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Looking Back at 2017 Moving on to 2018

Looking back at 2017 Moving on to 2018

At almost this exact time last year, I remember telling myself that 2017 was going to be an amazing year. I thought about all of the projects I wanted to finally get completed and how they were going to change my life. I was going to get back into a gym routine. There were several ambitions I had planned in my head. However, 2017 kind of took me by surprise. What I thought was going to be a fantastic year, turned out to be probably the most challenging year I have had yet in my life.

Since around the age of 30-31, my health started to change. I became aware that I have an underactive thyroid and I was experiencing a lot of acid reflux issues. My doctor started me on medications for both of those issues which I was not thrilled about. All of the sudden I was taking two medications daily when prior to that I would take a Tylenol maybe once every other month. The next several years I would spend trying to figure out what was causing those issues. During 2016 I seemed to have figured out what was causing the acid reflux and managed to somewhat fix the problem without the continued medication. I was feeling pretty decent as 2017 approached.

The year even started out pretty good with a lot of new business coming in. I had a good feeling that January was giving me a good idea of what the rest of the year would look like. My wife and I had been working on our adoption paperwork and the only remaining items were my blood test and an in-home study before we could enter child search.

I typically have my labs ran every year but I had not had labs drawn in a few years. My labs ended up coming back with a few abnormalities. Nothing life-threatening, but I was not expecting the results I received. Up to this point, I thought that I was gaining distance from health issues, but there were lab results showing me otherwise.

Off and on during my 30’s I have felt kind of defeated in the area of my health. I was never battling anything major but the constant acid reflux and bloating really affected me emotionally because I generally didn’t feel like myself. With these new lab results, I ended up depressed and anxious about my current situation. I couldn’t get myself to the gym because I didn’t feel good both physically or emotionally.

Parenting got more challenging this year as my kids grew and become more independent thinkers. My struggle is mostly with finding the right balance as a parent. My oldest is now in second grade and I am starting to see that he holds in his emotions as much as a seven-year-old can. He has struggles and has not come to me with them. I want my kids to know that they can come to me with anything. The challenge is figuring out how to do that within the constraints of their personalities. This will be a lifelong process but it was tough this year because it was the first time I became aware of it.

My marriage also got really hard this year. This is my ninth year of marriage and my wife and I have discovered a lot about each other this year which started with me feeling the need to really open up in some areas. We have never been good communicators and that has allowed a lot of assumptions to build up. There are also a lot of things we found we have resented each other for that would not have been a big deal at all had we just communicated about it in the first place. We started counseling which has been really good for me. I have always left the past in the past but I am realizing that it is hard to understand why I am the way that I am without analyzing the past. It has been an interesting journey this year looking at myself in this way. It has not been easy and it has led to more depression and anxiety. As a married couple, counseling is helping us become better communicators and we have never been so close to being on the same page with everything. It’s truly liberating.

With all of that said, my business has seen ups and downs this year too. The year started off really good but took a dive during the summer. I think that since summer vacation was shorter for most schools in this area most people went off radar through summer. Once school was back in, I was flooded with new business and was once again busy. What made it tough is that I did not expect it to go the way that it did. On top of that, I did no marketing for photography so I did not have much photography business to supplement the lack of clients for Hill Media Group. Because the first half of the year had been so busy and stressful, I did not have any time at all to work on my side projects, so they suffered a lot. I lost a lot of ground that I had with my side income.

There were some great moments in 2017. We had some fun trips with the kids, despite our camping gear getting stolen. There were memories made in 2017 that rise above the difficulties.

Looking back at 2017, it would be easy to call it a bad year. It was a tough year and not what I originally expected it to be. Regardless, I have learned a lot and am far enough removed from it all to know that 2017 was actually a pretty good year. Just because I felt that the year had defeated me doesn’t mean that it was bad. I am sitting here a few days into 2018 writing this and thinking about how much more aware of things I am. Everything that happened last year has made me a better husband, father, friend, and business owner. It was not easy by any means, but building character never is.

Going into 2018 I have some decent momentum behind me. I dealt with everything that happened in 2017 and am wiser because of it. I plan to continue to invest in myself in 2018 because if I am not healthy I cannot be the kind of man I want to be for those in my life. I can’t let anything that afflicted me in 2017 or the years prior determine who I am in 2018 and going forward. I am excited about this year, not because I think it’s going to be an easier year, but because I believe it will lead to more growth.

How did your 2017 go?

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Learning to Ask For Help

Asking For Help

I have written many posts and filmed many videos about how to do a variety of different things from learning to use a camera to fixing a hacked website. Giving back to the internet community that has given me so much is very important to me. I enjoy helping others. However, working for yourself can be quite lonely at times, so can being a husband and a parent.

This year I have had to ask for help in a variety of different ways. I have had to ask for help with work, with parenting, and with my marriage. It has been a tough year. I fought asking for help up until this point and I am still working on why that was the case.

It’s easy to travel the path alone, especially with so much information at our fingertips. We can carve our own path using information and insight from others who have gone before us. The problem is that we often end up implementing that information incorrectly or not having the complete picture. Think about the Pinterest perfect recipe you downloaded that resulted in a direct hit to your confidence level as a novice chef. We take the information made available but lack the years of experience needed to pull it off.

