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Diversity in America

I’m not sure how you feel about this clip but upon listening to it I felt a bit of bile rise in the back of my throat. He has a few good points when it comes to the worst parts of human nature and what it means to work against one another. But in truth, America was created as a diverse place that is meant to respect every last person and their differences while attempting to pull them all together in an effort to create a nation that celebrates all races, all cultures, and all genders in as equal a manner as is humanly possible. Plus, as he points out, America was founded on equality, on giving everyone their equal share, but rarely in its beginning stages did America practice what it preached.

People of color, of different religions, and of different gender than white males have been treated horribly in this country for many a year. Let’s not step into the racial arguments that have plagued our country for so long, however rightful they are in their estimations, but instead let’s admit that our country has a rather dark history in many points that such men as this seem to ignore in their attempt to state that we are all equal but can not benefit in different ways. Yes, it is a bit unfair when one individual earns an advantage simply for belonging to a certain group or culture, and yes, it does undermine the needs of equality for all when those that do work long, hard hours must give up part of their paycheck, or those same hours, to those that are hired on simply because it’s deemed necessary.

But this is America folks, and it’s the only country we’ve got. Respecting and celebrating diversity is what we do, and it’s what we’ve always said we were founded on. It’s time to finally live up to that standard and let go of the idea that we can’t work together to create a better nation.

We might not look the same, but fundamentally we’re all the same.

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I can’t wait for the arguments on this one, but think it over really quick and realize the truth that beyond what we look like, what we can do, and how we act around others, we are all the same. We’re made of the same things, we want the same things in life, and each are willing to do what it takes to get them. Now all we need is the chance, the opportunity to show what we can do, and there’s no doubt that America will be a great place if we’re allowed to do it together. Far too many different forces tear us apart and what’s worse, we let them sometimes. We focus so much on our differences that it actually surprises us when we figure out that we have similarities that tie us together.

Being a diverse country doesn’t mean that we’re all going to get along 100% of the time, but it does mean that learning to live with one another and accept each other for what we can offer to the same country is important to its integrity and to its success.

This is what it looks like to make America great.

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People helping people, people of ALL races helping each other. That’s what makes a nation great, by pulling together and understanding that we’re not going to be equal in all things, but that we can still build a country up together and make it a great place to live. That’s what so many people seem to be missing at this point, that our country is a diverse and enriching place that offers a chance to get to know so much about other cultures and the people that practice them. America is not a nation that was founded on the premise of one people, one ideal, and one type of belief. We were founded by our differences and how they were used to pull us together, not keep us apart.

It’s time to open our eyes once again folks and realize that while we’re all different in some way, we’re all still united in the fact that we love this country because it’s our home, and the only one we’ve got.

 

 

Is Gun Control Possible in America?

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Does this look familiar? It should, because this is where America currently seems to be at when it comes to the issue of gun control and how it will or won’t work in America. The only question that I’m going to pose at the moment is: where you do fit in to this picture? Some of us might think that guns aren’t necessary and are far too destructive in the hands of anyone, while others think that guns are absolutely necessary and they’re our right (which they are technically) while others are just heaving a collective sigh and wishing this debate could find a suitable compromise. And if you’ll notice, we’re (yes, I am one of those individuals in the middle) constantly overlooked as we wait for those fueling this argument to come to some agreement that can work for both of them. Can gun control work? Have we even really tried it yet? Some people would say of course we have, but given the state of things lately that statement doesn’t seem to be entirely true.

So here we go onto a volatile topic that a lot of us can at least agree is something that deserves a lot more discussion.

Guns are not the evil that some people are so willing to fight against.

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Guns do have a practical use. They don’t fire unless they’re being handled, and most of all, taking them away doesn’t insure that people will be safe. The argument of course is to take guns away from the wrong people, but there seems to be a big misconception about who the ‘wrong’ people and who the ‘right’ ones are. So a person owns an extensive collection of handguns and rifles and other firearms. That doesn’t make them the wrong kind of person any more than it makes a person that collects bottles of alcohol an alcoholic. Yes the propensity for misuse is there, but it’s not a guarantee that it will happen. On the other hand, sometimes those that are deemed as the ‘right’ people tend to be the ones that should never handle anything more dangerous than a cap gun. Judging people by the number and type of guns that they have is not an accurate way to go about settling this issue, so let’s move on.

People are adamant that allowing everyone to arm themselves is a good idea.

