Thoughts, rants and commentary of a simple man

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Posted on October 7th, 2011 in On Family,On Fatherhood,On Manhood,On Marriage,Personal Messages | No Comments »

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

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It’s been 15 years already?

Posted on June 3rd, 2010 in On Marriage,Personal Messages | 4 Comments »

Today marks 15 years of marriage for my wife, Sandi, and I. Looking back on it, sometimes it feels longer than that. Other times, it feels shorter.

Regardless of how long it may or may not feel, the fact is Sandi and I have set ourselves apart in the world of marriage. Most marriages end after just a few years. Some make it as long as we have just to call it quits. Still, others never call it off. Whatever the circumstance, what Sandi and I have, by the grace of God, is quite an accomplishment.

Anyone that has known either her or I knows that we have had our share of trials, tribulations, struggles and challenges. But on the same plane as those we have also had an extraordinary number of successes, achievements, accomplishments and victories. You have to have those in order to make it in marriage for any length of time.

So I enter today thinking about 15 years of marriage, and almost 19 years of being together, I like to think of those times when we have had our act together, when we’ve been able to hold each other’s hand overlooking the carnage of the battlefield upon which a great victory we’ve just had. I like thinking of those moments when all we could really see was the joy in each other’s face as we realized that we did, indeed, make the right decision saying “I do”.

I love you Sandi, more today than yesterday but not nearly as much as I’m going to love you tomorrow. We’ve grown together, taught each other, lifted each other and supported each other. We’ve done a lot of everything in our 15 short years of marriage and as I look to the future, I can smile knowing that we have so many more years ahead of us to spend loving each other, enjoying each other and becoming even better best friends.

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Excuse my reasoning

Posted on November 2nd, 2009 in For the ladies,For the men,Observations,On Children,On Marriage,On Parenting | No Comments »

A point of view is a dastardly thing. It can be useful in some situations, but in a case where your point of view allows you to turn an excuse into a reason it can be devastating.

Excuses, in and of themselves, are nasty little buggers. They are purposed reasonings that one establishes to allow latitude and leniency to pervade their own inability to satisfy a need or a condition in which another person, organization or establishment is dependent upon the satisfaction of that need. In essence, they are a rationalized way out of a responsibility that should not be shirked.

Worse, excuses that are believed to be reasons are all the more dangerous because they are no longer just a way out of responsibility, they are now the driving force behind it. And along with that they become a convenient means to allow oneself to really never do the responsible thing.

The reason I bring this up is because it is so easy to do. Excuses, or in most cases, reasons, are so easy to come up with and even easier for others to believe. Children seem to know this inherently. So do spouses (yes, men and women). In fact, I tend to think it is human nature to be able to drum up an excuse, er, reason, at the drop of a hat in most cases.

I am just as guilty of this as the next guy. Which is why I chose to write about it. I find myself doing this more and more and, the truth is, it needs to stop. A wife, children, a boss… they all need reliability out of a man. And reliability is impossible if there is a way out of responsibility through excuses.

So the next time you feel yourself in a place to excuse your way out of something, think twice and see if you can reason with yourself to the point of not allowing the excuse. People are counting on you.

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Why I disabled my Facebook account

Posted on October 18th, 2009 in For the ladies,For the men,On Manhood,On Marriage,Personal Messages,Social Networking | 4 Comments »

Thinking of disabling my Facebook account. It is entirely too easy to not talk to my wife in lieu of reading her wall. #stupidfacebook
6:10 PM Oct 3rd from web

@RobertGonzalez

A couple of weeks ago I disabled my Facebook account. I also audited some of my accounts on other social networking sites and either disabled those or deleted them altogether. I have also started to cull my following list on Twitter.

So what prompted these actions, you might ask? The honest answer is… my marriage.

