Are you Guys Up for the Love Challenge?

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4488462724_2c27974d47_o-300x199[1]My wife and I are up to almost a decade of marriage.

In this day and an age, nine or ten years being married is a challenge, an adventure, and seemingly a rarity.

I attended a Christian college and my friends left and right were getting hitched. While I’m not really friends with any of them, once in awhile news will come my way of many of divorcing, having affairs, and even heard of a suicide. Even in the realm of sacred sanctimony, it seems that many of my peers just can’t go the distance.

Myself, I got married at thirty years old. Not that I wasn’t engaged previously, or had varying degrees of romances. But I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t know how to budget. I didn’t know how to have integrity—that is, being the same person in private and in public. I didn’t know how to sacrifice for others. I didn’t really even know who or what I was.

Getting married changed that. Becoming a team-partner with someone changes things. But before that change happens, both within and outside of you, chaos occurs.

By nature, I’m a stubborn person. I’m insecure. I have a lot of pride—which is usually boastfulness attempting to cover up said insecurities. All your scratches and dents come to the surface when marriage gives a good rubbing off of the dust, dirt and tarnish. Who you really are comes to the forefront.

When you’re married to someone, everything you do affects that person.

  • Spend too much? You can’t pay the bills.
  • Have an unhealthy diet? You become unhealthy.
  • Bad habits? You could die way earlier than your spouse.
  • Anger issues? You might just lose him or her.

One event that changed everything between my new spouse and me. I had a new phone and started to download 99-cent songs here and there. Before I knew it, I had about a thousand dollars worth of songs on my phone, and not enough to cover the rent on our new apartment.

While my gracious wife was quite patient about this situation, especially in retrospect, I could have caused us a world of trouble. Her credit was awesome, mine not so much. But with that one phone bill, and our limited income, we could have (in worst case scenario) had our utilities shut off, lost the apartment, had the phones cut off, had no food to eat, and would have pretty much been the worst year of our marriage—our first year, that is.

We were able to scrape by and not have a tough time then, but the phone is just one circumstance of my uncanny way to lose money through buying stuff I didn’t need.

Being married, and compromising a bad habit, helped get me to where I can not only avoid devastating spending sprees, but I can now budget, save, and am able to make the choice to do without.

Does this mean, I’m without possessions and fun times? Not at all. But through my wife’s awesome skills at budgeting, saving and planning, we have helped evolve me into a more responsible person, both for the good of myself and for our partnership.

We now reach goals. We have a house, two dependable cars, some side businesses, and a dream to someday have a farm and be able to work from home exclusively (or simply, retire).

If it weren’t for my wife, and waiting until I was a humble adult to get married, I handled a tough situation well and was able to be molded into the man I am today.

Get married, yes. But know that there is sacrifice, humility, and growth in that binding of love.

– Published originally at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/up-for-the-challenge-wcz/#sthash.UIzFr3mC.dpuf

New Book, April 2016

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HelpImOfVotingAgethumbnailHelp! I’m of Voting Age and I Want to Make Informed Decisions just came out TODAY! Amazon paperback, Kindle edition and the Createspace links are in the process of being linked to this site.

In all fairness, this book is not quite “new,” as it’s an extended version of Politics for the Disinterested with The Quotable Dissenting Heretic tacked on at the end. That’s two $9.95 books for $12.95 with some bonus material inside. Perfect timing, as it’s an election year!

The book contains how and why one should get involved with politics and citizen rights. It breaks down what each branch of government does, what each political party represents, has a decent-sized glossary of common political words, a suggested reading list of human rights and political involvement, and ends with quotes of rebellion and revolution.

For the most part, the book is non-partisan; a book of just-the-facts. The book list leans progressive, but mostly has to deal with not parties and affiliation but rather human liberties and civic involvement.

I’m re-releasing the previous two books into one, because I feel that there is some great content within, and that the titles needed to be changed and the artwork needed to be fresh.

So, I hope you pick up a copy of Help! I’m of Voting Age and I Want to Make Informed Decisions, either in paperback or digital form.

Always on the Edge of My Seat

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536883115-depressed-man-gettyimages[1]I’m an antsy person. I’m the man who can’t sit still, the guy shifting often in his seat. I pace. I chew my nails.