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The general consensus with some folks is that being able to carry a gun will enable people to stop a crime, however big or small, by whipping out their gun and pointing it at the offender. You might think that this is an effective way to stop crime, and depending on the situation, the location, and the person pulling the gun it might be. But then again, what if someone’s having a bad day or holding a grudge against another person? What if that individual doesn’t have the kind of impulse control needed to carry a gun? Sure there might be a screening process and a psych eval that a person can go through to ascertain whether they’re able to carry a firearm or not, but does anyone think that’s going to stop a motivated individual from obtaining a permit to conceal carry? It might seem kind of paranoid to think that anyone might just go shooting up a place because they’re having anger issues, but after all that’s happened is that really such a fantastical idea any longer? There’s no doubt that in some areas being able to carry concealed has helped, but the point is that everyone having a gun and being able to conceal it or carry it in plain sight is more a step back towards the Old West than it is a leap into a secure future.

Keep in mind, if it’s paranoia that drives the thought of someone pulling a legally-licensed weapon and firing off for the hell of it, then it’s also a hint of paranoia to think that someone might come for your guns at the first sign of trouble.

Things have changed, and they’ll keep changing no doubt.

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Gun control is needed, but the rights of citizens to bear arms still needs to be taken into account. The type of guns that are available to people is not the problem, it’s that the people buying and using them are not always being screened so as to insure that they won’t flip and go off the rails, thereby creating another massacre that will continue to fuel the arguments of those that would seek to disarm those that will fight so vehemently to keep their firearms. It’s a continual and very circular argument that seems to have no way of breaking out of the cycle other than for one side to cede defeat and give way. That’s not likely to happen if you’ve been paying attention.

There’s a way for gun control to work, and to appease everyone at the same time, but so far no one seems ready to listen or to even contemplate what it might be.

Starting Up Your Own Business

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You can go ahead and admit it, you’ve wondered at least once or twice in your life just what it would be like to be your own boss. Some of us have thought it would be nice, others that it would be a lot of work, and then there are those of us that don’t sweat the small stuff and want to test the waters without really thinking about the details. Well before you go diving in headfirst trying to find the gimmick that will work for you, it’s going to be necessary to figure out a few things that might help your business and aid in your success. For starters, what is your business? What can you offer people? What marketable skill or commodity do you have that would be valuable enough for people to start paying you for it?

Everyone can do something. You’ve probably heard this at few times in your life but never really listened. Now’s the time to think it through though and ask yourself “What can you offer to society?” That’s the first question you need to sort out, as it will make the difference as to whether your business will flourish or fail right out of the gate. Don’t be afraid of failure, it happens to everyone, but don’t be willing to just lay down and die either. Building a business isn’t a quick and surefire thing no matter what anyone tells you. It’s an investment in yourself and in what you can give to the people, and what you put in won’t always be reflected by what you put out.

Draw up a business plan.

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Even if it’s just going to be you running and operating the business you’re going to need a decisive plan on how you’re going to proceed. Jot down all the particulars that you’re going to need to think about, what is going to be the model for your business, and so on and so forth. This is particularly important if you’re going to be seeking out investors for your business as they’re going to want to know that you’ve got a solid plan to fall back on. Those that are giving you money to get going don’t want to think that they’re throwing it away, and will want to know that you have a plan to honor their investment and continue to make money as time goes on. So sit down and brainstorm, and whatever you do don’t leave anything to chance.

There are pros and cons to every business idea. Weigh them carefully.

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For instance, you get to be your own boss, but that means that you’re in charge of everything, and also accountable for everything. Bosses take on a lot more than people realize sometimes, as they might have a few more privileges than the workers but still have a lot more responsibility. Then there’s the matter of your business and how well-received it will be. Is there a solid market for it? How much competition is out there? Will you be able to compete or will your business be squashed the moment you set foot into the public eye? There are a great many things you have to take into consideration when it comes to starting a business, and you have to look at the possible negatives as well as the positives. Weighing them against one another can have a profound effect on your business model and how you decide to proceed.

You’re going to have to put in the work.

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This isn’t like working a regular job, if you want your business to succeed you’re going to have to put in the time, the effort, and the funds to get it going. Even if you manage to get investors on board they’re not going to do the work for you, that’s not why they’re there. Your business will require your time and your dedication if it’s to take off.

There’s a lot to it, but eventually it’s time to get your feet wet and get moving.