In working with clients, I have found that when I lack information to perform a task for them, asking for help or assistance is the best option. Some people fake it until they figure it out. I prefer asking for the information needed. Other areas in life I have not been good at asking for help. I have not asked for much if any help with my business, my marriage, and with my kids. I have relied on information gathered from books, blogs, or podcasts. Gathering information from sources such as those is not wrong, but you often don’t have the right context to implement it. Sometimes it lines up and works perfectly, most of the time it seems like something out of right field.

Growing up I always felt that I needed to fight to overcome any weakness others saw in me. I was ok at sports, not the best, but not the worst. Most of my family did not see me as the child most likely to succeed. My grades in school were average. I already felt that I was at a disadvantage so asking for help made me feel like I was showing my weakness.

Most believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I definitely did, and at times I still do. Asking for help, however, is a sign of humility. Often humility feels like weakness because it requires letting others in. The truth is that it takes a lot of courage to ask for help when you need it.

The other issue with our world today is that it is easy to make it seem like you have it all figured out. We handcraft our social media feeds to show a carefully curated life of success and good times. It is easy to believe that you are alone in your struggles, which is so far from the truth. I believe this is why dramatic television shows are popular. These tv shows are displaying real struggles that we can relate to and since we are not relating on a personal level with good friends, we find our acceptance in tv instead.

The path I started on this year is far from over. I am working on being better at asking for help when I need it and on building up a personal network of people that can be more than superficial friends. This was not modeled for me growing up so it has been and will continue to be hard work for me.

There is no valor in taking on unnecessary pain in life. We were put on this Earth together to be in community. My generation is the first generation where our network is not the people in our neighborhood, meaning we do not have people close to us that are literally close to us. When you are having a tough time with something, ask for help. The resources are limitless and I believe people are yearning for it more than ever.

What are your thoughts on asking for help? Do you have a good network of people around you that you can go to or that can go to you when they need help?

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How Wives Can Help Their Husbands Parent Together

Parenting Together

It’s been a slow go, but I am trying to chip away at the questions that were given to a few of us to answer during a men’s panel that I was on. I thought I would handle the topic of parenting together next.

Here is the question: How can a wife help her husband feel that they are parenting together?

This question can mean something different depending on your household dynamic. I will do my best to be as general as I can and get specific when need be. In my home, my wife runs the day-to-day of the household. I work during the week and she is at home running the house. My wife spends a lot more time in the home than I do and a lot more time with our kids than I do as well. It is the current state of our household. I work outside of the home, she takes care of the family and our home. I help as much as possible around the house, but sometimes I feel like it is her house that I am living in. I know this is not true, but sometimes it can feel like it. I am trying to work to change the amount of time I spend at work. Right now, I work a typical 8-5 day. Now that we live closer to my office, I often come home for lunch. I used to photograph a lot of weddings on weekends but have cut back a lot so I can be home on as many weekends as possible.

My goal is to be able to reduce the amount of time I spend working during the hours my children are awake. I love my business, but I am missing valuable time I could be spending with my children. My kids are young and want to spend time with me. When they get older, they will have friends and other activities which will leave me plenty of time to work more if I want to. So let’s get back on topic.

Most men work and are not around the home as much as their wives are. This is the case in my household. Some households have a working husband and wife, but often the wife still runs more of the home than the husband does. My wife spends all day with our children. I see my kids for about an hour in the morning and for a few hours in the evening before bed. I get the weekends with them as well, but weekends are a different dynamic than the work/school week. I feel like more parenting happens during the week and the weekends are more fun and activities. During the week, my wife does most of the parenting on her own. When I get home, I help with dinner, play with the kids for a while and help put them to bed. Part of my evening routine with my wife these days involves relaxing. By the end of the day, we are both tired and just want to chill.

In business, there have been situations where I become part of a project that was already in motion. Though I feel I have a handle on the project and understand where it needs to go, taking action without knowing every nuance could lead to a blow up down the road. This often happens at home with the kids. I find myself in situations with my kids and parent the way I feel is right in the moment, but sometimes my method ends up clashing with something my wife has already tried or set in motion. I get frustrated because I was not informed. It’s hard to stay on the same page when the majority of my time is spent at work and my wife’s time with the kids.

There have been other instances where I have attempted to parent a certain way and then my wife contradicts my method by directing the children in another way without taking me aside and asking me about it first. This happens to all of us. I do it to her as well. Many times we are reacting to a situation. Something happens and we swiftly deal with it. I feel that sometimes we respond maybe a bit too swiftly.

It really comes down to communication. My wife and I do a pretty good job of recapping our days to each other. By the end of the day when I come home, my kids are usually tired. They only have a few hours left before bed so they have had a full day. I often get to deal with the meltdowns that happen during those hours. When I get home from work, my kids are hangry (hungry + angry). Not really. I just wanted an excuse to say that work in this blog. My kids are pretty great and only occasionally have meltdowns the moment I walk through the door.

Parenting on the same page takes communication. Without communication, you are walking into a war zone. The home can be a war zone sometimes. If I was not communicated to, there is unknown intel that I need to navigate the landscape that is our home. My daughter may have had a rough day that involved missing some of her nap and getting disciplined recently for hitting her brother. She could still be upset when I come in the door and try to love on her.

