Speak well of your ex for your kids’ sake

Speak well of your ex... your kids need that from you.I saw this image posted on Facebook a few weeks ago and in the last few days I was reminded of it. In recent months I have encountered a few situations in which an ex, or soon-to-be-ex, was talking either to their children or around their children about the child’s other parent. In most cases when this happens the parent is respectful and mature enough to not bad mouth their ex or, short of that, they are at least somewhat strategic in the words they use or how they deliver their thoughts. I think this is important because defaming your kids’ other parent is both vicious and damaging, and will ultimately end up harming the kid’s relationship with their other parent.

While I think it’s important to treat everyone with respect, I think it is especially important to treat the parent(s) of your kids with respect, even if you have to struggle through doing it. And along with treating your ex with respect, I personally think it is equally imperative that you speak respectfully of your ex in the presence of your kids. I know you might not have any ounce of respect for your ex. And I know that your ex may have hurt you beyond imagination and because of that you can’t muster even the slightest positive thing to say about him/her. But that doesn’t give you license to harm your kid’s relationship with your ex.

If your kids are within earshot please have the courtesy to speak well of your ex or, at the very least, not speak of your ex at that time. If something happens to come on in a TV show or a movie that reminds you of your ex’s shenanigans, keep that to yourself for a bit. And if your kids have the unction to ask you about why you and your ex are no longer together, it’s ok to be vague to a degree. Saying things like “your mom liked other men more than she liked me” or “your dad is emotionally abusive and detached” might make you feel vindicated in the moment but can cause all sorts of confusion in your kid. There is nothing wrong with saying something like “we just couldn’t make it work and to make things as good as we could for you, we decided to split”. There can be a deeper discussion about that later, or even at that moment, without going into specifics. But at that moment the best thing you could do is protect your children and their relationship with your ex.

Now please understand that I am not saying that you need to lie to your kids, or that you need to keep them in the dark forever. But when they are still kids, or are not yet capable of completely digesting your anger toward, or hatred of, your ex, I personally believe it is best to shield them from potential harm to their relationship with your co-parent. It pains me when I hear people talking smack about their ex without even considering the words coming out of their mouths.

A boy insulting another boy is not the end of the world

tl;dr Boys are way different than girls and aren’t little meanies because they call another boy a name

Raising a son is hard. And I have to say that raising a son as a single mom or a mom with no help from dad is probably the hardest thing that can be done as a parent today because there are so many societal “norms” that are being applied to young boys that sometimes letting a boy’s natural character out means that he’s in some way a problem child. I am not complaining about raising a son in any way, shape or form. Instead I am saying that raising a son can be challenging, particularly when the natural character of a boy is at odds with what a parent, or society in general, deems appropriate.

The reason I say this is because of an incident I learned about today involving my son. He has had his share of scraps and run-ins this school year, and has been spoken to quite a bit for behavior and behavior related issues. To me, this is to be expected for an eight year old boy. Hell, when I was his age I was doing much of the same stuff he’s doing today. Pretty much every boy in my school was. I think that’s because, in general, boys have a way about them that is unique to boys. We are loud, aggressive, forward, vocal, sometimes condescending, sometimes domineering, sometimes mean and sometimes rude. I am not saying these are all good qualities. I’m just saying, put a group of boys (or men) in a room and in a short amount of time you will see all of these qualities manifest in some capacity among the males in the room.

As boys, we know this. We live this. We expect this from other boys. And because of that, we, as boys, challenge the norms that we are faced with (that is another quality of boys). When we see a boy that might be bigger, stronger, smarter, faster… our inclination is to establish dominance over that boy. We do that in various ways, from hurling insults to competing in sports to physically dominating another boy. And sometimes, as a stronger, smarter, faster boy, we are challenged by another boy trying to establish dominance of his own. Again, this is not only understood among boys, it’s expected. And how we as boys handle these situations begins to identify us among our sphere of influence. This process begins at a very young age and continues for most, if not all, of a man’s life. To understand this concept, observe a group of guys enjoying drinks and talking. How long does it take before one of the guys insults one of his friends, calls him a name or challenges his manhood? How long does it take for a man to establish his own amazingness by telling stories of his work, or how he handled a situation with a coworker, or how he handled something with his kids? It is the way we are with each other.