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There are a lot of steps that still need to be taken care of, but essentially if you write out a checklist of all the things you need and don’t deviate all that much from it then you should have a chance to launch your idea and hit the ground running. Creating your own business is kind of scary proposition largely because there is no safety net here. You’re banking on your own idea, you’re not trying to bolster someone else up. This is your idea on the line and as a result it means you’re going to have to be more diligent and more attentive than ever before. It’s possible to create a business and watch it soar, but before you let those dreams get too far ahead of you it’ll be necessary to ground yourself by putting in the time and effort to make sure that those wings are sturdy enough to carry you.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance, but do what you can to make sure it’s worth the effort.

Child Trafficking

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It’s not the nicest of subjects to talk about, and it’s something that tends to elicit a great deal of controversy whenever it comes up, but child trafficking is very real and it is a serious problem in the world today. But talking about it is still something that needs to be done, and following that action is what needs to be taken. How do we do it though? The one thing that traffickers seem to thrive on is the fact that there are numerous ways that they can practice their trade without anyone catching them. There are those individuals that care deeply enough and will sacrifice everything so that not one child will have to suffer. But those that either cannot find a way to contribute or are bound by where they are or other factors can at least become educated in the fact, yes the FACT, that child trafficking is very real and that it needs to be stopped.

The exploitation of children is bad enough, but upon hearing what they go through and how they are abused is enough to turn one’s stomach. The knowledge of the horrors they face and the nightmares they have to endure is the starting point to caring enough to do something about it. Educating yourself in how many individuals really find themselves within this tangled web is a means by which you can find a way to raise your voice and support the efforts of those that are seeking to end this despicable practice. It is a subject that brings many emotions to the fore and for good reason. Those who would steal the innocence of a child are those that, no matter what, are guilty of one of the most diabolical sins in this world.

In case you missed it, CHILD TRAFFICKING IS REAL.

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There are many out there that don’t want to hear or see the ugly truth of humanity and what people do to each other. But the fact remains that are anywhere between 20 and 30 million slaves in the world today and many upon many of them are children. How could this happen? When you live on a planet that currently holds over 7 billion people, 20 to 30 million seems like a very small number. This is a lot of people that go missing and that are exploited, abused, and in some cases tortured, but yet they remain missing and in a population this big aren’t likely to be found without a monumental effort. Considering that many kids that go missing and end up being placed into this position because they come from unstable home lives, the matter isn’t bound to get better if they have no one to miss them. Even those that have people looking are slim on hope unfortunately.

It’s hard to argue with facts, but some do anyway.

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Humanity often doesn’t like looking in the mirror and seeing its own faults. The problem of child trafficking is a HUGE flaw that some people still see fit to ignore, while others staunchly deny as they’ve never seen it. You never “see” gravity but you see its effects on the world. Many never see a hurricane forming from miles off but they certainly feel it when it hits. The act of denying the ugly and horrible things that humans do to each other and the attempt to cover it up is just as despicable as the act itself. Trying to wipe it away by claiming that it doesn’t affect your society or any other that you know is quite asinine and absolutely reprehensible.

The life of a child, any child, is meant to be one of wonder and joy, not misery and despair.

This is a huge business. Yeah, you read it correctly.

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Feel like vomiting now? Child trafficking pulls in around $32 billion a year, approximately, with one kid being worth around $90 on average. That should give you a better idea of just how many kids are really affected by this issue and why it’s so important that it stops. Slightly less than half of that profit is made from industrialized countries, so America, our country IS implicit in this. As one of the leading nations of the world it’s not just a responsibility, it’s a debt that’s owed to these children to end this business as soon as possible.

Unfortunately the likelihood that it will happen is slim, as the general outrage that is felt seems to eclipse the efforts that are being undertaken by those that are willing to stand up and say “No more.”

Homeless in Portland, Oregon

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It might be an arguable point but Portland seems to have one of the biggest homeless populations around, and the reason for this is kind of astounding. Being homeless isn’t a joke, let’s get that straight right away. There are many reasons why people become homeless and it’s not just laziness or lack of willpower when it comes to finding work or something that can help them get back on their feet. Some do in fact suffer from serious mental issues, while others lost their jobs and somehow fell through the cracks so to speak. Others lost everything due to addictions that they either couldn’t or didn’t want to control, and found themselves on the street. And then there are those that simply have no social or family ties to speak of and for one reason or another have no one to rely on when they really need help.

A lot of people still look down on the homeless as though they’re a plague that needs to be endured or wiped out for decent, hardworking individuals to really enjoy the scenery of their city. Taking the MAX throughout Portland usually means having to see sleeping bags, piles of newspaper or cardboard, and other such signs of habitation propped up in doorways or in alleys, wherever a person can find a spot to sit or lie down. It’s far too easy to look down your nose at a homeless individual, especially those that are actively asking for a bit of change. Often times though it’s important to do at least a little research and find out just why the number of homeless folks in this city are seemingly stuck where they are.

