Yet another tale today from a friend (this one on FB) of a man in a divorce situation forgetting what it means to be a man. Lacking vision, lacking responsibility, lacking commitment to continue the parenting job you started in any remotely responsible way that puts the kids’ needs before what you want. Too bad you got into something you can’t handle, but you have kids now, and they still need a father. Are you going to man up and take on the consequences or wuss out and run? Or just string everyone else along as long as you can, leaving emotional carnage in your wake, because it’s financially advantageous to you? I’m not sure, but I think that might be the worst option.
I realize I may be ruffling some feathers here, folks, but we live in a broken world. There’s no getting around it. And it’s only going to get worse, but we all have a choice to make whether we’re going to be a part of making it worse for someone else, and ultimately for ourselves. I can’t speak to how women should be and live, but men? It’s long past time to figure out what that label is supposed to mean, because too many of us out there are just plain doing it wrong.
Look, I know you’ve got junk in your life. Maybe your dad wasn’t around and missed out on your life, or maybe he was and might as well not have been for all he seemed to care. Or maybe he was and you wished he wasn’t because he sucked in a thousand different ways. Maybe mom’s put too much emotional stock in you and her apron strings are still tied a little too tight, and she never gave you the room to be a man in your own right (if she asked you for something today, could you tell her no?). So maybe you never had an actual flesh and blood role model to show you what it means to be a man in every day life, and maybe you never did learn how to relate to women in a healthy way that doesn’t mean rolling over and doesn’t mean being the dictator of your little kingdom.
That stuff’s real, man, and made you part of who you are. But you have to realize two things: You’re not the only one BY FAR, and you do NOT have to let your past define who you’re going to be.
So who are you going to be? If any of this resonates with you, or pokes you a bit too hard, maybe it’s time — no, it IS time — to give yourself a long look in the mirror, figure out why you suck, and then Put. It. Down. I don’t need your baggage. Your kids don’t need your baggage. But most importantly, guess what? You don’t need your baggage either. Put it down and walk away from it once and for all, and start getting on with your life. It’s time to be a man.
Parenting · Rants Add Your Comment
One of the things about this property that appealed to us, as I mentioned before, was that we had an interest in having goats and it was already set up for that. There was a nice little barn, two pastures with plenty of forage, and a wooden board fence with a few strands of barbed wire and a strand or two of electric fence across the lower half. The herd could be seen grazing peacefully out in the pasture and, for folks who had only a partial clue what they were looking at, things looked to be in reasonably decent shape, at least as far as the goats went.
Now, we had heard and read and were well aware that goats are famous for getting out, and they can climb. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a more moderate approach to fencing that didn’t look like a concentration camp, and seemed to be effective. After all, if the guy had a problem with them getting out he would have put more in place, right? Riiiight.
So near the end of last week I got a call from my mother (who’s living there now to oversee renovations) saying that she saw some of the younger kids outside of the fence. She’d gone back up to the house to find something to perhaps rope them with, but when she came back they weren’t out there anymore. I was headed over that evening anyway to take care of a more pressing matter (the outdoor wood furnace’s water tank was alarmingly low), so while I was there I did a really stupid thing (I now know) and checked the electric fence with my finger. I knew it would hurt if it was on and working, but if it wasn’t I needed to know that, and had no idea how else to check it.
I’ve since learned that that’s just about one of the worst ways to check it. If you absolutely must test one with your body, use the back of your hand. Using the front (palm) of your hand can make your hand muscles contract, causing you to actually grip the wire (d’oh!); using your fingertip puts a much higher concentration of nerve endings right at the point of contact. But really, just don’t touch the thing. They make cheap testers for that.
All of this I learned the next night, when some friends came over to help me figure out why I didn’t feel anything when I touched it. I learned a few other things too, like how smaller electric fence units can’t even have weeds touching the wire. Bigger ones (for lengths of fence in the tens of miles) have a strong enough current that weeds aren’t a problem, but the current from the smaller units gets shorted out much more easily.
Unsurprisingly (given the state of the rest of the property) we had a ton of weeds all around the fence. Not only that, but numerous sections of the wire were twisted up and around the nearest strand of barbed wire (another source of shorting). You know, like what might happen if a small goat kept wriggling through there. Hypothetically speaking, of course. So I spent several hours on the weekend with a machete working on clearing and de-tangling what I could, but wasn’t able to finish to see if that did the trick. Turns out I probably shouldn’t have bothered. Sunday morning we were able to catch up with and finally meet another family from our church who have a goat farm in the next town over, and they said even fully functioning electric fence wasn’t effective for them. The only thing that worked, they said, was actual four-inch-square metal goat fencing, and even that they had to regularly check to make sure it stayed tacked down. We also learned that same morning, from another family in our church who are our new neighbors, that some of the goats get out all the time and eat their trees. They were very cool about it and not blaming us or anything, but wanted to make sure we knew.
