Archive for June, 2011

Happy Father’s Day in Your New Home!

June 18, 2011

Originally titled, “Virtue in Simplicity; Strength with Humor.  We’ll miss you Dad”

(This “tribute” was started after my father in law died in November. I had written much of it but just hadn’t finished. I thought with Fathers Day coming up, I would finish it and post it as a tribute to him for our first Father’s Day without him. So, to my biological dad, I want you to know that I love you and by no means want to diminish the impact you’ve had on my life but I hope you understand if I share this tribute on behalf of my “other” dad this Father’s Day)

Those words in the title are ways I would describe my father in-law, Jerry Carlson who died this past Monday morning (November 29), exactly 1 year after his bride of 58 years also left this Terra firma to be with our Lord.  One of Webster’s definitions of virtue is, “conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.”  If that doesn’t befit my father in-law, nothing else does.  He was a man of principles, ethical, upright and a man of moral conduct.  But he was also fun with a great (and very dry) sense of humor.

Jerry crunching through a crossword puzzle in Florida

I’m sure there have been some who’ve felt intimidated by this 6’3″ stoic man.  But, as long as I’ve known him, intimidation wasn’t something he promoted but simply emitted.  His stern look, tall stature and firm responses elicited a sort of intimidation.  Yet beneath the seeming gruff exterior was a man who cared.  He cared about his family.  He cared about his friends.  He cared about his work.  And, he cared about his God…our God.  That was evident from the time I first met him as I began to date his fourth eldest child, third eldest daughter.

He was a leader.  I suppose even I was a little intimidated the first time I met him.  I don’t intimidate easily.  Not because I’m anything of note myself but because I learned early in life that if I could have a relationship with the God of the Universe, all else was easily accessible.  Yet, it’s always a little tense when it comes to a young man meeting the father of his newfound love interest.  So it was when I met Jerry.  But that quickly dissipated as I began to establish a relationship with him that would continue to elicit my increasing admiration, love, and respect as the years went by.

In some ways, he was the father I never had.  This is not meant to bring any disrespect or reduce the effect of my own father’s impact on my life.  But, as the child of a divorced family from an early age, I never truly experienced a family dynamic as designed by God.  Unfortunately, given the state of marriage in our culture I am in the company of too many who’ve experienced similar or worse situations.  Jerry and Peg Carlson provided that place where function met design.  Of course they weren’t perfect.  I wasn’t looking for perfect.  I was looking for intentional.  I needed (without recognizing that need) to find a family that would provide a solid foundation for the building of my own family.  They provided that.  They loved God and they loved their family.  And, they invited me in as if I was one of their own.  I’ll always feel that honor no matter how old I get.  I was one of their’s.  In some way, it was a clear picture to me of how I could be grafted into God’s family through Jesus Christ.

Jerry introduced me to activities that I had never known before.  He was an outdoorsman.  Not Daniel Boone-like.  But, he enjoyed outdoor activities.  Sue has told me stories of their camping trips across the country in those faux-wood sided station wagons that once populated our highways and bi-ways.  I fished in my first Minnesota fishing opener with Jerry and his sons and friends.  I loved it.  I was never much of a fisherman and there were many times that I think he slyly tested my mettle during the early years of these events.  He positioned me in the front of the boat as the “anchor man” during my early fishing openers.  Though I can’t prove it I wonder if he wasn’t snickering as he watched me stand at the bow of the boat as the wind whipped up the waves on a cold Minnesota spring day.  I mean, how hard can it be to toss an anchor into a lake?  Well, if you don’t know how deep it is or how to properly set the anchor, it can be challenging.  Especially as you try to keep your balance while the water laps up high over the bow, down your waders and into your clothing.  I’m sure he laughed.  He had a good sense of humor.  And, I truly didn’t mind because I felt like I was part of the family.  I didn’t mind getting the holey waders the first few years of our fishing trips.   Or, getting into the lake with them to put the dock out into the nearly frozen spring lake or at the end of the summer in preparation for another cabin closing for the season.  Frozen feet or wet pants were just a part of the initiation into this great family.  And it was worth it.  Every memory.  I just hope I did well by Jerry.  I think I did.

Though he and his son annually emulated Elmer B. Fudd going after Bugs Bunny (with more success and going after ducks and pheasants — not rabbits), I only went out with them once into a pheasant farm field.  Even then, I seldom shot the gun.  Never mastered the art of the shot.  Yet, I could certainly see how time in the field with these men would have been a wonderful experience. And, in retrospect, I wish I had gone with them at least once on their duck hunting excursions.

As much as he introduced me to adventures I had previously ignored, we shared some common loves of life.  We both loved to golf, watch (and loathe our local NFL team) the Minnesota Vikings, watch college hockey (but cheered for rival teams – I am a MN Gopher fan and alumni and he a ND Sioux fan and alumni) and, of course my wife—his daughter.  He was as cynical a fan as I was and am.  So, our discussions about the Vikings, Twins and other MN sports teams would quickly denigrate into complaining about the team and its performance.  In the scheme of life it’s not a big deal but I wish the Vikings could have given him one Super Bowl victory before he departed (just like a lot of Cubbie fans over the years).