They’re not all addicts.

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You don’t have to have a drug or alcohol problem to be homeless. Sometimes it’s a run of bad luck in your life that leads to the worst possible spot, other times it’s the fact that you can’t seem to get anything going for various reasons. Not every person you see on the street is an addict that can’t seem to help themselves. Those that are seem bound to remain in a pit that they dug for themselves from the start and don’t seem willing to get out of. Addiction might be a disease, and many will argue that it is, but the will to get better is what could pull them upward and allow such individuals to get back on their feet in one way or another. There are those that are not hampered by an addiction or a mental illness of some sort that are actively trying to get better and to change their life. The homeless folks you see on the city of Portland are not without hope, but it does take a certain amount of effort to turn their lives around.

Many of the homeless on Portland’s streets came from other areas due to Portland’s tolerant environment.

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Portland is one of the most tolerant cities around when it comes to the homeless. Check for confirmation if you want, but those tent cities and the various individuals you find sacked out under bridges, in doorways, and wherever else they can find to bed down are here because the city is far more inviting and has more to offer the homeless than many other places. For one, the climate is a lot easier to take. It might get cold in the winter but unlike other cities Portland is still tolerable and a person won’t likely freeze to death as they would in other cities across the nation. Plus, no matter how much rain we get, and we get a lot, it’s still less than say, New York City.

People are far more giving in Portland as well, as on average a homeless person can make a decent living by holding up a sign and asking for change. While this isn’t entirely legal there’s nothing the police can do about it even if they wanted to. The homeless in Portland can make a decent amount of money per day thanks to the generosity of the people, and in some cases, not all but some, can make more in an hour than many people make in a day at a regular job. It can happen, but it’s not the norm.

Here’s the downside of that, a lot of them don’t need the money as much as you think.

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Taking a look at these pictures you might think that this is an erroneous statement and that I’m just another one of those folks that would say “Get a job you bum” to those on the street. Honestly some of them are capable if they could find a place willing to pay them under the table, and there are many of those, but the truth is that there are also a great many programs in the city that help the homeless in a variety of ways. Now keep in mind that only so many can be helped and only so many actually want to be helped, but there are still programs that have been set in place to help them with any mental problems, addictions, housing, and to stay fed.

You’re right if you think being homeless is still a horrible thing, as it usually means sleeping on the street and anywhere else you can find while being regarded as a piece of human offal by those that would gladly look down on them. But the truth is that so many in this city strive to look out for these individuals that they don’t wanting for as much as you think. The money they earn might go towards anything, but for many it seems as though it goes towards their vices or something other than what they really need to survive and possibly get back on their feet. Someone has recently told me “Judge not lest you be judged in turn” and they’re right. Judging the homeless for their lifestyle is not the answer. But reserving judgment for those that don’t at least try to improve their life is awfully tempting.

Being homeless is not an epidemic, but at this point the fact that Portland is so increasingly tolerant seems to present an issue as to whether or not the city can handle the influx of those that wish to continue living on the street due to the generosity of others. It’s great and it’s noble to love thy neighbors and want to take care of them, but at some point it seems to become enabling rather than helping. Perhaps with more incentive programs, or improvements to any that exist, the homeless situation could take a serious left turn and begin to present less of an issue for all those involved.

Needing Welfare vs. Taking Advantage

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Before I get any messages stating how ‘welfare is for those that need it and it’s not as abused as people think and this that and the other’ ask yourself when the last time you went to a grocery store or any other location that takes food stamps was. Obviously that’s not the extent of welfare but it’s one of the best examples, and one of the greatest examples of how people abuse the welfare system. Ever notice how those folks with multiple tattoos, some of them that look quite fresh, and iPhones and other various expensive items on them seem to have all the money in the world but are still paying with food stamps? The welfare system does a lot of good for those that are willing to earn it and apply it as needed, but those that would deny that people are abusing it are either blind or refuse to see it.

Having been on the SNAPS and WIC programs I’ll be the first to admit that they do a world of good when you’re not making as much money and trying to find a job to support your family. But the idea of paying into something that allows people to essentially mooch off of their fellow taxpayers is an irritating and sometimes infuriating habit that seems to happen with greater frequency no matter how the welfare system changes. People living in nice homes, driving new or close to new cars, and affording all kinds of luxuries will stay on food stamps and other programs largely because to them it’s free money. Why would anyone give that up? The only problem with this is that their actions tend to make it harder for those that actually need the assistance and find it more and more difficult to obtain it as the system attempts to crack down on those that are abusing it.