The incident that my son was involved in went like this… he was playing a game of Mercy with another boy. When the other kid lost, the kid began to whine about it to which my son replied “Stop being a little girl”. Now to those that don’t understand boys, this might come across as rude, condescending or even bullying. To those of us who grew up on the playground, we know this is a way of establishing presence and dominance among our peers. While I am not excusing the conduct of my son, I think it needs to be stated that among boys, games of strength and bravado always come at a cost in that there will inherently be a winner and a loser. In both the winning and the losing, there is a way to conduct yourself that is honorable among other boys. There are also ways to conduct yourself that are less than honorable among boys. So when a boy behaves in a way that is “dishonorable” among the group, it is natural for another boy to call him on that. This happens quite often in regular daily activities of a lot of men (and women, too, but probably not in as pronounced a way as with the guys). Again, I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am merely saying that this is to be expected, particularly among boys.

In the case of my son and his behavior, it is easy to look at him and say he was being mean or bullying the other boy. Personally, I think that’s a load of crap. Bullying, to me, would be something like my son seeing another boy, that he isn’t close with, wearing a pink shirt or sporting long hair and, out of nowhere, approaching him with a “What are you, a girl?”. To me, that is not only bullying but completely unacceptable behavior. It is unwarranted, unmerited and totally inappropriate. But in the case of two boys playing a game of strength and one boy losing then whining about it, to be derided for it in some way, to me, is not bullying. It is playground politics. It’s the same playground politics that say if we’re playing dodgeball and I know you can’t catch, you’re the target I’m throwing at. It’s the same playground politics that say if we’re playing tag and you’re the slow kid, you’re getting tagged first. And it is also the same politics that say if you’ve handled being the slow kid, getting tagged and not being able to get out of it while still being cool about it, you’re probably gonna end up being tight with a couple of dudes that will make sure you are never tagged.

Now moms, this is for you: boys and girls are different in many, many ways. How we feel things is different. How we respond is different. But trying to make your boy understand things from a girl’s perspective – or even YOUR perspective – will more than likely not work most of the time. While your boy may nod at you and say “yes momma, I understand”, the chances of it sticking with him are pretty slim. This is because you can never really take the character out of the boy. You can punish it, discipline it… even make him feel bad for it. But ultimately his character will continue to shine through – good or bad – and he will do what he will naturally do. If you are a single mom raising a son, or if your son’s dad isn’t as involved as he should be, please know that your best bet as his parent is to lead, coach and teach your son how to manage his boyness. Don’t condemn him for being what he naturally is. Don’t try to stifle his character or shut it down, but instead find creative ways to let that character of his flourish. No, that isn’t easy, but it is much less frustrating and much less likely to cause resentment from him later on life.

Why flawed CA Prop 37 should not be passed

There has been much talk in the past few months of the upcoming election. And while most talk has centered around who should win our vote for president, there is a growing discussion in my home state of California surrounding a number of proposed measures. Of these, Proposition 37 is one of the more widely debated ballot measures.

At the core of it, the measure appears to seek approval of the people of California to enact a law that will require “labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways” and will also prohibit “labeling or advertising such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural'”. On the surface, this seems like an absolutely wonderful ballot measure, as it will mean that the people of California will finally be able to know which foods they are considering buying or eating that might be genetically modified (GMO) or genetically engineered (GE) while at the same time putting the onus of labeling these foods on the manufacturers and producers of these foods. But as I read the text of the measure, it has become clear to me that the responsibility for labeling seems to lay much closer to the consumer while putting no real accountability at the source of large food manufacturing and the most prominent sources of food distribution.

Prop 37 will put the bulk of the responsibility of the labeling of foods on the retailer of those foods:

Retailers (such as grocery stores) would be primarily responsible for complying with the measure by ensuring that their food products are correctly labeled. Products that are labeled as GE would be in compliance. For each product that is not labeled as GE, a retailer generally must be able to document why that product is exempt from labeling.

Other entities throughout the food supply chain (such as farmers and food manufacturers) may also be responsible for maintaining these records.

