Random Father's Day Thoughts

Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day is a man-made holiday. A synthetic creation of our culture rather than an organic product of the Christian calendar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against these observances. I’m for them. But they do have the effect of tainting anything done on them with a slight element of perceived obligation.

In other words, if on August 14th I spontaneously bring my wife flowers and a handwritten note expressing my devotion, she is likely to feel nothing but pure, crystalline appreciation and delight. She’ll think, “My goodness, my husband really cares about me.”  But that same gesture on February 14th, while being met with gratitude, will not have near the same impact.

Indeed, several days before Valentine’s Day each year, my bride usually starts saying things like, “Please don’t feel like you have to get me anything for Valentine’s Day.” And she means it. “Okay,” I say dutifully, while mentally trying to figure what I’m going to get her. After all, I’m not going to be THAT guy. You know. The guy who didn’t do anything for the wife he loves on Valentine’s Day.

Do you see what I mean? Even the most heartfelt expressions invariably pick up extra baggage in transit on these days. It’s unavoidable.

Of course, the answer isn’t to boycott the holiday. It’s to make sure we’re faithful to express love and gratitude on other days as well. It’s those random, surprising, spontaneous expressions that carry the pure power to bless.

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Today is my first Father’s Day since Dad went to Heaven back in September. Tomorrow is his birthday. He would have been 82. Father’s Day always fell within a day or two of his birthday which always resulted in combining the two observances for him.

Just this last week, Mom held a giant yard sale in which she sold much of Dad’s accumulated man-stuff. Actually, my sisters and brother-in-law organized the sale. Mom’s part was to agree to allow stuff to be sold (and to allow a bunch of stuff to be hauled to the landfill.)

My sisters went through a “junk room” and an attic in the old homestead that had 40+ years accumulation. They found quite a few treasures. Among them:

  • Five $25 U.S. savings bonds that had matured sometime back in the late ’70s.
  • A bank envelope with several hundred dollars in it.
  • The funeral service registry book from my grandfathers funeral (1968).
  • The “Conrad Birdie” costume I wore in Eastern Oklahoma State College’s production of Bye Bye Birdie (Spring 1978)
  • An orange vinyl ’60s Modern swivel chair from an ultra-mod dining set Mom bought back in 1968.
  • And this . . .

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My sister sent me this picture and at first I didn’t recognize the trucks as being mine. But then I looked at the bridge on the box and neurons deep in my memory cells started firing. I also have a memory of assembling the plastic tubing that comprised the “track” that the battery powered trucks ran on.

The date on the box is 1966. I would have been seven years old the year this showed up under the Christmas tree.

At another point in the excavation, they came across a pair of little spurs. These, actually:

spurI remember these well, even though they go back even farther into my childhood. I got them the same Christmas I received my first pair of cowboy boots. The one’s I’m wearing in this picture:

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Yes, that’s me, second from the right rocking the white sweatshirt. ( I think it says “Bonanza.”) My little brother is wearing the footie jammies. If he’s two years old here, then I’m four.

By the way, those five $25 savings bonds that were sitting in box in our old house for the last 34 years? . . . Guess how much that $125 would have grown to today if it had been put in a compounding investment bearing an average of 10% per year.

About $3,200.

Enough to buy a very, very nice pair of cowboy boots. And maybe even some awesome spurs.

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Eight great movies about Fathers or Fatherhood:

Field of Dreams

The Natural

Father of the Bride

Big Fish

The Road to Perdition

Mr. Mom

My Life

Taken

Random Lazy Sunday Bits

We were “five” at church last night for the first time in quite a while. Which was nice. We have all three Female Offspring Units at home for a brief season. In a few weeks FOU #2 heads back to Norman to start a job. Meanwhile #1 is searching for meaningful employment with a freshly signed Baylor University sheepskin under her arm.

She is limiting her search to the Dallas-Fort Worth market so she can live at home and get some student loans paid off before launching out on her own. Of course, the DFW market is a pretty good one to be limited to. It’s the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation. And the Texas economy is much less anemic than in most other areas of the nation.

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Nevertheless, her efforts so far in finding a job commensurate with the extraordinary time, effort and especially, expense involved in obtaining a degree from a prestigious university have not produced a breakthrough. She is not alone.

A recent survey revealed that about 72% of recent college graduates are currently working in the service sector. (Translation: They’re waiting tables and working at The Gap.) Another study showed that fewer than half of recent college graduates are finding jobs that actually require a college degree.