So what’s to be done?

Creating stricter prerequisites is a good plan, but it still creates loopholes.

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The people that genuinely need assistance are those that benefit most from welfare, but those that don’t need it are more than willing to jump each hurdle in some way and continue getting what they think of as ‘free money’. Unfortunately these people don’t seem to realize that this free money is coming out of the pockets of the taxpayers that are essentially buying them the easygoing lifestyle they seem to be enjoying. So instead of helping people those of us that are working hard for every dollar are funding those that want to kick back and enjoy the good life. Some folks might claim that proving that they can work, or that they can’t, and being made to take a drug test and provide photo ID is simply too much work. Hell, that’s not even the starting point of the average worker’s day.

Those that work the system often claim that they can’t work, but they can certainly enjoy their lives on the taxpayer’s dime.

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With unemployment it seems to be that people have to prove that they are actually seeking work in order to get their weekly payment. If that’s the case then why not do this for welfare? Let them get a job, prove it, and then have their employer vouch for them ever thirty days to show that they can actually hold down a job. Wait, what’s that you say? Then they wouldn’t need welfare? Well hey then, problem solved!

It’d be nice if it were that simple, but the cost of living has created a serious problem in that some people can’t afford a home even while working 70-hour weeks. Those that face this problem are those that actually need the welfare, while those able to get out and earn a living with the skills they have are those that sometimes seem content to sit on their butts and collect that welfare check every month. Jobs are hard to find? Lower your standards. You’re too proud to work in fast food? Then you’re too proud to own a smartphone and too proud to pay for another tattoo. Once their pockets start getting empty and their stomachs start rumbling many people that abuse the welfare system will either find another way to be a mooch or will find a job. It’s a simplistic way of looking at things, but it’s also one that gets overlooked quite often.

Make no mistake, those that need welfare assistance should be able to get it.

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It might seem cruel and it might seem very harsh, it might even seem like and idea that might agree with our current POTUS, but nothing could be further from the truth. While welfare is not meant as a career it is also there to help those in need. But figuring out just who is in need and who is abusing the system is a tough call at times. Those that could use the welfare system to get back on their feet and find their way back to some semblance of a stable life should be encouraged and allowed to do so. Those that continue to take the welfare money and do anything and everything other than what they should with it however are kind of spoiling the image of what the welfare system was intended for. There have been many ideas on what welfare reform should really look like, but cutting it as has been proposed is not the way to go about it.

Standing in the position of someone that has scratched and scraped to make a living, it is easy to pass judgment on those that sit about and do nothing and collect a check for an ailment or a physical impairment that may or may not be entirely real. While those that need it should get it, those that don’t should be up, out, and working to help those that do. There’s a lot of ‘shoulds’ that are involved with those on welfare, especially given that in this day and age there is no excuse to not have a job doing something. If they can’t handle manual labor then there’s always something that can be done online or over the phone. If the excuse is they can’t this or they can’t that then the answer should eventually be “well I can’t release this check until you CAN show that you can WORK for it”.

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The Joyful Chore of Being a Parent

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There are those of us that are parents, those of us that have been parents, and those that are still waiting to be parents. One way or another we can all sympathize with one another at some given time since the act of having, raising, and loving our children is in fact a chore that we take upon ourselves. Yet it is a chore that we do so gladly many times because we choose to, and because we want to. Kids aren’t easy, as any parent would gladly tell you. Anyone thinking of having them shouldn’t think twice, but they should know that they will never be fully prepared for what is come. You can save until your bank account has more in it then you’d ever need. You can wrap the interior of your house in bubble wrap, and you can buy out the nearest Babies R Us by gathering all the things you’ll need. But you still won’t be ready.

Children are nature’s open challenge to those that dare to have them. They are wonderful, they are adorable, and they give us a chance to be better than we’ve ever been in our lives. But make no mistake, they are bound to become little people at one point. And what do human beings do as they grow and learn? That’s right, they challenge the world they live in through exploration and curiosity-driven invasion. At some point you might feel as though your house has been invaded by a small, anxious terrorist whose main goal is to do anything and everything you tell them not to. The moment they learn to talk is the moment they learn to TALK BACK, and thus the real trials begin. You can catch a crawling child and you can even avoid allowing a toddler to damage themselves too badly as they wobble around on their little sausage-like legs. But a toddler that can talk? This is where the rails tend to come off for some people.