Prop 37 will likewise open the door to unsubstantiated lawsuits surrounding the labeling of foods such that someone can in fact bring a suit against the retailer that sells the product in addition to the wholesaler that moves it regardless of whether there was any damage done because of the labeling violation:

Litigation to Enforce the Measure. Violations of the measure could be prosecuted by state, local, or private parties. It allows the court to award these parties all reasonable costs incurred in investigating and prosecuting the action. In addition, the measure specifies that consumers could sue for violations of the measure’s requirements under the state Consumer Legal Remedies Act, which allows consumers to sue without needing to demonstrate that any specific damage occurred as a result of the alleged violation.

Additionally, there are several glaring exemptions allowed in this measure that are troublesome, if not down right confounding:

The measure also excludes certain food products from the above labeling requirements. For example, alcoholic beverages, organic foods, and restaurant food and other prepared foods intended to be eaten immediately would not have to be labeled. Animal products— such as beef or chicken—that were not directly produced through genetic engineering would also be exempted, regardless of whether the animal had been fed GE crops.

This means that beer, wine, spirits and other alcohol drinks will not have to abide by this law. Likewise, restaurants that sell GMO/GE food – restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Outback Steakhouse, Chili’s, etc – can still sell GMO/GE food without you ever knowing about it. Additionally, and this is a big one in my opinion, animal products – chicken, beef, pork, eggs, milk, etc – that are not directly GMO/GE but that were fed GMO/GE feed will not have to be labeled as GMO/GE.

I’m of the opinion that, in the end, if this measure passes, all that will end up happening is grocers will up their prices to offset the cost of verifying proper labeling, small producers and farmers will suffer tremendous cost increases in production to either comply with the law or find ways to exploit loopholes and larger producers will have already discovered ways of circumventing this law by way of the many loopholes and exemptions in it. Meanwhile, large prepared food providers will continue to sell GMO/GE food for immediate consumption, the Monsantos of the world will continue to rake in huge profits from their GE foods and food products and will assist the larger food producers in bucking the system while the small farmer is left trying to figure out how they will stay in business.

As bad as I want proper labeling of foods, I just don’t think Prop 37 is the right path to it. It leaves entirely too many ways for the bad guys to win at the expense of the good guys while burdening the grocers that we frequent and not really providing much coverage for the end consumer. It might sound controversial, but there is just no way I can vote for this measure as it is worded. If the exemptions weren’t in place, I’d vote a big fat YES for it. But until that happens, my vote is in favor of keeping the playing field level for small food producers, local farmers and grocers.

Prop 37: Read the Text | Propositions | Elections 2012 | KCET
California Proposition 37, Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food (2012) – Ballotpedia
California Secretary of State, Prop 37 (PDF)

Pair programming with a child

While driving home today my daughter Alaynah asked me a little bit about what I do. After explaining to her that I am a software engineer and that I write programs, and telling her that my programs run on the internet, she asked me how Google makes that little box “that you type in to look stuff up”. I told her when we got home I’d show her since it was pretty easy to do.

When we got home we got to work. And a coupe of minutes later we had a very simple web “program” that took some text in a text box and wrote it out to the screen a certain number of times, each time making the text bigger. Not a lot of action going on there, but still something she could see that involved a text box and some programming logic. And as uneventful as this little application might have been, what it led to was amazing to say the least.

As we started to look at the words “Awesome Alaynah” explode onto my monitor in ever growing size, Alaynah began to look at the lines and count them to make sure there were as many lines of repeating text as she had selected. So we decided that it would be easier if there were numbers next to each line so we could see just how many lines were on the screen. Then, after she saw that, she asked me “is there a way to make it so if you click on a line, that all of the lines after it just disappear, including the line that you clicked on?”. I told her that I was sure there was, but that we needed a different kind of programming for that (since our original program was all PHP and click events, while potentially served by the server, are better handled on the client). So I went and got us jQuery, included it and wrote the code that made the lines disappear from the line you clicked on.

