Two Months of Fatherhood

My friends asked me a couple weeks ago if I was enjoying my time as a father. I hesitated for a moment because a firm “YES!” would have been a complete lie. I couldn’t blurt out a resounding applaud for my son because, at the time, Teddy was going through his 6-week growth spurt; apparently, babies have several growth spurts within the first year. He went from an angelic newborn with predictable sleeping habits to a grumpy-old-man who wants to escape the nursing home. There was nothing we could do to soothe him, and his fussiness tested my patience to the point that I fantasized about sleeping in the garage. The growth spurt lasted a couple of weeks, and we are starting to see some rays of hope. Teddy is now 2 months old and weighs a whopping 11 pounds. We took him in for his first round of vaccinations; he cried a little bit but we promised him  ice cream afterward – Christina and I really enjoyed the ice cream.

img_20190221_050759133

If my friends asked me today if I enjoyed my time as a father, I would leap up and give them a hug. I know there will be more growth spurts and hard times, but Teddy’s personality is starting to blossom – a big deal to all fathers. Newborn babies stress me out, and you can’t really do much with them because they are asleep 90 percent of the time – either sleeping, eating, or crying. Two-month-old Teddy, on the other hand, enjoys kicking his legs, smiling, and getting his double chin squeezed. It’s not much, but for a father who has no maternal bone in his body, it is a big step towards one day throwing a baseball or talking about Plato. I find it interesting the difference between men and women during the baby phase. Christina is always on the verge of tears thinking of Teddy becoming a man. I, on the other hand, am excited about those formidable years of Teddy’s maturity.

img_20190223_151504939

Of course, we both are going to enjoy the journey, but it is definitely apparent which part of that journey best fits our personality. Christina is an amazing Mom, and she could probably nurture a rabid dog to sleep. My forte is being a coach and motivator – attributes which don’t kick in until much later. This points to a key philosophical concept. Children need both masculinity and feminity while growing up – the Ying and Yang of parenthood. There is a lot of arguments over sex and gender in today’s world, but I don’t believe anyone can argue that it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes a village of people because men and women bring unique gifts to the table of life. There is a big problem today of men leaving their families; a father or male role-model is essential. Consider the following stats…

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
  • 85% of all children who show behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average.  (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (National Principals Association Report)
  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.  (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
  • 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
  • 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]

To find out more information about fatherless households go to the National Fatherhood Initiative

img_20190214_183348204

Some of these stats are from the 20th century but the findings today show the same detrimental pattern. We need good men to help raise the next generation of children – and I hope to be enlisted in that pursuit. So the next time my friends ask me how I am enjoying my fatherhood…I will try not to hesitate too long :).

 

How to Remember Anything

Have you ever shampooed your hair and then thought to yourself, “did I shampoo my hair yet?” How about meeting someone new and immediately forgetting their name? My personal favorite is always forgetting directions and having to use my GPS like it’s a prosthetic. I envy people who can recall vast stores of information from their memory and I have always wanted a way to improve upon my cerebral faculties. In an effort to flex my memory muscles, I read Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. This is a really great book about Joshua’s journey into the eclectic world of professional memorizers; competitors who memorize things like decks of cards (world record: 21.1 seconds), number of digits in 5 minutes (world record: 500), random words (world record: 300 in 15 minutes), digits of pie (world record: 67,890 digits), etc. How the frick do they do these amazing feats of memory? Well, most of them use the technique of the “Memory Palace.”

The Memory Palace has a lot of history and was documented in the Rhetorica ad Herennium circa 90 BC by an anonymous author. Basically, it is a technique that combines familiar known places (think your house) with unforgettable objects. For example, let’s try to remember this grocery list: 7 bottles of wine, 5 ounces of smoked salmon, 1 tub of cottage cheese, 3 pounds of ground beef, 10 baguettes, and 3 boxes of shredded wheat. Using my childhood house I will first imagine my mailbox where there are 7 bottles of wine singing. At my front door there are 5 naked women hitting each other with big smelly salmons. Entering my living room, Kiera Knightley is in a big tub of cottage cheese taking a bath. In my kitchen, there are three cows grinding to music. Next is my bathroom where two people are making out but their appendages and heads are baguettes. Lastly, I go to my room where there are shredded wheat boxes having a threesome on my bed. The more weird, sexual, and sensory a image the easier it is to remember. We are excellent at remembering images and we are really bad at remembering words/lists. This technique takes practice but it can make you an ace at remembering words, numbers, names, and really anything you want. Professional memorizers are not superhuman geniuses but rather have determination to practice memory techniques like the one previously explained.