I’ll always have the image of Jerry standing over his golf ball and taking that unique swing of his that almost always defeated me when we played head to head.  It was just fun playing golf with him.  I will miss that a lot.  And, I will miss playing with Peggy too.  She always made me feel like I was Jack Nicklaus when she talked about a shot that I hit that she “couldn’t believe”.  There were a lot of forgettable shots but not many that were memorable but she was able to make you feel like a golf king.  Jerry also crowed to the clubhouse gang about memorable shots his family hit during a round.

He loved crosswords and Sudoku. The image of him sitting with his right leg crossed over his left knee to form a lap table as he worked on the daily crossword puzzle is etched in my head.

Jerry loved his family.  He never said much but his actions and reactions showed how proud he was of his children, his “grafted in” children and his grandchildren.  Mostly, he loved his wife.  I think that when all is said and done and the mountain of memories stand tall, the one thing that will stand out to me when someone asks me what I thought about my father in-law, I will say “He adored his wife and loved and led his family well”.  His strong, silent leadership was evident but it was the way that he interacted and choreographed the dialog with his wife of 58 years that still touches my heart as I think about it today.  They made each other laugh….sometimes to the point of pain.  They chided and cajoled, scolded and corrected each other and always in fun or respectfully. Jerry always seemed to light up around his wife. When she went home to be withe The Lord, much of him went with her. They were truly a couple that was made “one” in Christ through marriage. I miss them and I miss those times.

So, as I close out this written tribute my memories remain and bring much joy as I remember my “other” father this Fathers day, that won’t be the same without him.

Your loving son-in-law

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When Social Media, Politics and Morality Collide–What Do You Say?

June 14, 2011

To use a phrase a friend of mine used all the time in high school (and apologies to cat-lovers), “you can’t swing a dead cat without” hearing about the latest development in the Anthony Weiner Twitter scandal.

“I told you that social media stuff is the bane of our society”

“There isn’t a good politician out there–they are all corrupt”

You may not have heard these exact phrases but there are sentiments of each of them in every news story, blog post or twitter message being sent about this story.  On the DadPad, we typically discuss issues related to being a dad so why address THIS issue.  As I sat and thought about what’s happening and since I’m a social media consultant, there are a number of angles to write and comment about when it comes to these kind of stories.  But what do I do with them as a father?  Seems to me that these are GREAT places to engage in discussions about a lot of things with our kids, using age appropriate terms and detail.

So, is the real evil the social media tool?  Is Twitter to blame?  Church leadership has “banned” Facebook use for some of its leaders to remove the temptation for flirtation or more explicitly deviant uses.  I applaud men with weakness to “run” from the temptation in their lives, no matter the form or vehicle of delivery.  But, is the answer simply to blame the tool and pretend it doesn’t exist without regard to the user?  Here’s the truth..social media is here to stay.  We better learn how to use it for good and not just ignore it like it didn’t exist.

And, we certainly have heard about politicians who’ve abused their status and power for sex, money and position.  So, do we simply blame Anthony Weiner for being a politician as if had he been a plumber or accountant, this wouldn’t have happened?  The issue is much less about his role as a politician than that he is a human being.  This doesn’t excuse his behavior but, instead, lays the problem squarely on his shoulders as someone who made a very poor decision, or series of them.  Isn’t that usually the case with these situations?   The media and public sentiment can do all they can to find out the ramifications of being a politician and the temptations that they or athletes or actors face because of their position, but in the end, it’s all about poor judgement…poor choices.

The truth is that the heart of the problem always lies in one place…the heart of the man (or woman).  This is a great chance to discuss issues of morality with your kids.  We live in a culture that is constantly trying to place blame everywhere but where it belongs…with the person who committed the act of indecency, immorality or illegality.  Certainly access to tools that allow us as sinful men and women to more easily carry out inward thoughts and turn them into external actions have played a part in more widespread distasteful acts by humans at large.  But are the tools to BLAME?  Without going into a longer post about this, I can, with confidence state, “No”.  The problem isn’t the tool.  It’s the tool holder.  If I put a hole in the wrong wall with a hammer, is the hammer to blame?  Maybe I should have held the architectural drawings right-side up.  This is all good fodder for a discussion with your children–especially a generation that is growing up native to the use of texting, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of online networking.  And, they are growing continually wary of politicians, musicians, actors and athletes who abuse their position for personal gain, as if they were above the law.  But, is it their position that is to BLAME?  Again, I don’t think so.  Because of their notoriety, they are more subject to commit these acts than you or I might be.  Yet, if we simply place the blame on their fame, we completely miss the mark.

Ultimately, the discussion needs to rest on the truth that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Only God provides the ability for us to uphold an objective measure of morality.  We can place blame on tools, roles and circumstances, but ultimately decisions to act upon fleshly urges rests within the heart and soul of each one that has the urge…do I act on it or subject my thoughts and feelings to One who can help me overcome them and make wise decisions.

Don’t avoid the news, online technology or pursuit of careers because they are subject to being misused or abused.  Rather, lead discussions in your family about what taking personal ownership of decisions looks like.  Bring up why these kind of stories are thought of as   “newsworthy” (though we could discuss the over reporting of sensational stories for ratings, we won’t here :).  When you hear or see life happening around you and someone chooses poorly, don’t ignore or shut off immediately…engage and use them to point to right choices and right responses so that your children learn that they can live in the world but don’t have to succumb to its temptations.

How do you handle these stories in your home?