On occasion, my wife will text message me to let me know what is going on. Sometimes it’s during a phone call on my way home. It helps me understand what is going on and what to expect. Knowing what to expect helps me prepare myself and I am able to be what I need to be for each of my children when I walk through the door. Most of our parenting related frustrations with each other has to do with discipline. My wife and I both have our good days and bad days when dealing with disciplining our children. It’s not a simple job and we both kind of hate having to do it.

Big Picture Parenting

Most married couples are on the same page when it comes to the bigger picture. They know how they want to raise their kids and what they want their kids to experience. Some couples may have a few differences in the big picture area, but it’s easier to work on those differences because they are part of the bigger picture. There is a lot of time between thinking about those things and having to act on them. Bigger Picture items could include what kind of school we will send our children to and whether or not we will allow our kids to drink soda. These are not typically “in the moment” decisions we have to make.

In The Moment Parenting

Most parenting decisions are made in the moment. They are responses to situations that transpired. This is where differences start to become clear between a husband and wife. Decisions made in the moment lack communication. We feel that we need to act right away, so we make a decision. This decision may be a new one, which was not discussed prior to acting on it.

Because we feel that we need to shut down the situation in the moment, it often ends up being a sole parent decision. Usually, that has to do with discipline. My wife and I have most of our issues there. We often see pretty eye to eye, but we have our moments.

There are other decisions that we make in parenting that end up being in the moment when they could have waited until later. Not everything has to be handled in the moment. I recognize that sometimes it is just easier for my wife to make a decision on something at that moment. At work, I make decisions all day. If I had to stop and check with someone else before making my decisions, it would drive me crazy. I do understand that it is often easier just to say yes, or no, or sign up for something at that moment because it seems right. It might also seem like a small thing that doesn’t matter to you, so you deal with it in the moment.

All of these “moments” throughout the day are often something the other spouse misses out on. Those moments add up and can make a person feel like they are not really doing any parenting. I have moments of my own like that, but I realize that my wife and I have our jobs and we are the CEO’s of our individual jobs.

CEO, CFO, and CPO’s

As mentioned before, my wife pretty much runs the home. She is the CEO of the house. That doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants. I am the CFO of our home, because I handle the majority of the finances. My wife and I are both CPO (Chief Parenting Officers). It’s a joint position run as a team. She brings her years of Early Childhood Development training and being a Nanny for many years to the table. At the time of writing this, she also has almost six years in the trenches with our children. I am a very observant person who also reads a lot, so I have some of my own tactics and methods that I have developed. I also try to stay very in tune with my children emotionally. I am better at this with my boys than I am with my little girl.

As a team, we are continuously learning what we do well and what we do not. To the best of our ability, we try to do this together. This means that one person is not doing everything while the other watches sports. My wife spends most of the time with our children, but I make sure that I get opportunities to be with all three of my children alone as well. When I am home, I am with my family. I don’t watch sports or other tv shows while my kids are awake. My wife and I do watch shows we like after our kids are in bed. I will watch shows with my kids sometimes. Shows of their choosing (Power Rangers). I make an effort to be involved.

Proactive Parenting

It really does come down to communication. Actions speak louder than words. If you come home from work and don’t contribute, you are not going to feel like you are an equal parent. We are a parent to a child or children. We are a spouse to another adult. It takes intent and you have to prioritize your family over other things to be as involved as your spouse is.

With better communication, you can parent proactively. Talk about your kids together. Tell your spouse about the cool things your kid is doing and the things he or she may be struggling with. Don’t let these things come up and blindside your spouse.

As you can see, it takes effort from both sides. Don’t attack your spouse because you feel that she isn’t including you in parenting decisions. Turn off the football game and talk to her about it. Don’t attack your spouse because he isn’t as involved of a parent as you. If you don’t share much with him, how can he feel as invested as you are?

It’s all about the children. I deeply care about my work, but it will not get in the way of me being an involved parent. Right now it is very popular to work your tail off to achieve in your career. Everybody wants success, and they want it yesterday. The concept of work-life balance is all the buzz right now because people find themselves working most of their waking hours and realize their family is left off in the distance. It’s sad. You can start a hundred companies in a lifetime, but you can only start one family. Sure it is common for people to start second, and even a third family after failing the first few times, but is that healthy? I think not. Give all you have to your family. You can find a way to work and find success. We live in an extremely pliable world these days.

Do you have some tips on how to better include your spouse in the parenting role? If so, share them in the comments below.

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What is Most Important For Men in Marriage?

I struggle even answering this question because it is hard to answer on behalf of all men, “What’s the most important thing for Men to have in their marriage?” All I can do is answer for myself and hope that my response aligns with other men, perhaps some men can chime in down in the comments section.

Consistency

Men are creatures of habit. At least, I am anyway. I like consistency. I like to know what to expect. I don’t mind being spontaneous at times, but it has to be within my level of comfort, and to be honest, somewhat my idea.

Women are typically more flexible and spontaneous at times, at least from my experience. If they were not, why are women always desiring their husbands be more spontaneous? Not to say that women don’t desire some consistency, I simply think there is a difference between what men and women require to be comfortable.

Most men have a day that revolves around a routine. I wake up every day and follow a very similar routine. Sure it sounds boring to some, but all men have a routine or some kind that is consistent. Routines are very important, especially with children. Routines can be modified from time to time, but the idea of having a routine is that for the most part, you can expect what will happen next.

Thinking about it more, it might not even be consistency that is important, it’s knowing what to expect and not being surprised.