Right, okay. Guy’s got goats on the property, got some fencing in place, looks like things are in order. Sure. Except the electric’s not working and probably hasn’t been for who knows how long, it wouldn’t have been effective even when it was, and now they’re our goats, eating our neighbor’s trees. Lovely. So a few nights ago we stopped at Tractor Supply and bought out their stock of goat fencing (five rolls, which won’t be enough) and dropped it off at the farm. Tomorrow (Friday) I get to see how much of it I can get up in one day. And once it’s all in place I might string the electric somewhere near the top of it just for good measure. The fun continues…
Farm Add Your Comment
It all really began sometime around the turn of the year. My mother has been retired out in Colorado for several years now, and had decided that she wanted to move to our area in northwestern Virginia to be closer to us, so we’d been on the lookout for suitable places in the area for her to live. She wanted a place that had enough room in the yard for her to do a decent bit of gardening, and the closer to us the better — within walking distance, if it could be managed.
For our part, we’ve been content in a 4 bedroom split level with 3/5ths of an acre on a suburban cul-de-sac. It’s a little snug with eight kids, but we’ve managed. We did some focused gardening once or twice with great results, but just haven’t put the time into it in the last year or two. Instead, we’d decided we wanted to try our hand at chickens, so we now have ten hens that peck around the coop and enclosed run we built for them last summer and give us a bountiful supply of eggs.
Well, sometime in early January, while we were keeping our eyes out for potential places for Mom to move in to, it somehow got stuck in our collective heads that it might be fun to find a much bigger place for all of us to live, with substantially more land, and do the hobby farm thing with an eye toward seeing how far we could go toward being self-sustaining. Mom’s got the gardening prowess down (and we’d like to learn), though perhaps not on the larger scale we’d be looking at; we’re all squared away with chickens, though we’d want to expand to meat birds as well and learn how to candle, incubate, and hatch the eggs to sustain the flock; and goats in general seem like a good idea. Some are good for meat, some are good for dairy, and they do well on field forage. Kind of like mini-cows. Huge unknown there, because none of us know much about how to raise, manage, and take care of them except what we can read online, but it seems like a worthwhile thing to pursue.
Fast-forward about six months. It’s June, and after walking away from lots of properties (some of which were clearly wrong, some of which were achingly beautiful) we’ve found the property that looks like a winner. Sixteen acres, a 4 bedroom house with an unfinished basement ( = space for more rooms), several fruit trees, an outdoor wood furnace (like this), a pond that’s dry now because it needs to be sealed (hey, the potential’s there, right?), and get this — not only is the land suitable for a goat farm, it IS a goat farm. The owner has a herd of meat goats (one Kiko buck and five Boer does, for those who might be curious), and is willing to sell them (and his utility tractor and various implements) to us as part of the overall deal to sell the house. It looks like a win-win — he doesn’t have to bother hauling the goats to auction and craigslisting the equipment, and we get an in-process farm ready for use, with a herd already on site.
We make the contract, and the next two months blur past. A few things become clear to us over this time, mostly that this was a broken family situation and the house and land have been…shall we say, less than tended. Even more so since it went under contract and therefore wasn’t being kept up for market appearances.
And now? Settlement was yesterday; the deal is done. The house, land, goats and equipment are ours now, and boy do we have our work cut out for us. The land is at best in need of a good mowing and at worst in need of some serious bush hogging; both implements are present with the tractor, but time as always is in short supply. The goats seem well, but the does have several kids and they’ll be ready for slaughter soon. In the meantime they need to be separated from the rest so they don’t start trying to mate with the other does. And one of the does either looks somewhat pregnant or seems to have a significant protein deficiency, we’re not sure which. And a couple of the goats got out tonight, after which I discovered (too late in the evening to fully investigate) that the electric fence seems to be turned off or malfunctioning.
Meanwhile the work on the house has commenced in earnest. First up is painting and flooring on the second floor (where the bedrooms are), and then the first floor. Once those are squared away the build-out in the basement will begin, in which we’re adding two more sleeping rooms (they’re not bedrooms, you see, because that would require us to add capacity to the septic system which already has plenty of capacity as it is), a bathroom, a sewing room, and a family/media room. Once that’s all done (which will take a month or two at least), we’ll actually move our family in and start to live there. In the meantime, we’ll be focused on trying to pack up a ten-person household while my wife is eight months pregnant and I’m shuttling back and forth between the house and the farm, trying to keep things moving on both ends while still reasonably holding down a full-time job. Surely we’re insane, right?