There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s a condition, and it will not affect our friendship. This is my vulnerability.

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder coupled with depression. I didn’t have a complete grasp on the diagnosis, as I tended to sleep as often as I could, even in class. I was able to stay focused, so it wasn’t a deficit of attentiveness. But I was—and am—a nervous person.

Crowds bother me. I enjoy the company of people, especially that of friends, but being in the middle of mash-up of people almost makes me paranoid. If I’m walking in a crowded mall, however, it doesn’t bother me as much. Maybe it’s not the crowds, but the disorderliness of crowds.

If I’m in a long line, I almost forget everyone behind me, and everyone in front of me is an anonymous mess of bed-heads and neck pimples. If I’m working a job behind a counter, and there is a huge line of customers, it doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I know my place … my role.

Idle time is nerve-racking time. I was grounded a lot as a teen, but I’d keep myself busy organizing my baseball cards, sorting my comics, arranging my cassettes, amidst breaks to shoot pool. Even now, if I have long tasks, I need my breaks. I need my walk around the block. I need time away from time doing time-consuming things. If I don’t, you’ll see me drumming on table-tops with my fingers.

Can’t you just sit still? my dad would condescend.

And he knew my diagnosis. Heck, he’s the one that took me to the counselor, to get treatment and medication. And if my own dad would have impatience in dealing with me, you could imagine how I feel about every other person that might catch wind of this unconscious behavior. I know I’m nervous, but I try not to show it. But sometimes it shows without me realizing it’s visible.

So, I’m being vulnerable … which makes me a little nervous. If it looks like I have a full bladder and could barely contain myself, please realize that I might just be a little anxious.

I’m coping with it. Just know that I was born that way and we’ll play along just fine.

– Originally published at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/always-on-the-edge-of-my-seat-wcz/#sthash.eGFTjW6x.dpuf

Abandoning the Tough Guy

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abandoningtoughguy.ed_[1]I grew up on typical guy films: action, horror and organized crime.

My father wasn’t much involved in my life after I had left home in my late teens, so the men in film were sort of surrogate fathers to me.

Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson.

All were—and are—captivating actors, able to portray their characters precisely.

Sadly, as an impressionable teen and young man, you start seeing these films not for the fiction they are, but rather as documentaries and training videos.

Even in high school, several inches under five feet tall, I’d stand up to bullies and jocks with a foul mouth and a puffed chest.

Sometimes, they’d just laugh at me.

Other times, I’d get a justified beating for it. Usually, the beatings weren’t as bad as I’d get at home, when I lived there.

Into my adult years, I had a growth spurt and started attracting females.

I dated often, seeking a suitable spouse, but most of these relationships and/or friendships would end.

Sometimes they’d end upon my walking away or I’d get dumped.

I was a generous type, almost clingy and insecure, so I’m sure that played into it, regarding the confident, experienced ladies.

Sometimes, I’d imagine W.W.S.R.D. (What Would Sam Rothstein Do?), the lead character in the film, Casino.

Of course, if something about the woman wasn’t right, I’d kick her to the curb.

I don’t know if my religious upbringing had anything to do with it, but I’m sure I felt that I had entitlement, that I deserved something excellent and perfect.

In a way, I do deserve someone awesome, but it didn’t come in the form that I thought. I had met a friend, and we had chatted online for several years.

Through this time, my mind developed, and my emotions became more mature.

This woman endeared our friendship, and encouraged me in all of the dreams of mine I shared with her. Just shy of my thirtieth birthday, I asked this friend to give me a shot.

At this point I had not dated anyone in several years, the time I spent developing my character.

I didn’t necessarily set out to internally grow, but it happened nonetheless. This maturity attracted my friend to me, and we ended up getting engaged the same day we finally met in person.

Something changes when you’re not trying to be something or someone else. I had to become a man on my own, without mimicking tough guys on TV.

I’m not an action star, I’m not a monster, and I’m certainly not a corrupted person of power.

But I’m somehow great and big in my wife’s eyes.