The World is Random

Though I often hold tight to my routine, the world does not understand that. My clients needs don’t always fit into my routine. Having allergies for the last two weeks doesn’t fit into my routine. So the last thing we want after a long day of having our routines tested is inconsistency when we get home.

It is important to me that the place I am supposed to be most comfortable be consistent. After a long day of inconsistency, I just want to fall back into my routine.

Home Can Be Random

My wife and I are both busy people. I run a business and she runs a household with three young children. Both of us spend our day getting wrenches thrown into our routines. This is just part of life. I know that despite the best intentions my wife and I both have at the start of the day, it only takes one client phone call or a child meltdown to throw everything off for the rest of the day.

Recentering

When we get off path, it is important that we recenter. If we continue to go off path, who knows where we will end up by the end of the day. A routine does not have to be 100% consistent every day. There are ebbs and flows in every routine. However, there are cornerstones of a routine that hold it up. It is easy for me to recognize what those cornerstones are with my children.

The routine cornerstones for my children are making sure they go to bed and wake up close to the same time every day. They need to be fed at consistent times. My youngest still takes an afternoon nap. When she doesn’t get her afternoon nap, she falls apart around 3pm. The activities that fill in the gaps can be different each day so long as the cornerstones of the routine remain intact.

Routine Cornerstones of a Husband

I will be the first to admit that when the cornerstones of my routine are threatened, I get cranky. I spend all day dealing with everybody else’s needs, so when I come home, I simply want to fall back into routine for a while. The challenge here is that I also realize my wife has been dealing with the needs of our children all day and would love to curl up next to one of her routine cornerstones as well. This is where I have to remember to give my wife grace first, before showing frustration.

I used to start each day by going to the gym. I still do on occasion, but it has been hard for me to get up early and make it to the gym. When I make it to the gym in the morning, the structure of my routine holds up much better. I also find that my routine is more flexible throughout the day. Having a healthy routine that can withstand some inconsistency requires a good foundation. If your day starts inconsistent, it will most likely end that way as well. Encourage your husband to find a way to start his day in a positive way. He shouldn’t be leaving the house stressed, he should be leaving replenished. Husbands, make sure to encourage your wife in the same way.

Syncing Routines

Communication is important here. A wife will not know what is important to her husband if he does not tell her and vice-versa. You should make it a goal to discover the cornerstones of your spouse’s routine so you can strive to achieve consistency in those areas. Once you both have a good understanding of these cornerstones, you can reform the foundation of your routines to match. The cornerstones of our routines mainly contain similar things, we just need to sync those up and add in some consistency to prevent structural damage.

I mentioned it before, men are creatures of habit. We can be a bit abrasive when our routines are shifted. I have found my routine threatened simply by my wife making me breakfast. I normally handle my own breakfast so when I am surprised by a breakfast containing items I did not choose, it throws me off for a second. In that moment, I have to remind myself that my wife was thinking about me and decided to make me breakfast. I should be happy about that. I literally have to remind myself that every time. I have recognized that I would rather appreciate my wife for an unexpected breakfast than get upset about my routine being threatened. It takes work. One time she made oatmeal for the kids and I. Apparently I was not interested in the unexpected oatmeal she made for me because my response was, “I hate that kind of oatmeal.” Yes, I sounded like a four-year-old.

How to achieve consistency

You will first need to find out what the cornerstones of your spouse’s routine are. Once you have that figured out, you can work that into the household’s routine. If you are typically the one who cooks dinner, make sure it is at a consistent time. If dinner seems to be a stressful situation for your husband because of inconsistency, send him a text message mid-day and let him know what will be cooking when he comes home. Understand that mid-day is also a good time to suggest eating out if you foresee the day getting away from you. I have also realized that giving my wife a solid notice before I disrupt her routine is important as well.

Consistency is simply what I find important during this chapter in my life. It might not be what you need or what your husband needs. Each person is different and has different needs. If you pay close enough attention, you should easily be able to figure out what the cornerstones of your spouse’s routine is.

My Grandparents were married just shy of 68 years when my Grandmother passed away. They retired when I was young. I remember them having a solid routine. My Grandfather would spend time out in his shop building things. My Grandmother would spend time in her office researching and reading. They were a pretty well-oiled machine. They had a routine that included spending time together and time in their zones working on things they loved. If you called them at 11:20 in the morning, you knew they were just sitting down to lunch.

Using my Grandparents routine as an example is hard to compare to a young family with three kids, but I believe that their marriage lasted until the end because they found a way to provide consistency to each other in the areas that mattered most. Watching my Grandfather struggle to find a new routine after my Grandmother’s passing confirms this.

Let me know what you think about this. Is routine important to you? Do you think it’s important to your spouse? What areas of your routine are frequently disrupted? How do you think you could fix it?

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Money Ain’t The Motive

I can’t honestly start this post off by saying money has never been a motive of mine. When I was younger, money was a motive. I wanted to make more of it, so I could buy things. Money was not talked about as it is today. There were no podcasts on finances. Only people older than your Dad were talking about it. What we did have was the beginning of what MTV and the influence rap music was having on us. It was all about money and getting it any way possible. After maxing out a credit card and slaving to get it paid off, I had learned my lesson. I did not like being a slave to anything. What took me many more years to learn was how to actually save money. There always seemed to be something I wanted and I never had enough money to have what I wanted and save money at the same time.

