The Dawn of an Adult

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I’m sitting in the dark, quietness of a hotel room in Kansas City, KS waiting for the early hours to pass, so that I can call my oldest kid and wish her a Happy Twenty-First Birthday. My mind is reflecting back to snippets of time and places where I can see my daughter for who she really is and who she has become. I see Her laughing in the backyard, playing Harry Potter with neighborhood friends. She sings loudly from the front row at her pre-school Christmas concert, unaware of her volume (or pitch). She cuddles up under a blanket and reads an entire book in a day. These are the memories of one of my favorite people in the world. And, today, she turns 21.

It’s fitting that I wait as the sun rises, since this is a sunrise age for her, personally. Being 21, especially in America, is a year of liberation. She’s “drinking age”, and all that come with that. She is also allowed to be her own person and such like never before. For me, however, 21 is about being liberated from the last confines our society regulates. I am for all the rules we place on emerging adults, so please don’t think I am suggesting my daughter is “free” from chains of governmental regulation. Yet, she is now to a point where she gets to be released as an adult and given the freedoms within it. That excites me for her. That makes me proud, as I have seen her appropriately meet every expectation that is placed on her. She is truly ready to be an independent adult.

Young people today call it “adulting.” Adulting is where you show qualities or characteristics of a mature person by taking on actions or responsibilities in which are seen at mature or adult-like. Grace will no longer be acting like an adult. It isn’t a role that needs to be played, but a state of who she is and what she is about. She IS an adult.

Sure, there will be mistakes, immature decisions, impulses of childlike flashbacks, but that is part of being an adult, too. And, as someone who is halfway through his life already, I find myself dealing with the same issues in my adulthood.

The sun is up and I can see through the window that it is going to be an amazing day. It will be sunny, clear and beautiful But, I didn’t even need to crack the shade to know this. It’s my daughter’s 21st birthday–what else kind of day would it be?

What’s Wrong with Questions

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We seem to be living in a very declaritive time in America. Maybe in social media, maybe it’s kids raised on psychoanalysis, maybe it’s just that people think their opinions matter more because they are most true to them. Whatever the case, though, people are making statements that don’t seem to have factual basis, research, or even hints of truth. Because of the subject matter, however, their views aren’t really called into question. The political hotbed that is our country has ignited like gas on flames with even the smallest of issues. So, when you throw out topics like racism, immigration, male-female relations, abortion or other heated topics, the personal declarations become just that–personal. Anyone who says that something is racist, sexist, oppressive, murderous or divisive has become the expert and the person or persons that is accused becomes the indicted. Their declaraion makes is the truth and anything that a person does to refute it is met with sceptisim and violence.

When I was in my twenties, I remember a professor speaking about the power of questions. It is known in the world of communication that the person who asks the questions holds the power. If you want to see a humerous example, watch “Who’s Line is it Anyway” and the category of “Questions Only“. The performers battle over getting the power. This isn’t the case anymore it seems. In fact, it doesn’t appear that people are allowed to ask questions. They aren’t allowed to challenge thinking. When something is declared (of course the more inflamatory or the more famous the person the more influential) then is it stone written. To questions is to put on the suit of the accusation itself. If someone asks why something is “sexist” then they become sexist for posing the question. This is true of both sides of every issue, whether it be CNN or FOX News, Democratic or Republican, conservative or liberal.

I don’t like this, I don’t mind saying. I think questions are the only way to get out of the aggressive conflicts that are taking place. If someone says, “Universal health care is stupid and anyone who wants it is a socialist.” I want to ask, “How would you provide medical care for someone who isn’t able to afford it?” or “What is our civic duty to take care of our fellow man?” When someone says, “We should have open boarders.” I want to ask “So Mexico and Canada would be free to have anyone cross at any time?” or “How would you assist in the assimilation of people who come into this country without a process?” I have never known anyone who wants to take a declaration and actually think it through. Perhaps this is due to the fact that people just regurgitate what opinionated news anchors tell them, or that they just reTweet what others have posted. Either way, people don’t want to sit down and have a conversation. They want to give a very brief monologue.

