Reverence

Tonight’s post is sponsored by the letter R and the word “reverence.”

I teach my kids that we harm no animals unless we are feeding ourselves or (less likely) defending ourselves. But we eat the muscles and soft tissue of animals. That’s a daily part of our diet.

I don’t hide from my kids that we participate in the wholesale, clinical slaughter of cows, pigs, fish, chicken and occasionally sheep. This is how we have our proteins available for purchase, neatly packed with blood absorbing inserts, wrapped in tidy leak-proof plastic. I have no shame in informing them that someone else does the dirty work of killing the animal, and then another person slices it up into the parts that we purchase by the pound.

I would slaughter, gut and feather a chicken in front of my kids if only to show them this is where chicken strips come from. Or a turkey for Thanksgiving. Not for shock value, but to guide them that a clucking, thinking animal lost their life for your dinner.

I was perhaps 5 or 6 when my father first taught me to catch a rainbow trout from a fresh water stream and then demonstrated how to knock it out (or kill it) against a stone, then to insert a pocket knife into the anus, slicing up the belly to the gills. Cross slice from below the gills down and remove the intestines, then toss the intestines to the other side of the stream for the wild life to eat.

That’s food. That’s how an animal lands on your plate. Someone is doing that ugly work for you every single day, nearly every single meal.

As much as I appreciate television hosts who are willing to tread into darker waters of humanity, they lose me when they back up, horrified, watching goats, sheep and cows slaughtered in front of the camera in 2nd or 3rd world countries. Seriously? You ate a cheese burger before you departed LAX. You had lamb chops outside of O’Hare. Now you’re horrified?

Self righteous hypocrites.

“Human Up”. You’re an omnivore. Stop pretending that this is some terrible 3rd world ghetto shit that you can’t even handle watching while a local thanks the animal then bleeds, guts and breaks down with a rusty knife, all the while praising their kill for its loss and their benefit, with actual reverence for the sacrifice the animal had no choice in making. Reverence makes these people more respectable than us because they looked into the eyes of their dinner and said thank you before they slit its throat. Meanwhile we got pissy at the register for having to pay an extra $0.10 for a plastic bag to keep the pre-packaged sirloin separate from our fruits and vegetables.

We continue to lose touch with the reality and humanness of what we are. That’s not a good thing.

When to Call Out a Liar

Brutal honesty is difficult. It’s something I’m not very good at because conflict REALLY makes me uncomfortable. But a couple years ago I had to stand in front of a grown adult, a person I had entrusted the professional care and safety of at least one of my children to, and called her a liar…to her face, in the presence of other adults who were also her clients.

I never take such an accusation lightly. I’ve had to fire staff for the same. It always makes me nauseous. But this was deeply personal. I offered her the opportunity to prove me wrong. I knew she couldn’t, or I never would have made the accusation to begin with. I already knew the truth. It had to be said because this could no longer continue without me being complacent to the misdeed.

All of this directs me, baffled, as to why those in the industry of independent reporting of facts – actual journalists, not “media personalities” – aren’t willing to stand up and say, “Mr. President, what you just said is factually untrue, those are not the words or the meaning you implied less than 24 hours ago or over the last few months of your own tweets. Sir, you are a liar. You are lying to your employer, the American people. How should your employer respond to your flagrant deceit? How do you respond to your staff who you find are guilty of lying to you? We have sworn affidavits of many of them, but the American people would like to know just how stupid you think we collectively are? How much of your deceit and bafoonery do you expect your employer to tolerate?”

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?!?