In my early 20’s, one of my businesses required me to work long hours. It was a lot to have on your shoulders. The retail space is hard but stack two online businesses on top of that, plus some freelance work and it was too much for one person to handle. What I didn’t mind at the time was not having much overhead. I worked my butt off and was able to keep, I mean spend most of the money myself. I had an HD TV before you could even watch anything in HD. Stupid stuff like that. I had became a slave to something else, my business. There are many other ways to lose some or all of your freedom and I have experienced some of those as well.
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Some things are just hard

This summer has proven to be pretty challenging. Though we have also had some good times, my family and I have been met with many challenges.

Owning your own business and having a young family of 5 makes for a pretty busy life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I love my life and what has become of it. What gets hard is when you have issues that arise in multiple areas of your life at once.

So far this summer I have lost my grandmother, made some changes at work, took a 12 day family trip, decided to move to a bigger house, and just recently my wife got over a second occurrence of a week long illness. This time it resulted in a 4 day hospital stay. I am NOT use to anything other than my wife being strong and supportive. If anybody slows down, it’s usually me.

I learned not to be selfish because I used to be one of the most selfish people out there. I came to realize that there are very few people that will be in your life for the long haul. Those people deserve 100 percent of you. They come first before all else. Thankfully I have a business that runs relatively well even if I can’t be in the office every day. When I need to handle family situations, I can be there. It’s what I wanted for my life before I got married and had kids. I’m very thankful that things panned out that way. Being in my profession I could easily be working for a company out of town that would not offer near the flexibility.

In my lifetime I have learned that difficulty comes to me all at once. It is not evenly spread out. I know that God recognizes the fact that I would not deal well with a constant struggle and I am truly blessed to have only had the struggles I have experienced so far. Though they are stressful at the time, I get through them and move on as if nothing ever happened. Moving on is the key to surviving.

What is tough is always assuming that something is around the corner. When I start to get ahead, something happens. It’s like clockwork. I don’t even like to entertain the idea that things are going well because from experience, I know that is just the calm before the storm.

Now it seems that storm has passed, at least until I get the hospital bill. I am starting to catch up on sleep and my blood pressure is probably back to normal. What I realize is that every situation leaves it’s mark on me somehow. It seems to slow me down a bit in one area or another. Growing older means new challenges and hardships to endure. Learning how to meet them and get through them is also a challenge that will probably never end.

My prayer is that God gives me that answer or shows me how I should be handling life in a healthy sustainable way. Everybody has their suggestions on how you should handle things but it’s different for everybody. What works for you might not work for me. Whatever it is, I need to find it. The struggle is real and if we don’t find a solid way of coping with it and strengthening ourselves from it, it will eat us alive.

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Dealing with Social Issues and Ignoring the rest

Liam Hill - Reuse of this image is strictly prohibited. This is my son.

We live in a time where people care more about social issues than the current health of our country. It’s like they don’t understand that the health of our country would render our social issues meaningless should we go so far down that as a country, we end up losing some of the freedoms we were born into. I was about to post a simple statement to Twitter and Facebook about how society has its priorities backward when I thought perhaps I should go a bit more into detail.

Before I go into detail I want to make this statement: This post is not about my take on the following issues, though I may insert my opinion to make a point. My opinion on these issues is not important. What is important is how we the people are handling our differences. You are no different than I. In my eyes, we are both people with the same rights and opportunities (I think it says that somewhere in the Bible and also in the Constitution of the United States). Though some of our likes, dislikes and choices may be different, we are the same. We were born the same and will die the same. Do not take what I say out of context. If you do so, I will make a public display of you on this post. The reason we are in the mess we are in today is because people take so much out of context and run with it rather than dealing with the bigger issues that will affect this country for not just decades, but probably centuries. I am also going to refer to our differences as “trivial” because they are trivial in the bigger picture of things. My personal issues are small compared to the national debt as an example. I would gladly put aside my opinion on a lot of things for a season to provide more focus to situations that pose a threat to our society as a whole. I call this “being an adult.”

I have had conversations with many people on different subjects who are so passionate about the particular social issue that they fail to see the poor state our country is in. Their social issue is so important to them that they fail to acknowledge the true issues we face in America.

This is definitely an era of change. Though I have only lived for 34 years, I feel like culture has changed extremely fast in the last 10 years. Don’t get me wrong, I am fine with change. What I am not ok with is ignoring issues that could eventually lead to our downfall. I am going to share some thoughts that many of you may not agree with, but I want you to read what I have to say with an open mind and carefully consider whether or not you are being selfish when it comes to focusing too heavily on your social issue of choice. Also keep in mind that by me mentioning these issues, I am not diminishing them at all. I feel that we need to take everything seriously and carefully consider the long-term implications of them. I just feel that we have not been acting on these issues in the right manner and it has led to us focusing on them rather than the issues that are ultimately plaguing our country.