Shall I explain?

You are the parent, not the friend.

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One immutable fact that you’ll need to hold close at all times is that your kids might not like you at one point in their lives, and that’s fine. You’ll have to be hard eventually, perhaps even mean at times depending on how your kid decides to react to your rules, but that’s normal. Children will always rebel, it’s in their nature and it’s how they learn at times. If you’re inordinately lucky they’ll accept your word and your rules and you won’t have much of a problem. But one thing for certain is that you need to lay down the boundaries very early in life on who is in charge.

Being the parent doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your kids. You’re their mom or dad after all, not the prison warden. You aren’t their keeper, you’re their parent, and as such you can have a good time so long as the roles aren’t confused. The moment you become their friend instead of their parent is when you’ve lost control, and getting it back is extremely difficult. Once children lose sight of who is in charge in the household it’s very tough to get them to see you as an authority figure again. This is why being the parent instead of the friend can’t be stressed enough. They might not like it, you might not even like it, but it’s up to the parent to take charge, not the kids.

Keep your cool, even when it’s not easy to do so.

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Kids are going to push you, it’s their natural inclination and how they come to find out just where the boundaries are. In some ways it’s like a blind person trying to discover where the road is versus the sidewalk at times, they might be able to guess but the boundaries don’t become clear until they step over them. Kids will continue to push their limits no matter if they find that boundary as, guess what, it’s a part of how they grow. Some kids will push harder than others and some might even take it far enough that you’ll find yourself breathing heavily and trying to refrain from having a meltdown right then and there. It’s not easy, but you need to at least try and keep a cool head and avoid being too harsh with children, no matter what they do.

It’s tough, believe me I know, but taking a moment to chill out and assess the situation rather than diving in and getting angry at every little problem can produce much better results. Yelling and carrying on with your children is a good way to show them the wrong way to behave in a given situation, as they will take this to mean that yelling at people when they are troubled is the solution. Take a moment, calm yourself, and then, before any punishment is doled out, at least try to talk to your kid. That way you can explain just why they’re about to get sent to the corner or ground for a couple of weeks in a calm and reasonable fashion.

Remember, your child is watching you as their example for EVERYTHING.

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It doesn’t matter if they emulate what they see on TV, well it does, but not in the long run since your kids are constantly getting their cues from you as well as anything or anyone else they happen to see. Since you are the first teacher they’ll ever have you are responsible for a good chunk of their behavior. How they react to and interact with others has a lot to do with what they observe from you. As the parent you need to learn to keep your cool in most situations and explain to your child why you say and do certain things and why they’re good or bad.

Children are like sponges, as you’ve probably heard, and they’ll absorb everything they see, hear, and experience throughout their lives. It’s a constant chore to make certain that they learn how to interact and cope with society in a reasonable manner, and to do this you, the parent, need to let your child know what will be expected and why. You’re the parent, not the buddy, not the friend, but the one that will teach them what they need to know along the way as they grow. Once it’s established that your will and words are to be obeyed and followed, then you can work on a friendship.

What Makes a Hero?

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A real hero won’t give you a papercut, if you get the meaning. We glorify people as heroes all the time and deify them as individuals that can do anything at anytime and are beloved by many. But what really makes a hero? The definition itself is someone who is admired for their courage, achievements, and noble qualities, but is that it? To be honest it’s not even close and heroes aren’t born just to be noble, upright, and able to take on the world at a moment’s notice. The idealized version of a hero is a person, man or woman, that is able to light the way for others while asking for nothing in return. Heroes tend to sacrifice everything so that others can thrive, forsaking just about everything else so that those they protect can continue onward in life.

Honestly, that’s the popular version of a hero. The reality is that being heroic has nothing to do with being noble, upright, or even capable of taking on the world. Being a hero is what’s accomplished when a person does as they know is right and continues to do so without thought of reward for themselves.

So, who’s a hero?

Heroes aren’t always the good people or the nice people.

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We tend to associate heroes with those that are morally upstanding and tend to be nice or at least civil to everyone they meet. But the truth is that heroes are not perfect, they’re not always nice, and they’re not always capable of being civil. Deep down however they tend to have a moral code that fuels a heart that’s incapable of letting others suffer, at least without good reason. In real life the heroes are those that give everything and expect nothing. They willingly sacrifice because they know it’s for the greater good, not because they’re expecting some sort of payback in the end. A hero won’t acknowledge that they’re a hero, and therefore won’t be likely to withstand a lot of praise being thrown their way. They’re there to do what they believe is right, that’s reward enough.