And to piggyback on my previous post about the current economic “recovery,” a news item last week pointed out that roughly half of the new jobs created last month are directly attributable to McDonalds.

mcdsThere’s nothing wrong with working in fast food. It’s honest work and, for the diligent and enterprising, will invariably lead to bigger better things. But for those emerging from college with $50k-$100k in student loans, it’s a prescription for a decades of indentured servitude.

All of this is causing a long-overdue reevaluation as to whether the expense of college is worth it. (See here for example.)

Graduates with degrees in engineering or science are doing just fine. Liberal arts majors, not so much. As with many of our current troubles, the roots of this problem can be traced to a progressive article of faith that, when enacted into policy produces ugly unintended consequences.

In this case it’s the dual presuppositions that every person who wishes to “succeed” should go to college and that every person who wants to attend college should be able to do so (either at taxpayer expense or with taxpayer subsidized debt).

These twin articles of faith resulted in flooding college campuses with students over the last several decades. Then the immutable laws of supply and demand kicked in. Increased demand for admission slots sent costs soaring. And in a simultaneous double whammy, the glut of graduates flooding the labor markets diluted the value of those ever-more-expensive diplomas.

Why is this? Because flooding a market with something cannot help but dilute the value of that something. Put another way when everyone is special–nobody is.

The “everyone has a right to to go into debt for a college education” paradigm is similar to the “everyone has a right to go into debt so they can own a house” article of faith among progressives.

The latter paradigm, and the policies that flowed from it, produced both the housing bubble and the sub-prime loan debacle that produced the current crisis.

Right now searching the phrase “higher education bubble” produces more than 123,000 results. The top result is this excellent op-ed by Michael Barone: “The Higher Education Bubble Poised to Burst

Of course, we know God is going to open up a great door for our girl. She’s bright, articulate, is an outstanding written and verbal communicator, and walks in great favor. All that trumps the averages and trends.

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It’s been an fascinating week for me and my fellow students of Palin Derangement Syndrome.

As I write, powerful left-wing media institutions like the New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC,  and Mother Jones magazine have rallied several small armies of zealous volunteers to pour over a recently released cache of Palin’s private emails from her abbreviated tenure as governor of Alaska.

It’s an amazing precedent that liberal Palin-haters have won in the court ruling that the state of Alaska must release 24,000 pages of Palin’s private emails because she discussed state business in some of them. I promise you, it is a precedent that will come back to bite them in the hinder parts.

Meanwhile, the great search for dirt or mockery fodder among the emails has thus far produced nada. Zilch. On the contrary, the whole thing seems to be in the midst of backfiring on the vicious pack of snarling, sneering elites.

What has emerged from the emails is the not-too-surprising news that Palin received numerous death threats from deranged haters during he tenure as governor.

And if there is a bombshell, it this one that just blew up in the faces of all those who have fed bizarre conspiracy theories about Sarah Palin’s youngest son, Trig.

For the first time, we now have the full text of an email Palin sent to her extended family sharing the news that she is pregnant and that the child she is carrying as been determined to have Down’s Syndrome. Palin chose to write the message as if it was written by God, to her and her husband. Here it is:

To the Sisters, Brother, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Friends of Trig Paxson Van Palin (or whatever you end up naming him!):

I am blessing you with this surprise baby because I only want the best for you. I’ve heard your prayers that this baby will be happy and healthy, and I’ve answered them because Ionly want the best for you!

I heard your heart when you hinted that another boy would fit best in the Palin family, to round it out and complete that starting five line-up. Though another girl would be so nice, you didn’t think you could ask for what you REALLY wanted, but I knew, so I gave you a boy because I only want the best for you!

Then, I put the idea in your hearts that his name should be “Trig”, because it’s so fitting, with two Norse meanings: “True” and “Brave Victory”. You also have a Bristol Bay relative with that name, so I knew it would be best for you!

Then, I let Trig’s mom have an exceptionally comfortable pregnancy so she could enjoy every minute of it, and I even seemed to rush it along so she could wait until near the end to surprise you with the news – that way Piper wouldn’t have so long to wait and count down so many days – just like Christmastime when you have to wait, impatiently, for that special day to finally open your gift? (Or the way the Palins look forward to birthday celebrations that go on for three, four days… you all really like cake .) I know you, I knew you’d be better off with just a short time to wait!