  1. Racism – We are an advanced society, that as a whole, understands that racism is wrong. We the people can handle racism ourselves and do not need the Government to spend countless dollars helping us anymore. Let me use the recent Donald Sterling situation as an example. It came to light that Donald Sterling made some very racist remarks. Though it was in a private conversation, it was made public and there was outrage. Clippers fans, the NBA and the rest of the world acted and made an example out of him. There is no room for racism in this country. We didn’t need the Government to do anything in that situation, we the people, handled it on our own. There was a time when we did need Government to assist with the rights of minorities, but that time is over. We are an advanced society now, who for the most part, does not and should not treat anybody differently. If someone is treated differently due to ethnic background, it should be the people who step in and I believe we do just that these days. Our words are powerful. We can stand against racism on our own. When racism happens, we take to the streets, or social media as it’s called today, and voice our opinions. There will always be small minded people who will hate others, but we are strong enough to deal with that on our own these days. When it comes to choosing elected officials, it is important that we choose officials that are not race biased, but that should be a question answered and then we move on to bigger issues such as the financial state of our country.
  2. Same Sex Marriage – I am not here to take a stance on this subject. That is for a different conversation. What I do want to discuss is the fact that so many would choose an elected official based on their stance on same-sex marriage. This is such a huge social issue that it consumes a large portion of what these politicians debate about when they should be debating about how we will fix our economy and national deficit. We can’t blame politicians for arguing about this because we are the people who make it more important to talk about than issues that affect everybody. I am not saying that we should not talk about this just because it does not affect 100% of us. I am simply stating that if we do not handle the bigger issues that the US faces, we will end up being slaves to another country. We live in a country where we have the freedom to do and be a lot of things. Many of these freedoms are not accepted at all in other countries, namely the countries we owe a lot of money to.Here is my opinion, which will most likely not be popular with some of you: Get over your social issues for the time being and stand up for your country. All I, and many others see, is selfishness. I recognize that it is easy for me to say this because I am married, but if my country was falling apart, I would be able to set aside just about any injustice so I could pay attention to the more important issues at hand. This does not mean that we should forget about this. It is good to know the stance someone has on this subject, especially the stance of a potentially elected official, but that is it. Do not discount a potential good choice as an elected official over their stance on marriage. If we continue to elect the wrong people, marriage won’t matter for any of us.
  3. Religion – We used to live in a country where we had complete freedom of religion. Even though it is a right practiced by the people of this land since the early 1600’s, our generation is doing everything we can to tear it down. This is something that has been a right of the people for centuries, yet our generation has the audacity to decide that it should be stifled. I don’t care what the topic is, it is not one single generations job to change something that has that long of a history. We focus too much of our attention trying to remove things like prayer and words written on monuments, that has no negative effect on anyone. It is the selfishness of people who are not happy with themselves who feel the need to focus extreme amounts of energy on tearing down rights and monuments of others while our country loses more money than we can even fathom each waking day.
  4. Health Care – I do believe that in an advanced society, we should focus on being healthy and that means having something in place to help the citizens of the United States be healthy. However, putting the Government in charge is not going to do that. Each of us who earns an income in the United States now has to pay for the health-related issues of everybody. There are certain things that I think should be covered as part of being a US Citizen. However, I do not think that I should have to pay for the healthcare of someone who goes into liver failure because they decided to drink so much alcohol over a long period of time that their body could not handle it anymore. I recognize that this is not the case with each situation as some of these people will be paying a premium just like the rest of us, but many of them will not be.
  5. Public School System – The Government has turned our public school system into an assembly line. Students are taught to correctly answer tests rather than be expressive and artistic. Programs that schools used to offer such as art, music, woodshop and other electives have no funding. What we are funding though is programs that assure each student is being tested on a regular basis. No child should be left behind so we stifle creativity and the natural process for which children learn so we can make sure not one of them falls behind. The only way Government can control that, is with testing. We are failing our children by letting Government get carried away with their programs. The public schools that are succeeding these days are the schools that stretch the limits by attempting to offer the same experience that were available in the past. With our the arts, there is no way to stretch our minds. Even a scientist is made a better scientist by having experiences the arts. We are not giving our children any other option to excel at besides reading, writing, math or science.Now let me take a step back and suggest that we should not rely on the Government to provide these things anyway. As parents, we should be exposing our kids to things that will help grow and expand their minds. The problem is that parents believe it is the Government’s job to raise their kids during school hours. We let the Government feed our children 2 out of 3 meals each day while at school and teachers are often the only authority a child has over them during most of their waking hours. It is the job of our schools to equip our children with an education so they can get a job and make a living. It is the job of the parents of these children to do the rest including help them make these decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Not all children come from families who can provide this, but by allowing the Government to provide things that should be provided at home, we raise children who rely on the Government for things that they should be providing for themselves. We the people, could and should provide these services, not the Government. The Government gives handouts, it does not help people better themselves. It enables people to stay down and reliant on them. People, especially children, learn nothing by being given something for nothing. Our school system needs to go back to providing education and safety while being education, nothing more. We can let organizations ran by the people provide the rest. There are plenty of programs out there for those who need assistance with their children. These days we make it too easy to let the Government provide for us. There is a time and a place for Government help but it should not be allowed to become a lifelong pursuit.
  6. Name any other issue here – We the people can handle things on our own for the most part. There is a time for Government intervention but very few of our current social issues actually call for that. Deciding to choose a Government official over another because of their take on a trivial social issue is simply not responsible.

I find it funny that we continue to call out our Baby Boomer parents as the source of the problem. We blame so much on them, but now it is our turn to make decisions and raise children. I don’t feel like we are doing any better, even with the example of our parents having been something we could have learned from. Yes it may seem like our parents had priorities that were not in line with what we as their children had hoped they would be, but we have an opportunity to be a generation that does not put our personal issues over the needs of those who will come after us. The problem is that we are not being that generation. We are the most needy and selfish generation the United States has ever seen. If we do not get our way, we throw tantrums and complain, like the children that we are. We take action on issues that affect us now and ignore those that will have a lasting negative effect for generations because we were not correctly taught how to consider the long-term effects of our decisions. My generation complains about their parents but I can only imagine the negativity that will come from our kids who for the most part were raised by other people because we were too busy fighting other fights that only seem to affect us in the here and now.

