Furry Friend or Father? Snoopy or Snoop Dogg?

If you ask a child to draw a picture of his family, you might see stick figures of the child, his mother and the family dog.  Where’s Daddy?  Probably as elusive as Waldo.  I was appalled to read in a professional journal that children in the United States are more likely to grow up with a pet than with a father.  Yikes!

This statement becomes even more alarming when actual numbers are discussed.  According to the website for the National Center For Fathering, over 20 million children live in  a home without a father physically present.  The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that approximately a third of all children in this country live with an absent biological father.  That’s a huge number of disappearing dads!

But never fear, pets are here.  According to a 2007-2008 Pet Owner’s Survey, 45.6 million households owned a dog, and 38.2 million households owned a cat.  Four-legged furry friends are more common in many households than a father who knows best–or any type of father for that matter.

As a lifelong pet owner, I can safely say that pets are a wonderful addition to a child’s household.  Their presence provides a number of positives in a youngster’s life.  Pets force kids to exercise.  Kids may be tasked with walking Rover or on their own play fetch or engage in some type of activity with their beloved pet which requires physical exertion.

Pets provide unconditional love to a child.  The pet could care less if the child wears glasses, is a tad overweight or made an F on his spelling test.  A pet is always beyond excited to see a family member arrive home.  Pets can be sleeping companions who curl up next to you so you are not alone and can snuggle..

Pets teach kids responsibility.  A dog cannot feed himself (unless she happens to grab a roast off your kitchen counter as our dog Sarah did), and a cat cannot change the litter in her litter box.  Feeding and cleaning up after pets are wonderful chores for a child to be assigned

Pets provide entertainment and companionship.  My granddog Apollo had us in fits of laughter when he learned to jump from the top of his dog house to the roof of my daughter’s house.  He even had his picture taken by neighbors and posted on the Internet.

Pets also provide security.  Who doesn’t feel safer when a pet is present to announce the approach of a stranger to the house?  Sometimes my dogs are a bit too safety conscious and feel we should be alerted when a squirrel scampers close to the house.  Hey! They pilfer nuts from the yard; who’s to say that the TV from our house might not be next?

Pets are also a positive because of their lack of negatives.  As far as I am aware, pets don’t smoke, do drugs or gamble.  They don’t watch porn on the computer,, and they don’t blow money on expensive toys like new trucks or boats.

Fathers who are present in a child’s life in a positive way are a gift from God.  But the fathers who are absent–well, maybe it is a good thing that they are absent.  From my years as an adoption attorney, I am used to seeing “fathers” who are nothing more than sperm donors, who are abusive or neglectful, or who are simply absent.  Yes, the best scenario is to have a loving, caring and responsible father in a child’s life.  But perhaps it is best for the child to have more interaction with a pet than with a father who is a negative or even harmful influence.  .

Bottom line is that I am greedy.  I want it all.  I want both a loving, caring father who is a positive role model as well as a lovable pet in a child’s life. Herbert Hoover’s presidential campaign pushed for a chicken in every pot; I’m for a furry friend and a (good) father in every child’s home.






Tattoo You?

For a pirate, X marks the spot where treasure is buried.  For some adults, a tattoo marks the spot where their treasure (i.e., money from their pocket) has been buried in their skin. I personally would prefer to keep my treasure in my pocket; tattoos are not my cup of tea, and I don’t plan to get one.  That doesn’t mean that tattoos don’t pique my interest.

Just what is a tattoo?  The dictionary definition informs us that a tattoo is an indelible (translate PERMANENT) mark or figure affixed on the body by inserting pigment under the skin.  Um, that means that something sharp has to poke through your skin to get the pigment underneath it.  Yes, needles are involved.  I find it highly amusing that my daughter, the one who was deathly afraid of shots as a child, now has a couple of tattoos.  This means that she actually had to pay someone to stick that needle in her as opposed to me bribing her to get a shot by promising ice cream to her if she allowed herself to be a human pin cushion.

The word “tattoo” comes from the Polynesian word “tautau” meaning “to write.”  Actually, a tattoo makes me think more of someone drawing on skin than writing. People tell their kids to draw inside the lines and not to draw on the walls, but yet they go out and plunk down money to have someone draw on their bodies?  If there’s an oops on your wall, you get out the heavy duty cleaner and remove the unwanted coloring.  It’s not quite so easy if there’s drawing on your body in the form of a tattoo. Yup.  You are basically stuck with it unless you want to undergo what I understand is a painful and expensive removal procedure.