The thing is, we’re an adoptive family with eight, soon to be nine kids. I’ve learned that, at least for us, life is going to be crazy no matter what we do or leave alone. But I’ve also learned that if we can accept that as a given, we always have a choice — we can let the crazy bus take us wherever it will, or we can drive it ourselves. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stomp on the pedal, steer as best I can, trust God with everything, and see where we end up.
That engine’s been warming up for a bit now, and yesterday we sat down in the driver’s seat. The motor’s running and it’s in gear. And the adventure begins…
I’m planning on logging the progress of our adventure here for the few of you who may be interested in keeping up. If you’d like to follow along without the noise of anything else I might happen to rant or rave or muse about in the meantime, feel free to bookmark http://joel.fouse.net/category/farm .
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Okay, I know I’m a little late to the party for commenting on this whole 7-year-old dancers video, but I’m actually commenting on the clip of the Early Show discussing it (click on “Launch video player” on this page
to see the Early Show clip). I just find it remarkably ironic that three grown women bemoan these children doing this, but turn around and denigrate the lone man present for suggesting that the original Beyoncé video wasn’t any more tasteful or classy. ”She’s a grown woman and that’s art”, they say. Are they really that oblivious? The gentleman was absolutely right — art shapes culture, and when we celebrate that sexualized video as acceptable art we have little room to wonder what’s happening to the innocence of our children.
Culture · Media Add Your Comment
I tend to have certain Libertarian leanings in my political views, so I was very interested to see Rand Paul win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. He’s now on the national stage, and the more liberal side thereof has zeroed in on (and is seeking to amplify) his take on the Civil Rights Act as expressed in this interview with Rachel Maddow. After watching the interview and understanding both what he was trying to say in terms of philosophy and how he was getting steamrolled for it politically, I wrote the following note in his website’s “Contact Us” form on the off chance that he might actually read and consider it. I offer it here for your excoriation.
I just watched your interview with Rachel Maddow, and first of all thought you did an admirable job of trying not to let her pin you down on the political point she was trying to make. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s her show and she was going to make the point she wanted to make regardless, but you did very well, I think, in distinguishing the racial issue from the federal/private one.
In general I found myself agreeing with you, but I wanted to offer a philosophical twist for your consideration. I agree that the federal gov’t should not unilaterally decide how someone can run their private business, but at the same time I think that we the people are collectively responsible for deciding what kind of people we are. For example, most of us agree that cold-blooded, first degree murder is not only abhorrent but morally wrong to the point of tolerating a law that abridges one man’s personal freedom to act in order to protect another man’s right to live. We as a people and a culture have decided that this is an acceptable and even desirable limitation. And so I think that overall, it’s not a question of whether laws exist that restrict private freedoms, but rather a question of where we draw that line. I don’t agree with laws that seek to take a minority moral position and impose it on everyone, but I think there is potentially a place to say that if a significant majority of us collectively agree that a given law protecting something as foundational as the inherent dignity of an individual reflects who we are as a people and a nation, then perhaps that may be acceptable.
Now with that said, I’m inclined to observe that to my knowledge the legal definitions and prosecution of murder occurs at the state and local levels rather than federal and that is perhaps more appropriately where such laws belong. However, in that view nothing would have changed in the 60′s because the states in question were more than happy to continue business as usual with their Jim Crow laws intact, so I’m not sure how useful such an observation is to the current issue.
In any case, congratulations on your primary victory, and best of luck in shaping the political conversations to come rather than allowing them to be shaped for and against you.
- Joel Fouse
Politics Add Your Comment
So I just got done reading this fascinating piece on the upcoming Tea Party convention, and I had a bit of an epiphany. The author kept talking about waiting to see if the movement could be organized into a “political machine” with “influence” while pointing out the inherent challenges in organizing rather disparate groups, some of whom are characterized precisely by their resistance to being organized (herding cats came to mind more than once as I read). And the more I thought about what I’ve observed going on and how it’s been playing out, the more it seemed to me that any attempt to push these tea party folks into the conventional idea of a “political party” or framework of some sort is most likely doomed to failure at best and irrelevance at worst. Rather, the strength of the movement, if it proves out to have any at all over time, will be due to the disconnected but like-minded nature of the various participants and groups.