So, start asking questions. I would start with these and go from there.

  • What do you mean by that?
  • What’s your definition of… (Racist, Sexist, Murder, Immigrant)?
  • Where did you get your information/facts?
  • What if you’re wrong?
  • How does your statement shape your values, then?

I am going to make it a priority to ask people to clarify their declarations.  I believe if everyone does this, then it will shift the power from those who don’t know the answers to those who aren’t afraid of being questioned.

Hot Dogs – Get Your Hot Dogs Here!

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There is nothing like the heat of the summer, or a road trip to a sporting event, to get you thinking about hot dogs.

It’s summer, and it has been hot across the country. Last week I became one with my underclothes as the heat bonded me with my Duluth Trading Company drawers at a molecular level. In the midst of this heatwave, I took a road trip with my son, Seth, to watch Liverpool take on Borussia Dortmund at Notre Dame. It was a bucket list expecrience than I was honored to share with my favorite soccer player.

There is nothing like the heat of the summer, or a road trip to a sporting event, to get you thinking about hot dogs. I love hot dogs! I grew up on them. They are a true taste of summer for me…especially my childhood. I think about my dad in the backyard grilling hotdogs for the family. We ate so many meals outside as a family. In the winter we would boil the hotdogs on church nights for a quick meal. A hot dog plus a soft bun and any number of condiments was a Barker family staple. Sometimes hamburger buns were used, and the occasional slice of bread (gross), but for the most part the 3 simple ingredients of dog+bun+condiment= deliciousness!

Perhaps it is the sense of nastalgia, or my road trip, that has me obsessing about hot dogs recently. I wish I knew the number of dogs I’ve eaten. It could be in the multiple hundreds, if not thousands. Nonetheless, I wanted to share my Top 5 Hot Dogs list with you.

Mr. J’s (Chicago, IL)
I first ate at Mr. J’s in high school on a road trip to Chicago. I didn’t know about “Chicago Dogs” but I was quickly informed. The place was so busy you had to order as soon as you walked in the door. You would shout your order number to the guy behind the register. By the time the line moved up to him, your order was ready. Ingredients like celery seed on the bun, sweet relish, sport peppers and even totatoes made the delicious dog even more delectible.

Costco
Hear me out. For the money ($1.50/pop) there is no other dog that tastes this great. It is a 1/4 pounder assemble by a guy in a beard net after you’ve snacked on “appetizers” throughout the store. Add to the fact that you get to church your own chopped onions at their condiment bar, and you have everything you need for a great hot dog experience.

Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL
I’m a Cubs fan, which explains the bias, but Wrigley is where I first heard my 2 favorite words in the hot dog world—HEBREW NATIONAL. If you haven’t ever eaten a HN dog then you haven’t had one of the best hot dogs ever. Add to the fact that you are eating it at one of the most historic of baseball facilities, the Friendly Confines, and you get a true dog experience.

Barker Backyard (Quad Cities)
Sitting at a picnic table with an iced Diet Pepsi, Sterzing’s kettle chips, sliced watermelon and a grilled dog is one of my favorite meals. Add a smear of Boetje’s Mustard (pronounced “bulges”) and you get a taste to die for. Don Barker’s beautiful backyard has flowers, lawn art and a goldfish pond that brings peaceful conversation to any meal, even as simple as hot dogs.

Teds Coney Island (Des Moines, IA)
When you enter Ted’s Coney Island, you are brought into a world of simply delicious food. Burgers, Gyros and Dogs. Their dogs bring a sence of nostalgia to the palate. Topped with various classics like chili, peppers, or just delicious mustard. Get the basket meal so you get fries and rings.

I’m sure there are more since I’ve been to numerous beachfronts, ballparks, youth events and farmer’s markets, but these 5 stand out. So, make yourself a simple—yet delicious treat—and start eating!