It became clearly evident, shortly after my wife joined Facebook, that my use of social networking was becoming a huge problem for us. What made this so evident was how easy it became to converse with my wife over wall posts and post comments as opposed to real conversations. We stupidly sat in the living room together, commenting on each other’s wall posts and replying to each other’s comments. And when we weren’t communicating with each other on Facebook we were ignoring each other altogether as I sat and Twittered or posted to my Facebook friends’ walls and my wife did the same thing with her Facebook friends.

The saddest aspect of all this was that I had never seen that I was doing this until I saw my wife doing this with me. She joined Facebook in June, and while she has only been on it for a couple of months I have been Facebooking for years. I have been Twittering for over a year. I have been keeping up with people through their blogs for years. I have been involved in forums for almost six years. If you look at it, I have traded relationship with my wife for interaction with strangers for upward of six years.

I chose to make myself available to people I would never meet, in whose lives I would really never have any meaning and whose lives really had no significant meaning to me while at the same time choosing not to put any time, effort, energy or expressed interest into the one relationship that should have taken the highest priority in my life. I have made many connections with other women, some married, some unmarried, and have put myself in a position of “caring friend” to them. And while I am sure that these women needed a caring friend I should not have been that friend. My wife needed that caring friend just as bad as the next lonely woman, she needed me more than any other person could have needed me, yet I never took the time or had the inclination to offer myself to her.

Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networking sites… even email, allowed me to spend time I should have spent with my wife, with someone or something else. I spent time getting to know other people. I spent time building relationships with complete strangers. I spent time spending time apart from my wife, even when I was within physical proximity to her.

The truth is, anything that allows a married couple to not spend time with one another while harboring an air of developing relationships with others is just plain bad for your marriage. Facebook definitely fits into this category. So does Twitter and every other social networking site.

By their nature, social internet networks are designed to bring people together with or for a common cause or idea or ideal. While this is not a bad thing, in my opinion, it is terrible if you are substituting a real relationship for virtual ones. Yes, I was doing that. No, that can never be good for your marriage. And no, it wasn’t good for mine.

Your spouse should be the most important person in your life. And if your intimacy and relationship with your spouse is suffering then you need to do whatever you can to feed it. In my case, I needed to starve my Facebook relationships and Twitter relationships in order to feed my marriage. And I’d do it again if the need ever arose.

So you may notice that every couple of days my “following” count on Twitter goes down. If I currently follow you and then one day I am not following you anymore, understand that my marriage has to come first. It is nothing personal. I just need to protect my marriage.

And will I ever make it back to Facebook? I don’t know. For now I am sticking to the idea that I am only gone for the time being. How long that time is depends entirely on how long it takes me to feed my marriage, which has starved for far too long. I may never make it back on there. And if I don’t, I’m fine with that. To me, what is most important is that my marriage is nurtured and that my wife knows, without a doubt, that she is so much more important to me than some website.

Until then, if you really have to keep up with what is going on with me, my family or things that I notice around me, you’ll just have to come here to find out if I have mentioned anything. But you can be certain of one thing: I am pouring myself into my marriage now like I used to pour myself into Facebook, Twitter and every other thing I let take the place of my marriage.

For the men: If you notice your marriage starting to take a downward turn take a look at what you might be spending your time on other than you marriage. Your marriage is your most important relationship you could foster. Make sure to treat it that way. Your wife needs your gentleness, intimacy, strength, your concern and your heart. Give it to her, gladly, and sacrifice whatever else you need to in order to allow your marriage to flourish.

For the women: Though I feel horribly unqualified to tell you anything as a man, I can tell you that when it comes to your marriage, your husband needs to know that he is the most important person to you just as much as you need that from him. Pay attention to what you are putting your heart into and where your time is being spent. Your husband needs your intimacy (not sexual intimacy but emotional intimacy) like you need his. Be cognizant of this, and be ready to offer to him whatever you can to show him he is just as important to you as you know you are to him.