Real heroes tend to be vulnerable and quite breakable.

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In the comics and in the movies it’s easy for heroes to exist because they’re all to some extent hard to kill or even wound. In real life heroes are just as fragile as anyone else and can be wounded and even killed. A real hero however knows this and still sticks around for the danger, or rushes headlong into it. We see heroes every day in our lives and might never know it until things happen that require them to take action. Heroes run towards the danger in order to keep others safe, risking everything they have in order to do their duty. The comics show superheroes demolishing entire buildings and sometimes cities without hardly a scratch to show for it, while in real life, heroes give just about everything they have to insure the safety of others.

So who can be a hero?

The simplest answer is that anyone can be a hero. You don’t need a cape, you don’t need super powers, and you certainly don’t need tight-fitting spandex. You need heart, miles and miles of heart, and the willingness to put yourself on the line for the safety and security of others. Heroism isn’t just one thing. It involves a lot of different factors that all boil down to doing the right thing when it’s needed. If you want to be a hero then the chances are you’ll never quite measure up. But if you want to do the right thing then you’re already on your way.

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Getting Through College in the Modern World

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College is one of those things in life that you either gravitate towards or give thought to but never really do it. The idea is that college is there to grant you a better chance, not necessarily a better life, but a better chance to create a better life for yourself and possibly for your family. Many people going to school now thnk that college is the answer to getting those high-paying jobs, to reaching a state of personal achievement that will grant you a good life and a happy existence. That’s great that people want this, that’s wonderful that they have an idea of what they want to obtain, but way too many people look at the endgame without seeming to realize that somewhere in the middle is the muck and endless, repetitive busy work that you’ll have to go through to get there. College isn’t a magical place where an enchanted fairy can give you a potion that will allow your life to become the wonderland that you want.

It’s hard, grueling work that requires focus, determination, willpower, and in some cases truckloads of caffeine for those all-nighters you’re bound to pull a time or two. College isn’t a prison and it’s not a horror story waiting to happen, but what you want out of it depends on what you put in. Should you walk in thinking that you own the place and can do what you want then your grades will reflect that and later on so will your life. College is not a place where people will automatically care if you’re there or not. If your tuition check clears then they’re still not obligated to make you learn. If you you show up for class then the teachers still aren’t required to hold your hand and guide you. College is about YOU, and the effort that YOU are willing to put in.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it?

Let’s start off by stating the obvious: college isn’t cheap.

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You can have the best grades in the world, you can be sailing by with a perfect GPA and all the charm in the world, but it won’t pay the bills. Colleges want their tuition and if they don’t get it then those good grades aren’t even worth a bag of chips. Now to be honest those good grades can earn you a scholarship and can even get some people on your side when it comes to exploring alternatives that can help pay for school, but chances are that you’ll still be on the hook for a good chunk of money when all is said and done. That’s a big part of why working for what you get is important in college. Those that have the luxury of breezing by on a trust fund or mom and dad’s overwhelming generosity are just as diverse as anyone, some of them study hard and make the most of what they’re given, while others fritter away the tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, that is supposed to be going towards an education. College costs, no matter who you are, and by the time a lot of us graduate, we’ll be looking at a rather hefty bill to pay when all is said and done. But you know what? You’ll still have to pay regardless of what it might cost you for the next several decades. You wanted an education right? Well, it doesn’t come cheap. You wanted a better life right? You don’t get that for free, and you don’t get to skip out on the bill just because you can’t pay.

These are things you need to think about before considering college. Can you pay the bill when you’re done? Are you going to work hard enough to step into a career that will allow you to pay that bill? Are you going to be responsible enough to pay that bill? Remember, college is a choice, it’s not required of anyone. Trade school is always open and they always need people, and a lot of those that attend trade school manage to pay off their loans a lot quicker on average. So choose wisely when it comes to higher education.

You don’t HAVE to go to college.

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No one’s going to put a gun to your head and force you into a university. This is your choice, your life, and your chance to invest in your future. If it doesn’t feel right then find another way. Many people that never set foot in a college managed to create a life for themselves that was not only fulfilling but also very successful. In order to create a life worth living you need to find what you want to do and make your move. If college is where you want to be then so be it. If not, then don’t sweat it and move on to whatever it is that attracts your attention. There are a lot of careers that don’t require a college degree, and many of them tend to pay better than the jobs you might find upon graduation. College is a way to invest in your future, but as it’s been said so many times, what you put in is going to determine what you get out. If you go to college and party for four straight years, assuming that the college lets you, then the chances are good that nothing much will come of that expensive, booze-infused trip. But if you do the work, find new and innovative ways to spend your time, and continually pay in to your future then it’s very likely that something positive will happen when it’s all said and done.