Then, finally, I let Trig’s mom and dad find out before he was born that this little boy will truly be a GIFT. They were told in early tests that Trig may provide more challenges, and more joy, than what they ever may have imagined or ever asked for. At first the news seemed unreal and sad and confusing . But I gave Trig’ s mom and dad lots of time to think about it because they needed lots of time to understand that everything will be OK, in fact, everything will be great, because I only want the best for you!

I’ve given Trig’s mom and dad peace and joy as they wait to meet their new son. I gave them a happy anticipation because they asked me for that. I’ll give all of you the same happy anticipation and strength to deal with Trig’s challenges, but I won’t impose on you…

I just need to know you want to receive my offer to be with all of you and help you everyday to make Trig’s life a great one.

This new person in your life can help everyone put things in perspective and bind us together and get everyone focused on what really matters . The baby will expand your world and let you see and feel things you haven’t experienced yet. He’ll show you what “true, brave victory” really means as those who love him will think less about self and focus less on what the world tells you is “normal” or “perfect”. You will grow and be blessed with greater understanding that will be born along with Trig.

Trig will be his dad’s little buddy and he’ll wear Carhartts while he learns to tinker in the garage. He’ll love to be read to, he’ll want to play goalie, and he’ll steal his mom’s heart just like Track, Bristol, Willow and Piper did. And Trig will be the cuddly, innocent, mischievous, dependent little brother that his siblings have been waiting for in fact Trig will – in some diagnostic ways – always be a mischievous, dependent little brother, because I created him a bit different than a lot of babies born into this world today.

Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential. Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed up world you live in down there on earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome. Doctors call it “Down’s Syndrome”, and Downs kids have challenges, but can bring you much delight and more love than you can ever imagine! Just wait and see, let me prove this, because I only want the best for you!

Some of the rest of the world may not want him, but take comfort in that because the world will not compete for him. Take care of him and he will always be yours!

Trig’s mom and dad don’t want people to focus on the baby’s extra chromosome. They’re human, so they haven’t known how to explain this to people who are so caring and are interested in this new little Alaskan. Sarah and Todd want people to share in the joy of this gift I’m giving to the Palin family, and the greater Alaska family. Many people won’t understand… and I understand that. Some will think Trig should not be allowed to be born because they fear a Downs child won’t be considered “perfect” in your world. (But tell me, what do you earthlings consider “perfect” or even “normal” anyway? Have you peeked down any grocery store isle, or school hallway, or into your office lunchroom lately? Or considered the odd celebrities you celebrate as “perfect” on t.v.? Have you noticed I make `em all shapes and sizes? Believe me ,, there is no “perfect”!)

Many people will express sympathy, but you don’t want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this.

I know it will take time to grasp this and come to accept that I only want the best for you, and I only give my best. Remember though: “My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts… for as the heavens are higher than the earth, my ways are higher than yours!”

I wrote that all down for you in the Good Book ! Look it up! You claim that you believe me – now it’s time to live out that belief!

Please look to me as this new challenge and chapter of life unfolds in front of you. I promise to equip you. I won’t give you anything you can’t handle. I am answering your prayers. Trig can’t wait to meet you. I’m giving you ONLY THE BEST!

Love,

Trig’s Creator , Your Heavenly Father

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This Isn't Your Father's Recession

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I’m convinced that future historians will look back on the 2006 and 2008 elections as years in which Americans chose the worst possible government at the worst possible moment.

Not that the preceding governmental policies were all that great. Indeed, we now know that most of the apparent prosperity that followed the bursting of the Internet stock bubble in the spring of 2000 was fake, unsustainable prosperity based upon dirt-cheap mortgage money that created the housing bubble plus out-of-control consumer credit card debt.

Things were definitely going to get ugly economically around 2008 no matter what. That was baked into the cake long ago. But what the U.S. electorate did by putting Democrats in control of both houses of Congress in 2006 and then handing them the White House too in 2008, was put in charge those least ideologically, philosophically, and morally equipped to manage the crises. Indeed, it was like having one’s house on fire and calling in the gasoline brigade. The Republican firefighters might have been inept, but at least they would have used water.

That brings us the latest update of ClusterStock’s employment chart, which compares this recession and “recovery” with that of past recessions since World War II.

scariest-jobs-chart-ever-june-2011

Sadly, we’re in the red line at the bottom. The dotted line shows what employment levels would have been without the wave of temporary census worker hiring. In other words, there has been almost no recovery.