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The sweet taste of progress

Posted on October 17th, 2009 in On Manhood,On Marriage,On Parenting,Personal Messages,Weight Loss | 4 Comments »

Three months ago , at the request of my doctor, I took a blood test to measure my overall health and the results of that test were alarming to say the least. Since then I have been working very hard to curb my sugar and sodium intake and, after I received the results of the blood test I took today, I have to tell you I am pretty excited this time around.

The main item I was concerned with was my blood sugar, which last time around was a staggering 142. This time it was down to 105 which is an enormous gain in my opinion. Yes, it is still over 100, but not by much, and it is significantly lower than it was just a few months ago. So I am confident that three months from now my blood sugar will be well under control.

The lab test items that I thought were significant improvements on this lab over the last lab where:

Prior lab results vs. today’s results
Test Standard Last time This time
Glucose, Fasting 60 – 99 mg/dL 142 105
Triglycerides <199 mg/dL 151 73
Cholesterol <239 mg/dL 188 154
HDL >40 mg/dL 42 43
LDL <129 mg/dL 116 96

All in all, in the core category areas of concern, I have made significant improvement. No, I am not at all close to being “done” improving – I still have a family to stick around for 😉 – but I am very happy with what has transpired over the last three months.

I am also excited about the physical transformation I am undergoing. I have lost just over 30 pounds in this time, have dropped six inches in my waist and about six inches in my chest. I am feeling better about me, about my health and about how much longevity I may be adding to my life. Not to mention that I have an indescribable desire to exercise.

I am looking at different exercise plans that I can do at home right now because I would love to take advantage of this momentum I have developed. I know that coupling exercise with my current sugar-free, low sodium, lower calorie diet will have extraordinary results to say the least. But really excites me is that I can attack my health issues from two different angles: diet and exercise.

I think doing it this way will position me for a longer life, which means more time with my wife and kids overall. And lower life insurance premiums. Which means more savings. Which means I might just be able to afford that motorcycle I have been wanting so very badly.

And seriously, have you ever seen a really fat guy jamming down the highway on a sport bike? Me neither.

For the men: If you are fat (be honest with yourself on this), start working to lose some weight right now. Don’t wait. You owe it to your wife, your kids and yourself. And I can say with 100% certainty that your wife will undoubtedly love being able to be closer to you. 😉

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Bite your tongue

Posted on October 1st, 2009 in For the men,On Manhood,On Marriage,Personal Messages | No Comments »

Sometimes you just need to not say whatever it is you are planning (or even not planning) to say. For most folks this goes without saying. For many, however, the words that come flying out of your mouth are words that should not have even been thought, let alone released.

I say this as a man that has yet to learn his lesson with controlling his tongue. Too often I will allow myself into a place where my perspective, my own opinion clouds the moment I am in. I allow myself to stop listening intently to the other person and begin to develop my response before the other person is even done talking. What’s more, the words that I formulate in my head are often not appropriate for the conversation or for the edification of the person with whom I am speaking. Have you ever experienced that?

I don’t have any concrete examples that I am willing to share, but there have been occasions recently in which I was talking with someone and as I spoke it became clear to me that what I was saying was really not at all empathetic to the other person. Really what I was doing was trying to make myself heard over the conversation without listening to what was being spoken to me. How awful that must feel for those that I communicate with. Imagine speaking from your heart and laying it all out there just to have the person with whom you are speaking respond with something completely out of context because he/she felt it was necessary to pour their own feelings, their own opinions into the conversation without a need, really, to do so.

There is a lesson in this for married men. If you are ever talking with your wife and you feel the need to reply in haste or if you have already begun to develop a response to something she has said before she is finished talking, it is a sure sign that what you are about to say would be better off left in your brain. Specifically, as it relates to marriage, it would seem to me that as men, we should want to be able to communicate with our wives on their level of communication. What that means, essentially, is actually listening to her words, and her heart, as she speaks and really trying to empathize with her as she pours herself out to you.

I think sometimes that we as men are so quick to defend ourselves or provide our own spin on things that we lose sight of what is really important at that moment: understanding the person that you are conversing with. Truly, how can we ever really understand someone if we cannot unplug our own opinions and ideas for just a brief moment to really try to see it their way?