As she sat in amazement watching the lines disappear when clicked you could see that there was something troubling her. It was almost as if, when the lines were disappearing, that they were gone forever and ever. So I wrote a little bit of code that would bring the lines back if you wanted them back. She loved that. Except for the text to bring the lines back was “Bring them all back”, which works in all cases except if you disappeared the last line, because there aren’t any “all” lines, only “the” line. So she told me that we needed to change it so that if you removed the last line that to bring it back, the program should say “Bring it back” instead. So we fixed that, and after only a few minutes of conceptualizing, programming, testing, using and refactoring, Alaynah and I had put together a little program that we were both pretty proud of. You can view the source of this little program here.

Now aside from the obvious goodness that is my eight year old daughter (who happens to be turning nine tomorrow) taking an interest in the work I do, I have to say that having time to spend with my daughter – just her and me time – was a blessing. I don’t get a whole lot of one on one time with any of my kids. And even though this was only a few minutes, it was a cool few minutes that let me show my daughter what I do, let her do it with me and let us both enjoy some quality time together. I’m certain I would have loved it just as much if we had been talking about dolls, mud, cartoons or our favorite foods, but the fact is, we were talking about programming, my work, her ideas and our time together. There is a lesson in this for any parent. If your child shows any kind of interest in what you do, take the time to show him/her what it is you do. Don’t explain it with words and leave it at that. If you can take the time to allow your kids to connect with you while learning you, take that time. No excuses, no fussing, just do it.

She and I had an awesome time with this, even if it was only a few minutes. It was a great time and I am glad I didn’t pass it up because I was tired, wasn’t interested or was just unavailable.

View the source of our little program
Our original code was a little more rough around the edges than this one. After we got it working the way we wanted it I went through and cleaned things up a bit, added some comments, pulled out duplicated javascript code segments, etc. So the final product is a cleaned up rendition of our original stuff, which we hacked together very quickly in an effort to make it just work.

// Iterations max limit
$max = 30;
// Iterations min limit
$min = 5;
// User supplied iterations count
$limit = null;
// Handle posted values
if (!empty($_POST['limit'])) {
	$limit = intval($_POST['limit']);
	if ($limit > $max) {
		$limit = $max;
	if ($limit < $min) {
		$limit = $min;
$words = empty($_POST['words']) ? null : $_POST['words'];
	<title>Alaynah's program</title>
	<style type="text/css">
		#putitback {
			color: #008;
			cursor: pointer;
			text-decoration: underline;
			margin-top: 20px;
		.index {
			display: inline-block; 
			width: 50px;
	<script type="text/javascript" src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.7.1/jquery.min.js"></script>
	<script type="text/javascript">
		$(function() {
			// Set the row prefix
			var rowprefix = 'row-';
			// The id of the clicked row to make hide from
			var rowid;
			// Row toggler, makes rows appear and disappear
			function toggleRows() {
				for (var i = rowid; i <= <?php echo $limit; ?>; i++) {
					$("#" + rowprefix + i).toggle();
			$('.row').click(function() {
				// Get the row id that was just clicked
				rowid = $(this).attr('id').replace(rowprefix, '');
				// Handle visibility toggling
				// Set our message for restoring rows
				var message = 'Put them all back.'
				if (rowid == <?php echo $limit; ?>) {
					// Alaynah was smart enough to see that if you only plucked
					// the last row the message should be singular
					message = 'Put it back';
			// Handle restoring "removed" rows
			$('#putitback').click(function() {
				// Handle visibility toggling
				// Clear out the restore link since everything is back to normal
<h1>Alaynah&apos;s program</h1>
<form action="" method="post">
	<p>What do you want to write? <input type="text" name="words" value="<?php echo $words ?>" /></p>
	<p>How many times do you want to see it? 
		<select name="limit">
			<?php for ($i = $min; $i <= $max; $i++): ?>
			<option value="<?php echo $i ?>"<?php if ($i == $limit) echo ' selected="selected"'; ?>><?php echo $i; ?></option>
			<?php endfor; ?>
	<p><input type="submit" value="Hit it!" /></p>
<?php if ($limit && $words): ?>
<hr />
<?php /* Loop $limit times and make the displayed text grow each iteration */ ?>
<?php for ($i = 0; $i < $limit; $i++): $c = $i + 1; ?>
	<div class="row" id="row-<?php echo $c ?>" style="font-size: <?php echo (14 + $i); ?>px;">
		<span class="index"><?php echo $c; ?></span>
		<span><?php echo $words; ?></span>
<?php endfor; ?>
<div id="putitback"></div>
<?php endif; ?>

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Another thanksgiving is upon us. It seems in recent years that we are cycling through holidays at breakneck speed, never being able enjoy any one particular holiday because the next holiday is already up in stores or being advertised on the Internet. This saddens me, especially at thanksgiving time, since we often times neglect the spirit of giving thanks for the rush of acquiring more crap on the morning after.

