Sunday, June 26, 2016

Redneck Weekend

This weekend, I had a blast at the Grafton Ruff Riderz ATV Mud Races. Grafton is approximately a 2 hour drive north of Fargo on I-29. For metro-dwellers around the world, that is 144 miles/231 km one way. I haven’t been up Grafton way for several years, so when my friends asked if I wanted to go, I said sure.

Out there in the middle of what most would call “nowhere,” I remembered something I had long forgotten – nobody gives a damn what you look like, what you do for a living, or what you have in the bank. The only thing that matters is your integrity as a human being. How do you treat other people? That is the only question you have to take away at the end of any given day.

There was an electricity in the air that came straight from the rumble of the ATVs crawling around the grounds, checking out the competition.  As a person who has listened to country music since I was old enough to breath, I recognized that none of the women who were racing on Saturday were anywhere near the “Sweet Adalida” or the “Vidalia” variety.  Oh hell no! These women were all business - tenacious and determined!  I don’t know where they go, who they live with, or what they might do for a living. What I do know is out there in the mud pits, the bogs and the back trails; they are straight-up redneck women and proud of it.

Rednecks get a bad rap from the city folks, and I’m going to tell the difference between the two:

Most city folks focus on one thing and one thing only – how much money do I have? Every day is filled with clinging to the rungs of the corporate ladder or struggling to just live from one day to the next.

Rednecks focus on three things: God, Country and Family – in that order. These folks are hard living/hard playing people. They can run the mud pits all day and party all night, but come Sunday morning, their butts are in the seats of the pews, or giving thanks from the river banks while fishing. Rednecks never forget the God who gave them the life that they have – and they make the best use of it.

They don’t forget the importance of the Stars and Stripes, as evidenced by the singing of the national anthem in the middle of God’s green earth (the Greenbelt) on a June Saturday afternoon. Interestingly enough, the Stars and Bars were in the mix and nobody cared. If there’s a difference in opinion you settle it in the pits and leave it there.

They include everyone in the family from Grandma and Grandpa to the newest of the new. And, if you think that they care if you don’t like breast-feeding in public, you should ask the new mother who fed her baby with no blanket covering her, and nobody noticed. I dare say if you approached her, you may not come out of it looking the same way you did going in. You see, redneck men are very protective of the women they love and more so of their children.

The cops were there and nobody got beaten, broken or arrested, regardless of the color of their skin. Yep, there were black people, Native Americans, Hispanics and White folks.  The police were cordial and enjoyed the run just as much as anyone else – because they are human beings too. They visited with folks they knew and folks they didn’t know. They visited with people from Western North Dakota all the way to Wisconsin. They laughed and talked about the 4-wheelers, side-by sides, and the few Harleys that were there.

This was as down-home of a party that ever was with folks getting together to have fun and compete in the pits. It was the celebration of life. It was the stuff that stories are made of – stories of victory and defeat. Stories of the trophy that got away and trophies taken home. Stories that will be handed down from generation to generation. It is the making of memories – the only true lasting value of such a day as this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Reading by Example

Goodnight room. Goodnight Moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. ~ Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon.

It is the good old summertime in the upper-plains states. It is the time for packing up the car and heading to the lakes, or other destinations for summer fun after the long winter. But, the vacation from school should not mean that it is a vacation from reading.

The primary reason teachers spend the first few weeks of school in review is because children lose some of what they learned the year before over the summer. This is one of the best times to make time for your children, especially small children who cannot yet read for themselves. Plan to spend one hour a day just reading and discussing a book with your child. 

Here’s some benefits to this:

Children spend hours every day in front of a screen – tablet, smartphone, TV, video game system, etc. Through reading your child a story before bed, you help them shutdown the effects of screen time from the day. It relaxes your child’s mind, so they can sleep better, and longer.

Reading to your child creates bonding and common ground between you and your child. This is a great time to choose stories that reflect your own values and beliefs, and where you stand on issues that affect your child: Bullying, tolerance, diversity, religious beliefs, nutrition, morality, civility and so on. This is the time your child is listening 100%. You will be grateful for it in their tween and teen years, because you have set the foundation.

