laughed, the vendor chuckled. I walked out of the building and left for the day.

I approached the director the next day and explained that the event was totally unacceptable. Had I done the same to her, I would have been fired on the spot. To make things worse, I had to now deal with the vendor to explain that this was not acceptable company behavior. I was furious because I had to apologize for a co-worker’s misconduct towards me. But with those two conversations out of the way, and an apology accepted, I dismissed the matter as water under the bridge, never to be repeated.

Right up until the CEO called me into her office. I sat as she wrapped up a phone call, smoking a pencil-thin Capri cigarette (this was her company, she could smoke anywhere she damned well pleased).

“I heard there was an incident last week” she began.

“Yeah, I dealt with it.” I explained, and described how I addressed it with the director, then the vendor and how I wasn’t intending to bring it up further. This was all really embarrassing, but it was over in my opinion.

“She came to me,” the CEO explained, “to confess about it. I obviously told her it was wrong.” She exhaled a cloud of smoke, “But I can’t say that I blame her.”

I just sat there for a moment, not breathing, before asking if there was anything else to discuss.

I was laid off by the company 3 weeks later.

Workplace harassment is wrong, period. It does have its own nuances based on gender, though. For a man amongst other men, the norm implies that he should consider himself so lucky, even if the female is a direct supervisor. Even better if she’s attractive. I know this firsthand because most men I’ve told this story to ask immediately, “Was she hot?” One once asked if I punched her, as if that was somehow an acceptable response.

I’ve held off mentioning this in light of the #meToo movement because – in my opinion – I wasn’t victimized, I wasn’t abused, I didn’t have to endure anything that I couldn’t address in person with the individual who was not my supervisor. Except for the CEO. That part blew my mind. To me, this was dismissed until the CEO turned it into something completely different. The only reason I’m bringing this up now is so that other men who have had to deal with this kind of situation understand that they aren’t alone. As men, we don’t have a network of support when things don’t go our way. We have to man up, get over it, quit being such a bitch and move on.

It happens on both sides of the desk. While men are less likely to deal with being the unwanted recipient, it does happen. The reaction of corporation and the law should be the same, regardless of gender.

I obviously moved on but the events definitely changed how I interacted with my co-workers and later my staff over the years, for the better I think. I hope something helpful came out of it. I hope me sharing this makes a difference for you, too.

Mentor.

I’ve been approached by a friend who has asked if I would mentor her teenage son in tech, development, hardware, etc. I really like the idea but I’m not sure yet where to start.

I put it to a group of friends to see where they’d recommend beginning. At first I struggled with tasks as if he was an intern, but that’s not what a “mentor” means to me. I had a mentor when I was in my 20’s, and he’s been a life long friend, but that relationship began when I became his employee.

When I began in tech, I had already grown up around computers throughout elementary school. That was unusual in the early 80’s and definitely gave me an advantage over time. Starting with Apple Basic in 4th grade helped me to understand coded logic, the difference between files and folders, the internals of computers. That all worked to my advantage shortly after I graduated high school and started building desktops and servers for myself. Then my second bench tech job introduced me to the industry in greater detail, in sales, customer service, margins, more complex systems and the consequences and vulnerabilities of our data over time.

For this fine young man, whom I met for the first time last weekend, I’m recommending that he start off in two areas: installing Linux on his desktop, and Arduino projects for remote data collection (sensors, mostly). Since desktop and server hardware are a thing of the past, the ability to collect and aggregate data in the cloud is where I see the next series of trends continuing. He’ll never have to swap out a video card or exchange a SCSI drive (yeah, I’m that old) unless he choses to tear apart his laptop… even their days as user-configurable systems are numbered.

Looking forward, I’m excited. This could be a new direction for myself, my kids and our future.

Bad Dad

This probably makes me the worst dad ever, but when the boys are horsing around and someone inevitably gets hurt….I’m usually unsympathetic. After assessing that it isn’t a serious injury, I ask 3 basic questions:

1. Are you bleeding?
2. Is it broken?
3. Do I need to cut it off?

If the coast is clear, as insult to injury, “You going to do that again?”

Jude’s First Custody Exchange

Tonight’s custody exchange was the first time Jude was out of his car seat where he could watch the entire process. Rylan and Caed gave hugs goodbye to Jaimi, Jude and me; then stepped into their mother’s car and drove away.

After a long weekend of playing nonstop with his brothers from sun rise to sunset, I could see Jude’s confusion as his big brothers drove off. Jaimi strapped him into the car seat. Jude began to cry.

Jude cried for nearly ten minutes. He was so upset that Jaimi climbed into the back seat so that he wasn’t alone. He was inconsolable.

I stared ahead, listening to Jude’s frustration while choking back my own emotions, and thought about my first custody exchange. Rylan was four then, Caed hadn’t yet turned two. I hadn’t been allowed to see them for over a month and even then had to file for an emergency hearing with the courts. Rylan didn’t understand why he had to leave after his weekend with me. There weren’t adequate words to explain it then, just like there weren’t words to explain to Jude tonight that his brothers would be home soon, but they were going to sleep somewhere else this evening. Saying goodbye just didn’t make sense to anyone in either events.

We’ve suspected that saying goodbye to his brothers would eventually become difficult for Jude. Returning home to the deafening silence of a house sitting lifeless in its own disarray has always been difficult for us. But now there’s a toddler whose big brothers are just… gone. We didn’t expect it to affect him so soon.

We returned home and Jude settled. He ate and was happy. He spent lots of time in our arms. He was fine as the alternate reality set in and the house temporarily became a home for three – instead of five – again. We tucked him in and said goodnight, then curled up together in the glow of an old, forgettable movie.

Dreams for Sons

I peek in on all of my sons sleeping and I find myself calmed in their snores and deep rest. I wonder when I last slept so peacefully. Perhaps their age?

All I can hope for is that they dodge the miserable bullets in their lives that I caught in mine. While I want to prepare them for the world that awaits them, I want to do so without making them bitter and cynical, without tarnishing the magnificent humans they are.

Before they lose the chance of comfort of a purely trusted embrace, the flavor of a delicious meal or their lost breath due to an awe inspiring sunrise, I hope they will find the sanctity in each before the world clouds their ability to appreciate the wonders it possesses.

Experience will wage that war upon them soon enough, but perhaps they’ll miss that train and find themselves sleeping soundly as their own children dream.

That’s probably my greatest wish for my sons, a sound nights sleep while their children dream of sunrises, delicious meals and the images of their fathers held in warm trusted embraces.

Grief Recalled

Tom Ashbrook on NPR’S On Point is one of my favorite interviewers. His show is on now and he’s discussing grief and losing his wife in November. Partners in love and life since the age of 16. Its not live so I can’t call, though I wish I could.

There’s so much that strikes deep and familiar that I find myself parked, just listening and remembering what it was like to be widowed and consumed at the age if 27.

In those early days grief was not “more”, just less familiar. When smiles and laughter were a betrayal and the idea of finding peace was unattainable. There just aren’t words, ever, to put that type of loss into consoling perspective.
Time is the most vicious antidote to grief. Not because it cures but because it eventually renders one familiar with their heart forever changed. If we choose, we tap back into the world that kept moving while we withdrew and hopefully provide some help and insight to those freshly minted in loss. Somewhere along the line we might be startled by the sound of our own laughter and allow it to continue. But we have to allow it and that is a horribly difficult embrace.

Tough Guy

“Tough Guy” cruising around, pushing a tough stroller along side his tough wife and adorably tough kids… Cute. Then I notice the ginormous Honda “H” logo tattooed on the side of his neck.

Wait, what?!?