Being thankful is something I’ve tried to teach my kids for a while now. It’s also something I’ve tried to live my life by as well, although I am nowhere near perfect at it so inevitably I overlook something I should be thankful for, usually in favor of being cranky about something else. This past 12 months it has been way easier to count my curses than it has been to count my blessings. But I’ve had a quiet last few weeks, time that I’ve been able to spend thinking about my life and the many blessings that surround me daily.

While the past year has been challenging, the blessings in my life have shown themselves to me clearly. Among these blessings are the tangibles and the intangibles, the valuable and the invaluable. Although I’m sure I’m forgetting many, it would be silly of me not to at least try to address the more prominent blessings in my life.

  • My kids – My children have been the greatest blessing to me and continue to be. Not a day goes by that I am not totally and completely amazed by them in some way. Whether it be their creative outward expressions or their tender, sincere, loving hearts toward me and their siblings, I’m reminded everyday of just how powerful a blessing my children are.
  • My family – My family has shown me this past year just what love is and to just what lengths they will go in order to care for me and my kids. When I say “my family” I am most definitely talking about my blood family (my brother, my sister, my cousins, my nieces and my nephews). But I am also talking about my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, my sisters-in-law and my brothers-in-law. My entire family seemed to rally around my immediate family this year and even through the hardest of times have stayed by my side.
  • My friends – I’d like to think that everyone has friends. And although I have a crapload of friends on Facebook and Twitter, I can count the number of close friends I have on one hand. But this year my closest friends really showed themselves. They came out of the woodwork to encourage me, make me laugh and generally just have my back. I don’t know where I’d be on this thanksgiving if not for my friends reaching out to me, talking to me and listening to me. You know who you are. I just hope you know how thankful I am for you.
  • My possessions – I know that stuff is just stuff, but I count among my stuff the basic necessities of life: a house, a car, electricity, running water, etc. Yes, I also include toys and gadgets in my “stuff” (I mean who doesn’t love their phone) but being able to keep my kids warm, fed, clothed and sheltered is a tremendous blessing to me.
  • My skills – I love being a nerd. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it. What started out at a hobby for me has blossomed into a career. A well paying, lucrative career. I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with an inquisitive mind and a passion for learning, and that I can leverage that into a skill set that continues to provide for my children.
  • My health – I’ve worked hard to get myself healthy. I’ve worked hard to stay healthy. I’m blessed to say that I don’t need medication everyday just to live and that I can experience life with my children with energy, fervor and passion, never missing a thing with them because “daddy doesn’t feel like it today kids”.
  • My struggles – Anyone that knows me knows that I like to push myself to achieve things that I might not be able to achieve under normal circumstances. And most folks that know me know that I’m not one to get smacked on the chin without swinging back. This year has shown this more clearly than any other. The struggles came in droves this year, each one presenting a new challenge, a new problem that needed a new and different way to approach it. To say that this past year was trying would be minimizing what actually took place. Still, through each of the struggles came an equally rewarding victory and a promise of a brighter future. And for that I am immeasurably blessed.
  • My failures – If there was one thing I can say I am more blessed by this year than last year it would have to be my realization of my own imperfection and my coming to grips with many of my behaviors, attitudes and actions that have led to failure in many areas of my life. It’s been said that if you want to continue to get the same results of your actions simply keep doing the same thing. I realized this year that I did not want to keep getting the same results in life I’ve always gotten and that in order to change course I had to take a deep look within myself to identify those areas of myself that may have been preventing my own success. That has been painful to say the least, but it has also been an indescribable blessing in that for the first time in my life I’ve come face to face with many of my shortcomings and have been able to begin rectifying them. Change is good, even if it is uncomfortable.