Tattoos are not some modern day trend–no siree.  Mummified remains thousands of years old bear evidence of tattoos.  I am not sure if scientists have determined exactly what the tattoos depicted.  Perhaps dinosaurs? Sailors apparently brought the concept of tattoos back to the U.S. after jaunts to foreign ports in the South Pacific.  No need to send postcards back home when you can just get a tattoo and show it off to your friends and family upon your return home.

And tattoos in the past had some utilitarian purposes.  Let’s say you are a sailor lost in a shipwreck.  After floating around in the water for awhile before being discovered, your face may no longer be recognizable.  But your remains are more easily identified if you have a tattoo personal to you.  And tattoos came in handy for literally marking prisoners of war.  The POW’s might escape, but they could not escape the telltale marks indelibly placed on their bodies which would give them away.

Tattoos are often found on service members. An early professional tattoo artist exemplified neutrality and non-discrimination when working with the military.  He would travel from military camp to military camp during the U.S. Civil War to ply his trade.  He serviced both sides.

Surprisingly to me, tattoos are pretty mainstream and are found beyond simply being on the bodies of military members.  A recent Harris Poll reported that 39% of adults in the U.S. have a tattoo.  That’s over 1/3 of the country’s population.  Among Millenials the percentage rises to 47%, i.e., almost half that group.

Just what motivates people to get tattoos?  A tattoo may be obtained to honor someone who is loved (such as a girlfriend) or who has been lost (such as a deceased friend/family member).  A tattoo may be a form of self-expression indicating what things a person likes or perhaps even what his religious views are.  A tattoo, sadly, is sometimes merely the result of a drunken impulse or of peer pressure.  Whatever the reason may be, it is a personal decision.

In my case, I have no need for any artificial tattoos because my body is already covered in tattoos.  They are natural indelible marks which make me the unique person I am.  God provided me with a pre-tattooed body–I have a sleeve of freckles on each arm.  You can decide whether to tattoo you, but for me, I’m good with my natural state.


Heave Ho To Ho Hum History

Raise your hand if you found reading history texts in school to be, well, ho hum.  Something about all those dates, the size of armies, the number of casualties, etc. just makes me want to nod off.  Why count sheep when you can count battleships?  The problem is that the presentation of history was basically just the facts–the dry facts.  That battle strategy to capture our minds needs to be given the heave ho.  Learning history can be quite fun if the presentation is more creative.

Staring at statistics on the page of a textbook or having statistics spouted off at you from the front of a classroom is about as fun as watching paint dry. Does the learning process have to be as dead as the war casualties in the military conflicts they are trying to teach about in a history course?  Why not combine learning and enjoyment?

Visual learners will take in far more from a seeing history come to life before their eyes.  Why I’ll bet I learned more about the evacuation of Dunkirk from seeing the movie “Dunkirk” last weekend than I ever learned from sitting in a classroom being lectured to about the event.  And I am more likely to actually remember what I learned because what I digested was tied to an enjoyable experience and not a boring situation to simply endure.

Obviously, it is not feasible to show an epic motion picture during every history class.  But pictures, models, and other visual tools would certainly liven up the process.  The goal is not to entertain but to enhance the learning process.  Aren’t you far more likely to remember the details of a pleasant experience?

Even if it is merely words that are used to convey the historical information, the presentation could be made more palatable by providing something beyond the usual (yawn) statistics and figures.  Let’s give this suggestion a try in the context of the evacuation of Dunkirk, an event with air, land and sea components.

Up in the air were RAF Spitfires.  The Spitfire was a single-seat fighter plane used by the Royal Air Force during World War II.  And the manufacturer was spitting out Spitfires; this plane was produced more than any other British aircraft during WWII.  Just how did the Spitfire get its name?  Blame it on a girl.  The boss of the plane’s designer named it after his daughter; she happened to have a fiery personality and was called the “little spitfire.”

Down on the ground were wide sandy beaches full of British and French troops who needed to be evacuated from Dunkirk, a city in northern France. Dunkirk is the English version of the place name.  Dunquerque, the French name, derives from West Flemish words that together mean “church in the dunes.”  Churchill referred to the Miracle of Dunkirk where about 338,000 troops were evacuated.  It was a miracle of deliverance–a fitting event for a place meaning a church in the dunes.

Out in the sea were lots of small boats.  Approximately 700 private ships utilized in the rescue effort were called the “Little Ships of Dunkirk.”  Ships used in war bring to mind destroyers, carriers and battleships–all BIG ships. But the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” included speedboats, car ferries, and even 26 yachts.

Aren’t these historical facts pretty interesting?  They are to me.  Not only are they interesting, but they give me a 3-D vision of what happened–one that I will indeed remember.  Let’s give the old heave ho to the ho hum one dimensional presentation of dull facts and give some life to history.  The participants in long ago events may be dead, but us learning about these events does not require us to be bored to death.