The Great Writing Challenge

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Despite what anyone under the age of 25 will tell you, writing is still alive and well in the world. Social media, through no fault of its own, has boiled language down to the verbal equivelent to grunts, moans, hand gestures and hyroglyphics. However, there are still more needs for sharpened written skills than people would make you believe. The problem is that people aren’t flexing those muscles. If the average American texts about 94 times a day, and the average teen uses Snapchat 40+ minutes a day, it is easy to see why writing proficiency is on a sharp decline.

So, what if there was an fun and interesting way of getting people to write? The makers of The Most Dangerous Writing App are testing that concept with a videogame-like approach to getting people to write. With a simple screen the “player” must write for 5 minutes straight or the “lose”. It seems too simplistic to be enjoyable, I recognize, but just this simple 5-minute activity can increase higher level thinking, vocabulary, and mindfulness in the participant. Even writing this blog post I have taken about 7 minutes to write two paragraphs. My own cranial cobwebs need dusting in the area of writing.

The Most Dangerous App uses a game format to do something that people normally wouldn’t do—advance an intellectual inefficiency. People do not like to focus on things that they are not good at. They don’t like to be reminded that they can’t do something. Yet, with this app there it is easy to increase your writing fortitude just by playing a few times.

I’ve argued with many people that Snapchat isn’t a social media outlet, but that it is a videogame. The streaks that people have make them want to keep checking back to make sure they don’t “lose” it. This means that most people (especially those under the age of 25) are participating in Snapchat becuase of its “stickyness”. Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Point, writes about the Stickyness Factor:

“The Stickiness Factor is the quality that compels people to pay close, sustained attention to a product, concept, or idea. Stickiness is hard to define, and its presence or absence often depends heavily on context. Often, the way that the Stickiness Factor is generated is unconventional, unexpected, and contrary to received wisdom.”

The makers of The Most Dangerous Writing App have given writing stickyness. They have used a modern context to bring enjoyment to writing. Try it out. See if you can write for 5 minutes straight. You will find that you are increasing your intellect as well as your emotional intelligence.

Varsity Soccer

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Seth is having a great time playing soccer for West Des Moines Valley High School. It is a challenging program that asks the most out of its players. He has had to work hard and learn new methodologies, but it has been worth it in the end to see him play at Tiger Stadium and continue the rich tradition of excellence in their soccer program.

A New Road

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I’m excited to see a new direction in the lives of people in this country. There will be a tipping point and I looked forward to experiencing it. Nothing ever stays they same. Like fields that feed millions, there are seasons that have to be experienced so that the next one with come. What will the fruit of this season be?

Top 10 Christmas Necessities

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Christmas traditions for every family vary. Some people open presents on Christmas Eve, others on Christmas Day. Some families observe the Christmas Pickle tradition, others Secret Santa. Here at the Barker household we have a few traditions that we’ve picked up over the years that make Christmas very special to our family

  1. Sleep in: we don’t need to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to spend time together. It’s a long enough day as it is.
  2. Eat breakfast first. We always have a very special breakfast made by Karla that gets everyone warm in the heart and belly.
  3. Pajamas: we all sit around the Christmas tree in our pjs. Slippers, hats and robes are a-plenty
  4. Seth the Christmas elf: Seth always hands out the gifts. Maybe it just gives him something to do
  5. Youngest goes first: we open our gifts youngest to oldest (again, giving Seth something to do)
  6. Slow opens: with just four of us, we try to take our time opening gifts. We talk, share stories and laugh about Christmas debacles past.
  7. Clean as you go: I had to learn this from Karla, but we put the wrappings in the garbage bags (prepped and ready) as we unwrap each gift.
  8. Santa gift: we have one gift each year that comes from Santa for the kids. It’s usually the “wow” gift of the lot. This is when the picture is taken.
  9. No pictures, but one: we aren’t a photo-capturing family. Karla and I never got into photography, selfies or family Christmas photos. So, we usually take 2-3 pics tops of the event. Mostly it is of the Santa gift so we remember not to buy the same thing next year!
  10. Hugs: we end every Christmas with huge loving hugs, thanking everyone who got us a gift.

These are probably not like your traditions, but I’m glad. Your traditions are yours because of the time and energy you have spent making them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some stockings to stuff!