There is so much more that I should be thankful for. But as I sit behind the keys staring at the emptiness of what will soon become the last few lines of this post, I’m reminded that I have a house full of kids that need their daddy’s attention and affection. And that is a blessing I can no longer pass up.

Happy thanksgiving. May this holiday season be a blessing to you and may it open you up to be a blessing to others.

Yet more change is afoot

A little over a year ago I posted about an upcoming career change that I was embarking on. I’m not at all the kind of person that likes to bounce around from job to job nor am I a huge risk taker when it comes to matters of finance, career growth and personal change. However, sometimes life happens, and sometimes things happen beyond your control that put you into a position of having to pull back the reins and get things in order once again, even if you have to take a risk to do it. To that end, I am heading down a path that I’ve not even so much as entertained the idea of let alone had the guts to pursue. I am changing jobs again.

This change is much needed for various reasons which I don’t need to go into here. But let me just say that while I look back on the last year of my work with mixed emotions, when I look forward I look on with excitement, butterflies and a determination to make some magic happen. I am leaving the comfort of something stable for the vast wonderland of something that is far from proven. I am taking a risk. A big risk. But one I absolutely need to take at this point in my life.

Starting next week I will be the lead architect and head engineer of a niche marketing company in Concord. I will be working a short term contact with long term potential and will be able to make an immediate, very visible impact of the business operations of the company. I will be a part owner and I will be responsible for making business, technology, architecture, implementation and deployment decisions the likes of which I’ve yet to do in my career. I’m more than a little nervous about that. But I am also more than a little excited about that.

There is just something about looking out over the great expanse of the unknown and seeing for yourself what that landscape looks like. Then stepping off the ledge of safety into that unknown, preparing to face all sorts of unexpected happenings and trusting in yourself to not only get through it but kick ass along the way to a major victory in your life. Yeah, I feel like a boxer throwing punches in the locker room just before a title fight. This is going to be freaking awesome and I am looking forward to it.

I do have to say however that there are some people I will miss from my current employer. While I’ve only been here a year I have had a chance to develop some strong professional and personal relationships with some amazing people that do some amazing things day in and day out. I’ve had to work with these folks daily, supporting them, being challenged by them and working with them collaboratively to achieve common goals and mutual awesomeness:

  • Ravi – Dude, I don’t know how you manage to do what you do every day without blowing a gasket. You only have two hands yet you work like an army of employees daily, getting things done by yourself that I’ve seen entire teams not get done at all.
  • Jay – I’ve had more fun working with you, talking with you, debating with you and collaborating with you than anyone else in the office. You are a great developer and I see big things for your future. Also? Competing in triathlons? Bad. Ass.
  • Fai – You are a gifted and talented front end designer and developer. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. You have an eye for style, color, relationships of objects… all of it. You were an asset to our company from the day you came on board.
  • Kim – What can I say dude, you are just bad ass from top to bottom. You get things done, you handle your business, you see a need before the client does and have an amazing work ethic. Any company would be blessed to have you on their team. It has been a tremendous pleasure working with you. And don’t cover up those tattoos. If there isn’t a handbook saying you have to there isn’t a rule saying you have to.
  • Adrian – Bro, you made my job so much more bearable, so much more sane. I’m glad we had a chance to work together, and I am glad you always brought a positive spin to the table every single day. Even if things were awful in my office, you coming over made things better. I hope you realize what an asset you are. Thanks for making my job as wonderful as you did bro.

And there you have it… news of yet another change in my life. So many changes in such a short period of time… and they aren’t done yet. Just you wait and see. 😉

The Charge of the Light Brigade

When the movie “The Blind Side” came out my wife and I went to see it. While I loved the story line of the movie, and the character portrayals in it, there was a subplot to it that really stood out to me.

In the movie, Michael Oher, the character on whom the story is based, was tasked with reading and dissecting an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem called “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, a poem written about a band of soldiers in the 1850’s that literally rode into the face of death at the command of their superior even though he had made a mistake. They knew they were going to die, they knew it was going to be painful, they knew it was a lost cause. Yet they rode, because that is what soldiers do. Their role as soldiers gave them no latitude to question the motives or commands of their superior. They had pledged to follow him and his orders, and do that they did.