When you pack for the annual summer camping trip or vacation to anywhere, make sure your older children take at least one book with them. I know, I know. The struggle is real with tweens and teens. You might be surprised when boredom strikes, as it always does, and you find them reading said book – just for something to do.

Don’t forget to pack a book for yourself, maybe two. Reading by example teaches children who you are, what your likes and dislikes are, and where your interests are. Did you know that most kids today do not know their parents? You might live in the same house, but do your kids really know you, or do they know of you? There’s a difference.

Reading teaches empathy – which is severely lacking in today’s society. It teaches imagination, innovation, and sparks the dream factor. Kids who do not read have less of an imagination than those who do. There is no more bankrupt a child than the child who cannot read. Parents play an important role in this. Children who cannot read, cannot do math, because they do not comprehend the problem – especially story problems. If your child is struggling in math, you might want to check how they are doing in reading.

More children, all across the world, are suffering from illiteracy. Children are struggling with the core subjects in school, simply because they cannot read. In the United States we have a secret plague that exists in the hallowed halls of our schools and even in our places of business, the functionally illiterate. People who can read well enough to get by, but not well enough to succeed. Don't let your child grow up this way, read to them and often. 

Through literature we learn to live, to love and to conquer.

Monday, June 6, 2016

When INTJs Write

But I don't want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the cat. “We're all mad here.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Could you imagine, would you imagine, if only for but a moment, that Charles L. Dodgson were to be alive with us this very day? A twisted chap that one was, indeed! If in fact he was with us, which he isn’t, but he could be – might be – if he were, but he isn’t, so he ain’t, and that is the logic behind our favorite prose of his: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It’s been a great weekend for many movie-goers and Alice fans to see Through the Looking Glass in live action, with a little help from computer generated cinematography and the like. But imagine this if you will, if in fact Lewis Carroll were with us today, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland nor Through the Looking Glass may have never seen the light of day.

If Charles L. Dodgson were a boy today, he would probably be labeled somewhere on the spectrum. Charles excelled at math. He was actually a mathematical genius. He was melancholy in his disposition, but at the same time took interest in what most people considered useless aspirations. Dodgson also had a stammering problem. He got on well with children, but didn’t have much use for adults. It is theorized that a young Alice Liddle was the subject of his famous prose, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice Liddle ~ 1858
When you have a gentleman like Dodgson, there are things to be considered about his wacky children’s story. Is it just a story, or could there be something more? It is a well-known fact that Dodgson was an INTJ (Myers-Briggs). Interestingly enough, so was mathematician and author, C. S. Lewis (Narnia series).  The difference between the two being Dodgson was also a logician ~ one who is adept at logic (driven by logic).

One of the most reiterated quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is: “I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast.” What if Dodgson really did believe six impossible things before breakfast, and figured out how to make them possible, yet couldn’t express them in adult terms?

Scientists and mathematicians around the world should take a long look at the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, Hunting the Snark, Sylvie and Bruno, and in fact, all of Dodgson’s work as He wrote them. However, to make the scientific adventure worthy of the endeavor, one should read it as though one were a child with all preconceived notions thrown out the proverbial window, and at the same time, keeping all one’s own scientific knowledge at the forefront of one’s mind.

As an INTJ and author myself, I often use metaphor and symbolism in my writing to make sense of some of the complex thoughts that go on in my inner world, as did Dodgson and C. S. Lewis.

Both Dodgson and Lewis focused on quantum theory in their writing – traveling between dimensions and even through time. Lewis (to my knowledge) did not publish books on mathematical theory, however, Dodgson did. What if…just what if…Dodgson used his writing as a means to sort out his thoughts on quantum theory? What if, buried in the midst of all his works is the key to unlocking quantum theory? What if it has been plain as the noses on our faces this past century and we didn’t even know it? Perhaps the answer isn’t in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, but these are only his thought boards to something even greater.

It sounds silly, but as Jane Austen, another prolific INTJ, once said, “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.