I recognize that topics like racism, same-sex marriage and religion are all things that need to be fought for. We are a country who has always stood up for its beliefs on topics and didn’t relent until the change took place. The difference this time is that our country is so in debt to other countries who do not share the same beliefs as us. Imaging where our freedoms would go should a major shift happen? We will be blaming each other for focusing too much on trivial things that could have waited. A responsible person would not go get another credit card to keep spending when all of their other credit cards are maxed out. That is what our Government is doing right now to create more programs that make it more necessary for the people to rely on them. Much of our current Government wants us in their pocket. They all have agendas, regardless of the party.

The last point I want to make is this: Ever since the inception of this country, we have fought for rights. I am not saying that we need to lay down on what we find important so we can get back on financial track. I am saying that our country is bleeding out and we are focusing on the wrong wounds. The fact that racism is still a thing and that people don’t seem to have equal rights is a big deal. We should continue to fight for injustice and stand up for those who are being treated wrong. What we shouldn’t do is ignore bigger threats to our country that will affect not only our future but the future of our children and their children. We are on a path that is setting our countries future up to fail. We are doing that by allowing Government to control too much. We are smart enough and strong enough to correct our own social injustices. We live in a time where we need to look at the bigger picture and figure out how to fix it before our Government and lack of concern for these issues run us into the ground. I think we fail to see how large the problem is. We think we are above reproach, but that time is running out.

I openly accept your opinions in the comments below. Keep in mind that this is not a debate of the above listed social issues. I mentioned topics so there would be context for this discussion. Your opinion may be different than mine, and I am ok with that. We are individuals who are allowed to have our own opinions. I think that we can all agree on the fact that if we continue on the road our country is on, our opinions on such issues won’t matter. Maybe we have to hit rock bottom before we can all agree. I really thought 9/11 was a wake-up call, but we quickly forget how to agree on something and go back to fighting each other over trivial matters.

Because I know that many of you will miss it, once again I am going to say that you are I are the same and deserve the same rights. We also deserve the right to fight for those rights so long as they are moral rights to have (the people should also control what constitutes morality, not the Government). I do not and will not judge you on your differences of opinion. I don’t have one single friend who even agrees with me on 50% of what I hold as values, and I am ok with that. The moment that I decide to surround myself with people who only share my opinions is the moment where I cease to grow as a person.

(Liam Hill – Reuse of this image in this post is strictly prohibited. This is my son.)

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The Secrets To A Happy Marriage

Happy Marriages Infographic

Anytime you put two people together in any situation, there will be ups and downs. It’s how you react to them and how you treat each other through the downs that allow you to have more ups. I saw the below infographic on Lifehacker and as I read through it, I felt proud and frustrated at the same time. So I thought I would break down each section of the infographic with my thoughts and experiences from my own life and marriage. Beware, there will be rants…

1. Happy Couple Ratio: Anybody with any level of intelligence knows that when you keep communications more positive, than they should stay that way. I don’t understand how people let themselves get so negative with their spouse. People are so selfish these days. I hear interactions that some people have with their spouses and I just want to slap them. You chose who you married. Nobody held a gun to your head. You made a choice. Treat that person the way you treated them when you were dating. Treat them the way you wanted to treat them because they were something special that you just had to have in your life. Hopefully this is why you married them in the first place. If you married because of financial reasons, then you were being selfish in the first place. I know so many selfish spouses who seem to only be nice to their wives so long as their own needs are being met. Men like that need to get punched in the face. I know that men are not the only ones who put themselves first but I do feel like we were the ones who did it first. In my experiences, selflessness comes easier to woman than it does men.

You need to communicate more with your spouse and keep it positive. I have three kids under the age of 4 at home. Sometimes they run my wife into the ground. It’s hard work raising three kids so close in age. Do I dare try to put my day on the same level as hers? No way! I know that my day can be tiring, but it’s not the same kind of tiring at all. I compliment my wife on the job she is doing and remind her of how amazing of a mother she is to my children.

We laugh and enjoy moments new and old as often as possible. All of the photos we take with our smartphones play through our Apple TV. At least a few times a week we just sit there and watch photos of our family scroll by. It’s a happy time that I would not trade for any show that could be playing on our TV.

2. In the Bedroom: Yes I agree that intimacy is important, but I don’t think it is “the key” to a happy marriage. It helps, but no amount of intimacy can make up for a selfish spouse or a spouse that does not appreciate the other.

3. Appreciating Each other: My wife and I love to share personal triumphs with each other. When I land a new client, I celebrate with her. When she creates something with her bare hands, I celebrate with her. When our kids hit a new milestone, we celebrate together. My wife knows that I take pride in my work and when I triumph, I get excited about it. That makes her excited, and it makes me feel good that she gets excited. When she creates something, or someone asks her to create something for them, I get excited because I know my wife enjoys it and is good at what she does. I like seeing her happy. That makes me happy. It’s as simple as that.