There is a story about life in this. There is also a story about parenting, marriage, education, work and every other aspect of your life that can sometimes catch you up in stress, anger, frustration or doubt. At the end of the day, whatever your role is – be it husband, father, president, stock clerk or son – you have a responsibility to fill that role with every ounce of your being. That is what those soldiers did. And that is what I choose to do daily.

I am currently embroiled in one of the greatest challenges in my personal life that I have ever experienced. To that end, I am resolved to do what’s right wholeheartedly throughout the entire ordeal. I absolutely need to. My wife needs me to. My kids need me to. My friends need me to. I need me to. Challenges, battles, sorrow and loss come. It happens. The true test of a man’s character, as I see it, is not his ability to handle those times but the manner in which he handles himself during those times. When faced with certain loss, certain death, certain pain, will you press on anyway?

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d ?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter’d & sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Borrowed from http://www.nationalcenter.org/ChargeoftheLightBrigade.html

If, by Rudyard Kipling

Some things come at you hard and fast, and hit you in the face like a rush of ice cold water on a hot summer day. Others wrap their arms around you and tell you it’s going to be ok while coaxing you into a peaceful calm. Still others reach into the very core of who you are and add value – strength, courage, determination, resolve – to an otherwise broken and fragile being. This poem, by Rudyard Kipling, is one of those that just encourages and strengthens me.

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

If you are interested in learning more about this poem or would like to socialize and connect with folks who have delved deep into this piece, check out All Things If, a blog dedicated to this poem.

Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This post is being written in response to the following email I received today:

I came to you site via a search for something about chronic fatigue.
Based on your posts it seems your wife was doing pretty poorly and
over time has greatly improved. I also have CFS and it is really bad
right now. I wondered if you’d be willing to share with me anything
your wife did to help her improve (medical treatments and self care,
lifestyle changes etc.) I am desperate and rarely see anything posted
online about people who’ve improved so I really would love to know
what you wife did, didn’t do etc. I really appreciate the help if
you’re able to share some info. Thanks soooo much.

There were a lot of changes made in her lifestyle, my lifestyle and our family dynamic that have contributed to her (continuing) recovery. It would be unfair to say that she has completely recovered from this dastardly illness, but she has made huge improvements and advancements when it comes to her health. Several things have contributed to her improvement, some of which are:

  • She saw a doctor who prescribed different medications for different symptoms of her illness. Out of respect for her I won’t go into that publicly (feel free to email robert [at] robert-gonzalez [dot] com) but the medications she took helped her tremendously in the way of sleep, piece of mind and overall physical health.
  • She became more physically active. I don’t know if this was a matter of willpower or a renewed sense of energy but activity actually helped her get more active which continued to help her improve.
  • She took on a hobby. Last summer she got bitten by the theater bug and began to devote an extraordinary amount of time to it. The demands of performing and rehearsing required her to devote all of her resources to it and, without really being able to NOT commit (without letting down her theater family) she just continued to indulge in her passion. This alone, I think, has sparked a tremendous amount of recovery for her.
  • She has taken on a new outlook on what is and isn’t important in life. That might sound almost lame to have to say that, but one of the things that seemed to cause her a lot of stress was worry over the things that were going on at home, with the kids, with our money and with our family. As she began to find peace in where we were, right where we were, the stress that she was feeling began to gradually minimize, freeing her to live without the burden of having to “perform” in order to maintain order in her life.
  • She prayed. A lot. And so did her friends and family. If you are a religious/spiritual person then prayer will be invaluable to you. It was to her, and she would attest to that fact.
  • Lastly, and probably most importantly, she had help. Lots and lot of help. From her family (the kids and I), her extended family (sister, parents, in-laws) and her friends. Many a night were we served by friends bringing meals over for us or family helping us clean our home or take the kids somewhere. I’m sure it wasn’t easy or convenient for them, but in the end they showed our entire family what true love was all about by really stepping up and helping us out in pretty much any way we needed it.