More specifically, I realized that what’s been happening in the software world for the past 10-20 years may be a useful and perhaps instructive analogy. You could substitute “Microsoft” for “Democrats”, “IBM and others” for “Republicans”, and “the Free/Open Source Software movement” for “the Tea Party movement”, and write a very, very similar analysis of the world of software maybe 10 years ago. The open source movement is very disparate, organic, passionate and apathetic by turn, lively, contentious, frequently at odds with itself, and above all wildly successful, with emphasis on “wildly”. It is not a company like Microsoft or IBM, does not enter into contracts or make business deals, does not have a spokesman or PR department, and does not in any way have a board or any other semblance of centralized control structure. It is comprised of folks from any and every demographic you can think of, and probably a few you can’t. Genders, ages, religions, philosophies political and moral, skills, geographies, economies, you name it, all are represented in the open source community. Its single defining characteristic is the emphasis on freedom — freedom to tinker, freedom to learn, freedom to create, and freedom to give that freedom to others. Anyone who wants to be involved doesn’t have to apply, doesn’t have to get permission, doesn’t have to go through volunteer training. You just jump in and do it. If you want to see how something works, pop open the hood. If you want to figure out why someone else’s open source program has a bug in it and see if you can fix it, knock yourself out. If you think you can do a better job than what someone else put out there, by all means roll up your sleeves and go for it.
So what’s the point here? The point is that open source’s very strength comes from the fact that it’s almost a free-for-all, a community of folks who have similar ideas but are free to put flesh around those ideas in any way they see fit. Any given project will naturally have its own control structure, with the creators and maintainers accepting or declining input from others and generally running the project as they like. But that has no bearing on what anyone else does with any other project, and shouldn’t — other projects have other goals, other considerations, other priorities. Sometimes mutual goals foster collaboration, other times there is direct competition or even confrontation, and that’s okay. It is a living, vibrant, active community, not a machine.
Which brings me back to the tea party folks. They may all agree on certain Libertarian-esque ideals, primarily freedom from as much government intervention in their lives as possible, but what that looks like in Florida may be entirely different than what that looks like in Montana or Indiana or New Hampshire, or for that matter Washington, DC. It certainly looked different between New York and Massachusetts recently. Tea partiers in this state may want the Republican, while those in that city may want the Democrat given the options available, while some other congressional district may support the Independent against both major parties or even write someone in. These folks are passionate about what they’re doing and individualistic by nature, and they’ve seen the power of getting involved.
The Obama presidential campaign of 2008 was ground-breaking in a number of ways, but one that has been analyzed and celebrated again and again was how well it gathered and harnessed the collective interests and passions of millions of supporters into a somewhat cohesive whole. A second and closely related way is how well it controlled its message and presentation. Everywhere you looked you saw the same images, logos, fonts (for those who notice such things), colors, and talking points. Everything was efficient, engineered, and expertly driven.
The answer to that is not a Republican copycat campaign, mimicking the methods and control of the original (though they may well try). The answer is the antithesis of all of that. It’s people saying what’s on their minds, not what they’ve been told to say. It’s voters supporting a candidate because they like her ideas, not because her name’s in the right column. It’s citizens expressing their views in any way, medium, and method they see fit with no concern for approval channels or whose interests they might offend. The Tea Party movement is open source politics. It’s we, the people, waking up.
Maybe my impressions are off. I haven’t met with any tea party groups or talked to an of its leaders or anything. But from what I see, trying to take what’s happening and stuff it into a well-formed political suit misses the point, and runs the risk of robbing it of the very thing that makes it alive: freedom.
Politics Add Your Comment
It is not my goal to make my children’s lives easy. To be sure, neither is it my purpose to make their lives difficult. Rather, it is my goal and purpose to train them and shape them and prepare them for the lives they will be leading when they are no longer under my wing. And so, as any coach or trainer would, I must keep fresh in my mind the knowledge that difficulty often accompanies or even progresses the goals of training; ease rarely does. This does not mean I am to become a rigid, imposing drill instructor with no grace or mercy, but rather my love for my children compels me to stay focused on the larger purpose over the desires of any given moment.
Parenting Add Your Comment
Yeah, so I still exist. I’ve been getting too caught up lately in political analysis, I must say. I’m much more fascinated by what people say about the candidates than by what they say themselves, oddly enough. Anyway, I’ve also recently started poking around a bit with Twitter, believe it or not, and I’m contemplating taking the Facebook plunge. The stain on the Intarweb that is MySpace (no, they don’ t even get a link from me) turned me off to the whole genre for awhile, but I’ve been assured that Facebook is actually for grownups. While I’m not sure how that makes me qualified, I’ve begun to be curious enough to perhaps check it out.
Just Life Add Your Comment
Faith Add Your Comment