4. Sharing New Experiences: I love experiencing new things with my wife. I am a few years older than she is so there was some catching up to do, but now we experience new things together. We get away for a weekend and try new restaurants. Sometimes “new” doesn’t even have to enter the situation. We love going to Dewz, which is an upscale restaurant in Modesto. Most of the time, we order the same items, but it is an experience that we enjoy together. The TV shows that we get into are shows we both like, that way we can laugh together.

5. Marriage and Our Happiness: This part of the infographic I did not agree with. Sure everything is easier at the beginning because you have not experienced any difficulties together. This tells me that much of the world does not do a good job dealing with conflict together. My wife and I are not the best at conflict resolution but we respect each other enough to let things go. We don’t hold on to things and let them eat us away. I am sure there are countless things about me that my wife would have never imagined having to deal with when she got married one day, but she deals with them and most of the time I don’t even know it.

Having kids has definitely added stress to our lives but we both agree that our lives are vastly enriched because of our children. If you are less happy after having children it is because you are a selfish person. I would gladly adopt your child and let you go back to your selfish ways. If you did not intend on having children yet got yourself into a situation where you now have a child, you need to suck it up and stop being selfish. Your time of selfishness ended when that child entered the world. Hopefully you realized this when you got married. This does not mean that you can not have the things that you want to have. You just have to recognize the order in which things should happen.

My wife’s happiness is my #1 priority under the sun. When she hurts, I hurt. I know that my life would suck exponentially if she was not in it. Because I recognize this, I will always strive to make her happy. I may fail at it at times but she knows how imperfect I am. My kids come second to her. Yes they have needs that may seem more immediate. I do make sure to take care of those needs and I do not neglect my children. I always check in with my wife to make sure everything is good. I put aside things that I may want to rather be doing to be with her and make sure she is cared for. It is my job alone to care for her and to make sure she feels safe and loved. I took that job from her father the day I married her.

6. Why Get Married? I can honestly say that I come across more people that shouldn’t have gotten married than I do people who I am glad did get married. This is a sad fact. Those who I have been close enough to know enough about their situations I know for a fact that selfishness comes down to the root core of their problems.

7. Kids Impact on a Couple’s Happiness: Sure kids add a new dynamic to a relationship. I am not going to lie and say that it does not make it hard. My wife definitely snap at each other more often now than we did before we have kids, but I have much more satisfaction with my marriage to my wife now that we have kids then we did before. Before we had kids my wife and I had never created anything together. There was nothing that we did that had much of an impact on anything. Sure we took some fun trips and experienced a lot together (we were married a little over 2 years before having our first child), but none of that compares with bringing our children into this world. The Infographic below says that couples are unhappiest when their kids are in preschool and that their happiness levels do not return until after their kid graduates. That is sad and it sounds like a lot of people just can’t seem to let go of their own selfish ways and take joy in their families.

Let me tell you why my marital satisfaction has increased since we had children:

  1. I get to watch my wife mother my children. This is truly amazing. We made the decision together to make sure she could stay home and raise our children. I didn’t want my children to be raised in daycare. I feel like our nation is going to hurt big time because of the decision of parents to put kids in childcare rather than make sacrifices that would allow the mother to stay home.
  2. We are investing ourselves into something together that is greater than us. Though it is hard and some days are all about staying sane, we love investing our time into our children. My wife and I both want nothing more than to raise children that will grow up and be a responsible part of society. We both know that our greatest work in life here on earth are our children.
  3. We also remember to invest in ourselves. My wife and I both allow each other to occasionally take part in hobbies we enjoy. She loves to craft and create things with her hands. I love my work and racing. We don’t go overboard on our personal activities. Sometimes months go by without making a trip to the race track. Sometimes a month or so go by without my wife having time to touch her craft area. We both have set out priorities and make choices to put others first in our family before ourselves.

Is it easy? NO! It’s not easy, but if you think that easy is better than your parents raised you wrong. If you are going to be happy as a married person and happy with having children then your mindset needs to change. You need to be able to find joy in other people’s happiness.

I love taking my wife places and experiencing things with her. I love teaching my kids to do new things and watching them experience new things. God willing, my kids will not know what it’s like to grow up in a daycare. My kids will know what it’s like to grow up with their mothers love and direction. They will know what it’s like to have a hard working father. They will know that their mother could have done great things in the world as a professional of her choosing but decided to stay home and raise them because her love for them was greater than other worldly achievements (plus I remind my wife all of the time that she will still be young when our youngest reaches age 18).

The Michelangelo Effect: I agree that the happiest relationships come from those who bring out the “ideal” selves in each other. Everything about my wife makes me a better person and even though I believe that my wife is just an amazing person regardless, I am sure I do things that make her want to be a better person as well. My wife and I encourage each other to grow. I want her to become the person she wants to be and she wants me to achieve that as well.

Final Thoughts: It all comes down to respect. If you do not respect your spouse, you will be unhappy. You will never be able to put your selfish needs and desires aside if you do not respect them. I respected my wife enough not to live with her before we got married and I decided that when we got married that it was not going to be all about me anymore. My struggles did not need to become her struggles. If you think that your spouse is the selfish one, take a look in the mirror first. My guess is that you are probably more selfish than you think. Happiness is not science nor is it difficult to understand so long as you can make yourself the type of person who can put others before yourself.

Enjoy the Infographic.

Happy Marriages Infographic

HappifyLifehacker