The chart shows that in the past, steep drops in employment were invariably followed by equally steep rebounds. Indeed, the pattern is, the more dramatic the drop in employment, the more dramatic the recovery. It’s the classic business cycle at work–creating a predictable and natural sine wave on economic growth charts.

But not this recession. What is different about this one? Three words:

Hope and Change.

As I have noted in past cranky, gloomy posts (like this one, for example), this administration has been conducting a quiet (but obviously effective) war on business owners from day one. And it is business owners that create jobs. From the day Mr. Obama’s crew got unpacked in Washington, small-to-medium sized businesses have been under assault from virtually every department of the Executive Branch.

OSHA, the National Labor Relations Board, the EPA, Health and Human Services, and about a half dozen different departments within Eric Holder’s Justice Department have been a part of this shock-and-awe campaign.

So what was this President’s recent response? Blame the business owners.

CNBC: “Obama Tells Companies to ‘Step Up’ and Hire Workers”

Right. It’s not that business owners are being perfectly rational in holding off hiring while the government is being run by a bunch of lefty academics who have never so much as run a lemonade stand in their lives and view with disdain anyone with the huevos to launch a business and consider profit an inherent evil to be minimized if at all possible. America’s business owners just aren’t being patriotic.

“Step up” indeed. I suspect business owners will begin to step up right after Mr. Obama gets invited by the voters to step down.

Texas' Seemingly Bottomless Appetite for Top-Heavy Restaurants

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Add this to the extensive and growing “Evidence that Western Civilization is Doomed” list.

Occasionally, as Mrs. Blather and I drive through what’s left of the U.S. 114 – U.S. 121 interchange in Grapevine (it’s currently blown up to allow for a long-needed extreme makeover) one of us will shake a head and comment on the proliferation of boob-themed restaurants there.

recent post on the Business Insider blog called  them “Breastaurants.” (Warning: pics accompanying article are a carnival of bare midriffs and pierced navals.)

First there was just a Hooters there–the creepy, pervy grandfather of all boob-themed eateries–nestled amid TGI Friday’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Don Pablo’s and a half dozen other national chains.

But success invariably triggers imitation. And the Hooters chain has been wildly successful. Now the TGI Friday’s has been replaced by something called “The Tilted Kilt” which, according that Business Insider article, is clearly appealing to the quasi-pedophilic “school girl uniform” fetish crowd. And across the road we now have a “Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke” (get it).

Among the other establishments infesting what has become the restaurant industry’s fastest growing category you’ll find “Twin Peaks,” “Brick House Tavern,” “Big Racks BBQ,” and, God help us, “Mugs ‘n Jugs.” And sadly, Texas seems to be the place where a lot of these chains are being birthed.

Surely they’re about to run out of euphemisms for mammary glands. Sadly, I won’t be surprised to see a Jello-themed dessert shop pop up on the corner carrying the name “Jiggle.”

Yes, I know to some I sound like Mr. Prudence McUptight. But let’s face it, these are basically a halfway house, next-best-thing for guys who would actually like to be at a strip bar for lunch. But these are supposedly respectable enough that businessmen can put them on their expense reports.

This whole phenomenon raises a number of troubling questions about our culture. First, what kind of culture produces men who frequent these places? And what kind of culture produces an endless supply of young women eager to work in them?

As I’ve asked in past posts: Where are the feminists? Oh that’s right, they’ve been too busy keeping partial-birth providers legally in business and making sure we all say “chairperson” to muster a peep as an entire generation of American women embrace the idea that the highest thing they can aspire to is to be an object of lust.

On a lighter note . . .

About 15 years ago, when I was the Media Pastor at a large church up in Minneapolis, the men on the pastoral staff had a December tradition. We would take a Friday off and go as a group to the Mall of America to Christmas shop for our wives.

For some reason, I missed this particular outing, but when lunch time came, the guys decided to explore the new restaurants that had just opened up in the huge mall’s restaurant row. There were lot’s of “theme” restaurants at the Mall of America, including a recently opened “Rainforest Cafe” and a “Planet Hollywood.”

Instead, this group of about eight pastors decided to check out a new “owl” themed restaurant. Called Hooters. They had been seated and had ordered before they began to connect the dots and realized, to their deep mortification, that the theme of the restaurant wasn’t owls at all.

They prayed no church members would see them in there and when the food arrived set a world record for eating.