Just throwing this out there, for those that are not scared off by a challenge: the next time you have already prepared your response to someone that you are talking with before they are done talking, or before you respond out of your own perspective or opinion, bite your tongue, stop and think for just a second about what they just said, then try to feel it for yourself as they have described it. You might be amazed at what you can learn from someone when doing that.

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Reconciling the past

Posted on September 23rd, 2009 in For the men,On Marriage,Personal Messages,Rants,This Blog | No Comments »

You ever have a moment where something you did weeks, months or perhaps even years ago rears itself up and manifests itself in your life again? I had that experience this morning.

This morning I discovered that some of the things that I have written in this blog have offended some very specific, very special people in my life. I won’t go into detail on those people or the subject matter in question; however, I will say that I am truly sorry for the grief, anguish and betrayal I have caused you by writing about those specific experiences in my life.

While I don’t think it is ever the intent of anyone to purposefully cause pain to someone (unless that anyone is mean and truly wants to hurt the someone), nevertheless, people do get hurt. And while I will not take responsibility for anyone’s feelings, I will certainly take responsibility for my actions.

To that end, I apologize for the latitude I have taken in some of the writings I have posted here. And though I cannot promise to not post from my heart again, I can promise that I will be more cognizant of the potential harm it could cause to those that read this blog.

All three of you. 😉

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Working works

Posted on September 19th, 2009 in On Manhood,On Marriage,Personal Messages,Weight Loss | 5 Comments »

Today I had to be accountable. This is something that I should be doing anyway, but it just had to be done today. And the coolest thing is that it allowed me to reap a grand harvest.

Today my wife and daughter had a scheduled outing. This meant that I had a morning home with my four other kids. It also meant that the promise I made to handle some of my “honey do” list items needed to be honored.

So I set out this morning to fetch some things I needed for some of the fixes and such that I needed to make today. I bought wooden stakes, some light bulbs, light switches, light switch plates, nails, a rake, some duct tape and some Vaseline. Ok, I didn’t buy duct tape and Vaseline. 😉

I got home from the store and made some breakfast and got started. And I worked it. Hard.

I trimmed the bottle brush trees on the side of our driveway. I raked the little patch of yard below the bottle brush. I trimmed some street level bushes. I trimmed a bush in the tan bark patch near my garage. I straightened up that tan bark. I pulled some weeds in the yard. I removed some dead bushes to clear a path for living plants to grow. I fixed some bender boards in the back yard. And I replaced two switches in my kitchen that needed to be replaced.

Do I tell you all of this to tempt you to pat me on the back? Not at all. I tell you this because I really, really didn’t want to do it. But I had made a promise to my wife that this weekend I would take care of some of the things that she has been waiting a very long time to be handled. She has been exceptionally patient, and very gracious, and I have been very nonchalant in my promises. It was time. She had waited long enough and I had gone back on my word long enough.

Men, there is a lesson in this for you. If you tell your wife you are going to do something, do it. Don’t whine, don’t make excuses, don’t not do it. Just get it done. My wife was very appreciative of me taking care of these things. And I was happy to do them. I didn’t want to actually do these things. But I wanted to show my wife that I am her man, that when I say I am going to do something I do it, and that she means enough to me to be honest and accountable to her.

Yeah, it was only a little fixing up and cleaning up here and there. But it allowed me to cross a few things off the list of things that need to be handled. And it also allowed me be a man to my wife. I love doing that.

And you want to know a wonderful side benefit to all of this? I lost four pounds today. How awesome is that? Heck, I may just spend all winter doing some kind of physical on the weekends. It’s almost like a trip to the gym without all the meat heads, gym rats and expensive memberships.