– Originally published at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/abandoning-the-tough-guy-wcz/#sthash.QULZmyoH.dpuf

I Don’t Watch Professional Sports

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sportsphobe-with-a-conscienceI still have boxes and boxes of baseball cards from my junior high and high school days. I knew the stats. I followed players. I watched the games. I dragged my non-sportsman father to the games I won tickets to from school essay competitions. I loved baseball, and even dreamed of being a pitcher for my favorite team: the Chicago White Sox.

In college, I started to follow auto-racing. I was dating a flannel-wearing girl from southern Illinois who was a Jeff Gordon fan. Hearing about how racing was more than driving around in circles piqued my interest, the muscle needed to endure a 3-hour race, the concentration needed to be inches from another driver at 200 MPH, and the science behind airflow and traction. Needless to say, since she was a “24” fan, I was one, too.

I even had loyalty to my Chicago football, basketball and hockey teams, not that I knew much about the players or regulations, but because of locale and loyalty to my city, family’s fanaticism, and wanting to bond with friends who liked these teams.

Losing My Religion and Finding My Cause

My high interest in baseball began to wane with the baseball strikes of the 1990’s, and the drug problems of my favorite players coming to light were the final nails in the coffin. The values of my 1980’s and 1990’s baseball cards had dropped. But the antique/vintage dealer in me is strong—I still hold on to them, hoping that everyone will throw their cards out and mine will be rare and valuable again.

I broke up with the Gordon fan and my pseudo-love for NASCAR began to drop off after a few years. That driver divorced his wife, and as a then-Christian I felt I had to choose another driver. I did, and kept involved with fantasy sports on Yahoo! but my interests started to take a turn.

When I left religion, I got involved with humanism and civil liberties. I took an interest in the Occupy movement. I started to learn more about money in politics. I started to have resentment towards opinionated people who knew little about human rights and democracy, but were always glued to their televisions or sports apps.

I started to wonder if professional sports were a way to keep us distracted and divided, much like coliseum days of Rome as it was starting its fall.

Why I Grew a Sports Conscience

Distancing myself from sports, I took a second look at sports-related issues that I once ignored:

  1. The permanent damage that playing sports as a child or as an adult can incur. Just a few examples include concussions and sports addiction. The rates of drug and alcohol addiction are higher in youth who play sports than their non-sport neighbors.
  2. Civil rights issues. When a player comes out as gay or lesbian, or a female wants to play on a male team or become a referee (ie: Sarah Thomas), or when Jackie Robinson joined a “white” baseball league.
  3. Sports parents who go to extremes: They either show no interest in their child’s games (and their dreams), or they verbally and mentally abuse them, pushing their kids to be better and better. We fight with friends and family, but cheer alongside strangers.
  4. Some athletes can be poor role models. For example, athletes who don’t own up to their bad decisions, professionally or personally. When they are given a slap on the wrist, it sends a clear message to youth: “Sports can give you a free pass.
  5. Sports have a financial cost to many high schools and colleges. Sports can receive the majority of overall school funding and attention, putting other students and their programs at a disadvantage. As a result, students’ academic choices are limited.
  6. Until recently, the NFL was a non-profit organization. I cannot get past the fact that until a short while ago, the NFL is a Billion dollar charity.
  7. Sports can take a second place behind profit: Corporate sponsorship’s, brand logos on anything they can stick a label to and overpriced fan apparel. Most stadiums are built with the tax money, rather than the organization’s money, sometimes topping a billion dollars (e.g. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA).
  8. Sports riots and vandalism as a result of team wins, losses or pretty much any other reason that some people can come up with.

I am A Sportsphobe who Still Plays Sports

Professional sports may have gone overboard, but sports can have an important place:

  • Sports can be an important part of our lives when it is not the sum total of who we are.
  • Sports can improve health along with healthy competition.
  • Sports can support community involvement and relationships.
  • Sports can provide entertainment along with connection to what is truly important in our world.

The last time I checked, my couch doesn’t have a pulse. But you and I… we are alive. Sports and outside activity can change your life when you spend time with real people and have some real conversations.

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/8-reasons-why-i-dont-watch-professional-sports-snsw/#sthash.NjIRdDEW.dpuf