The next logical question is, “why do I need to remember things when I can just write it down or use my phone?”  To best answer this question we need to go back to the time before there was reading and writing. In the days of Plato, memorization was an art that the wisest people mastered. Since there were no books, all information was transmitted orally and hence had to be taken to heart if one wanted to reference it accurately. Into the Renaissance, people would memorize entire books, poems, speeches, and anthologies because texts were extremely rare. Individuals who wanted to learn had to internalize all the information. By committing things to memory, people were given stronger virtues and character because they had the wisdom of the past infused into their very being. What makes us who we are is the culmination of our memories and those memories dictate our world view, personality, and habits. In today’s society, we don’t need to remember much because we have the internet, easily available books, and smartphones. The problem with this is that our brain’s are essentially empty (compared to philosophers in the past) and when confronted with problems we get guidance from people with equally empty brains. Obviously, there are people who can give guidance but I think we would all be better off if we committed more wisdom to memory to improve our day-to-day lives. I personally, want to memorize quotes from historical figures, bible verses, historical dates, poetry, and complete works of classical philosophizers. We have an infinite capability to remember and the more we internalize the more we can grow in our understanding of life.

The Word is the Bird

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The variety of birds on this earth is truly amazing with almost 10,000 unique species. My depth of bird knowledge is very limited and I honestly only know a handful: robin, blue jay, crow, parrot, cardinal, turkey, and big bird. I was interested in reading something other than Teddy Roosevelt killing birds, so I picked up The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin. This lady freaking loves birds!!! She has over 250 and runs a sanctuary/breeding operation for birds that are endangered. Parrots, as I learned, have the intelligence of a 3 year old and the subsequent personality; they love attention, can speak short phrases, dance, and have screaming tantrums. The obsession Michele has for birds is extremely respectable and I commend her mission of conserving bird species. Birds have personalities and they can feel emotions just like humans. Sadly, people buy birds as pets and they don’t understand the investment needed to care for them (certain parrot species can live up to 50 years). Life happens and bird owners die, their houses gets foreclosed, or they marry a bird hater. This creates the sad situation of the bird being transferred between many homes throughout its life. Thankfully, there are people like Michele who have the heart and patience for these neglected creatures.

A large portion of the exotic birds in the US were originally wild and taken from their habitat to fill the cage of some fat-old lady who wants a “Pretty Bird.” The mass removal of birds from their habitat reduced several species’ numbers to endangered levels. Miraculously, legislation was passed in 1993 to limit the importation of certain birds. This legislation helped, but people still purchase exotic birds in the US that are bred in unhealthy and inhumane conditions. As humans, we grow attached to animals and this is hard wired into our evolutionary make up. They become our friends and we treat them many times as if they were our children. I think this quote by Irving Townsend sums up our feelings for pets; “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.” Any pet, whether it is a dog, a potbelly pig, or a bird should not be purchased unless the owner can take full responsibility for the animal throughout its life. An animal should not be purchased without deep thought and time to contemplate the personal sacrifices. Before you buy that parrot, you better be prepared for it to call you “ASSHOLE” every morning until you are an old man (this is exactly what Michelle’s parrot calls her husband). The responsibility of a life, whether it is an animal or human, is the greatest responsibility a person can take on. Make sure you know the breeder, the animal’s upbringings, yourself, your family, your intentions, your realistic future dwellings, your finances, and your level of patience before buying any type of pet. If done responsibly, the bond you form with a pet will make you less selfish and more understanding of the fragility of life-allowing you to better appreciate your own existence.

To learn more about Michele and her bird sanctuary visit http://www.pandemoniumaviaries.org/