I’m sure there is plenty more that has help contribute to my wife’s recovery over the last few years. And while she has made tremendous strides in healing, she will admit that she still has bad days here and there. Still, she has plenty more good days than bad and she strives everyday to make each day count. She has become incredibly active in the kids’ lives, education and hobbies. She has taken a renewed interest in learning and teaching and she has developed a penchant for spirited fun and adventure. She has also gotten some semblance of control over her sleeping patterns, started to watch her diet and began talking a lot with her friends and family.

Essentially she has gotten to the point where she is able to live life again in a healthier way that allows her to continue to live each day as fully as she can. Again, she still has bad days, but at the end of the day, she is doing worlds better now than she was just two years ago.

Thank you for the email asking this question. If you have any other questions feel free to email me directly at my email address that I posted inside of this post. Thanks.

Candidates for California Superintendent of Public Instruction

I know this is very last minute but I wanted to post some of the replies I received today from the candidates that are running for Superintended of Public Instruction. Voting for the California Primary Election closes at 8:00 PM today, so if you haven’t voted and you have a heart for home schooling, here are the candidates and their responses to the question: “What is your view on home schooling?”

  • Gloria Romero
    I couldn’t contact her in my email list because her email address is not published anywhere. I find this a little odd for a state senator but, having exhausted my efforts in trying to located a contact email address, I chose to give up lest I spent my entire day trying to find her email address.
  • Lydia Gutierrez
    “Thank you for doing the ground work in wanting to support the best person who will fight for your child’s well being.
    I fully support homeschooling. Before traditional education, children were taught at home or self-taught, like our most favored President, Abraham Lincoln. I am concern what has been happening around the world of children being forced to go to public school or even families having to flee their country because of fear of being arrested because they homeschooled.
    We must fight for parental rights and this is why I supported the ‘Right to Work’ initiative that would not allow unions to use dues for political use without the permission of the member. My union, California Teacher’s Association (CTA) supported the ‘No’ vote on Proposition 4. This was wrong; every parent has a right to know what is happening to his or her child at school.
    When it comes to educating a child, the best scenario is parents, teachers, and the community are playing an active role in the child’s academic success.”
  • Alexia L. Deligianni
    “I support a parent’s right to homeschool their child.”
  • Leonard J. Martin
    Please refer to a previous post of mine detailing Mr. Martin’s response to this question.
  • Grant McMicken
    No response as of this writing.
  • Karen Blake
    “I fully support home schooling. I would work to keep the home schooling a viable option for all parents.”
  • Daniel M. Nusbaum
    “Dear Ms. H., I support and encourage families who privately homeschool their children. As long as the parent(s) have sufficient education, they should be left alone by government to teach their own children. If anything, government could and should do more to support homeschooling parents in their efforts, by providing teaching materials and other educational support requested by parents in order to be the best homeschoolers they can be! If elected I will educate myself to learn as much as I can about the homeschooling movement and the laws pertaining to it in California.” [NOTE: This is from his website. I could not find an email address for Mr. Nusbaum]
  • Tom Torlakson
    “Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate having an opportunity to respond to questions from voters. I’m glad you took the time to ask on Election Day!

    Homeschooling is an option about which many parents feel strongly and want to pursue. So, I support parents’ rights to choose this option for their children. “

  • Faarax Dahir Sheikh-Noor
    No response as of this writing.
  • Henry Williams Jr.
    “We homeschooled our children for 12 years in California (San Francisco Bay Area). I will see to it that parents have the full freedom to home educate their children.

    Sending you my Candidate Statement attachment with important media links.

    Just loaded this MUST WATCH YouTube video

    See: Queering the Schools

    In addition, I am highly recommending that Californians vote for Ken Miller as our next governor. Here are 2 of his media links.



    Please feel free to forward this information to your circles of influence to help them decide on what is best for their families.”

  • Diane A. Lenning
    “Hi Robert, I support “free choice” in education which includes home schooling. My nephew was home schooled and got a quality education. It is important for parents and students to have choices in education.”
  • Larry Aceves
    “Larry believes that homeschooling is a parent’s right and if a parent chooses to home-school their child, he would support that decision.

    I hope that this helps to answer your question. If not, please let us know.”

If I get more responses I will post them as they come. Again, sorry for the late posting.