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An outing of sorts

Posted on April 11th, 2009 in For the men,On Children,On Family,On Fatherhood,On Marriage | 1 Comment »

Today my wife needed a break badly. She has been without one for a while and asked me a couple of days ago whether last night would be alright for her to go out and have some “her” time. Last night did not exactly happen for her, but today did, so I gave her that time and decided I would spend some time taking the kids for a walk to get slushies because the kids really love doing that, generally it doesn’t cost too much and it usually wears the kids out and makes for an excellent quiet time when we get home.

Quick tip for the husbands: Your wife needs a break. Whether she tells you or not is irrelevant. Give her a break frequently. She needs it and she will be very appreciative of your thoughtfulness toward her. And even if she isn’t, you should do it anyway.

Quick tip for the fathers: Your kids need to get out the house. They need to blow off steam and they totally need to do that with their dads. This is not to say that they cannot get that with their moms. In fact kids need mom time too. But dad time is crucial, so if you have kids make time for them doing something you all can enjoy together.

So we set off on a walk, the six of us, to the 7-11 just down the street from us. The weather was nice, a little chilly but sunny, so the walk was pleasant right off the pop. We hit up 7-11 and grabbed slushies for all of us – well I prefer coffee so I did that instead – and a couple of bags of chips to snack on. Then we headed out to the front of the store to kick it and snack.

But that is something we always do, so I decided we would change things up a bit so instead of sitting out in front of the store we walked a little bit further to Mission Boulevard where we found a bench and sat on it, snacking and slurping and watching the cars pass us by. This is what it might have looked at from the cars’ perspective:

the-kids

After our snack time and car watching was over was decided to cross the street and check out Mission San Jose. It wasn’t until we got there that we realized it was going to cost more money that I brought with us so we just sort of hung around the outside and checked out as much as we could without spending any money doing it.

After a short while we decided to start the walk home with a planned stop at the Olive Hyde Art Gallery. This ended up being a much shorter trip than I wanted it to be seeing as the gallery was displaying quilts and artwork that ran as high as $10,000. If not for the fact that four of my kids suddenly had to go to the bathroom at the gallery we would have only been there for a couple of minutes. In fact we were there for almost a half hour.

After that we took a slow stroll home and ended our two hour walk by coming home and resting. So when Sandi got home from her alone time she was able to come home to a quiet, resting house. Now how could this day have gotten any better?

Think BBQ. I know I am.

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Responsibility and a dog

Posted on April 10th, 2009 in On Marriage,On Parenting,Personal Messages,Rants | No Comments »

The Bernese Mountain Puppy

The Bernese Mountain Puppy

For a long while now the kids have been really leaning on me to get a dog. For the same amount of time I have loudly voiced my opposition to this idea. It is my opinion that before we bring another life into our family our entire family needs to learn how to be responsible enough to handle the things that we already have.

That means making sure to put stuff away when we are done using them, doing homework on time, going to sleep and waking up on time, treating others with respect and being obedient. And this is something that has, for the time they have wanted a dog, been a severe stumbling block for them. So getting a dog has remained pretty well out of reach for our family.

Until now. It seems that my wife has gotten the puppy bug pretty bad over the last month or so and has been pushing on the kids to get a grip on their responsibilities. And over the last month the notion of us getting a puppy has moved from being just a notion to being a full on possibility because mom is behind it now.

And me being the husband that I am, the awesome husband that I am, and wanting to give my wife everything she wants under the sun, have also taken a position in this quest to get a dog. So I am cranking up my efforts to bring awareness to the family what it is exactly that it will take for us to get a dog. Because I also want my kids to have what they want while at the same time giving them what they need. I think as a husband it is important to see the things that your wife wants and try to find a way to make it happen. And I think as a father that finding that place between giving your kids something to enjoy AND something to be responsible for is crucial to helping your kids develop.

So now it seems that we are working our tails off as a family to make sure we handle our responsibilities to prove that we can actually take on the added responsibility of a dog. I hope this pans out, for all our sakes. I know my family can do it. Maybe now with Sandi behind this we might see what my family can actually do when we really want something.

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