It will be hard, without exception.

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A lot of us that have been around for a while get a chance to smile and remember back in the day when we were the newbies coming in, thinking we knew everything and had all our plans on lock and were primed to take over the world. Oh yes, that provided a good laugh for some time, especially since after the first two to four weeks many people tend to find out that college is not just review from what they learned in high school. Those that come in with a certain level of humility and even a healthy regard for the unknown are often those that succeed on a more regular basis as they’re more open and willing to accept that they don’t know everything. But those that waltz in thinking they know how the world works? Those are the ones that tend to realize too late that college is not a place to start fronting as though you’re the smartest person on earth. Even the geniuses get knocked down a peg when they hit this level, as nothing you’ve done in high school will be able to fully prepare you for college. It’s not just a step up the educational ladder, it’s entering an entirely new world where the term “all-nighter” is a common thing and caffeine is main-lined by roughly three quarters of the student body if not more.

College can be what you make it, and with enough diligence, hard work, and attention to the world you’ve just entered it can be a very welcoming and engaging place. But if you think you know it all, have seen it all, and have done it all, then you’re in for a long and agonizing lesson in humility. Going to college can be one of the best times in your life, so long as you realize that fun comes after the work is done, not before.

So, who’s ready to enroll?

 

Being Tolerant in an Intolerant World

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Here’s an analogy for you: the issue of tolerance and intolerance is kind of like a ping pong game that no one wins. No? How about this: the issue is like a dog trying to bite at its tail and never being able to reach quite far enough. Eventually the game does end and the dog either gets their tail and a nasty shock, or gives up and just lies down to rest. Tolerance and intolerance represent a tiring dance that never seems to end since one tends to lead into the other so frequently. When is tolerance okay? When is it not okay to be intolerant? For instance, people want to show intolerance to racism, ignorance, arrogance, a host of other negative characteristics, but then they’ll want to tolerate freedom of speech and the idea that others are free to think what they will. So who’s right?

The unfortunate part is that everyone is right when it comes to allowing the freedom of speech and the expression of ideas. But the trick here is learning to differentiate between what can be tolerated and when intolerance is a boon rather than a detriment. The word “intolerance” sometimes seems like such a nasty word that many people curl their lip just hearing it. But look at it this way, if we weren’t intolerant of the negativity that some folks love to bring then it could very well be the downfall of society, you know, the thing that some folks already think is happening.

Being intolerant of tolerance is hard to tolerate without becoming intolerant. See how that kind of goes back on itself?

People seem to miss the meaning of tolerance.

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It’s amazing really that people gloss right over the idea that they can TALK to others, CONVERSE over different ideals and not shout, not call each other names, and not feel the need to slam another person’s views simply because they don’t coincide with their own. It’s very true that some ideas don’t warrant the same respect simply because they preach negativity and possible harm to others, but remaining intolerant to all ideas means that you might very well miss out on the good ones while you’re guarding against those you believe to be harmful. It’s often a confusing and frustrating mess to work through when taking the opinions of others into consideration, but tolerance isn’t a blanket statement used for everything that you feel should be said, it’s more like a guiding principle that can allow an individual to parse out the viewpoints of others that are valid while allowing an individual to remain intolerant of those that are outwardly harmful to themselves and to others. It’s a mess when you look at it, but the truth is that tolerance and intolerance are social tools that, when used properly, can allow a person to realize just where they stand and why.

You can’t always have it both ways.

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You’ve heard the saying ‘have your cake and eat it too’ right? Well when it comes to being intolerant of other peoples’ opinions and trying to preach that tolerance is the answer you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot so to speak. Many people will be tolerant of just about anything as long is lines up with their ideals and can benefit them in some way. But tolerance towards a wide spectrum of ideals can be both dangerous and incredibly naive since without at least some intolerance of those ideals that might seem harmful or otherwise suspect a person opens themselves up to a confusing conundrum that sees them having to be tolerant when they might rather voice their opinion against a particular ideal that they don’t agree with. See how confusing this gets? Many people want the world to be tolerant of them and their ideas but won’t practice what they preach. To be tolerant of others is great, but to be intolerant of those same others if they don’t ascribe to your way of thinking is a bit ridiculous. One good rule of thumb is to allow people their voice and their opinions, but have the courage to stand against those that preach negativity and harm to others (be intolerant) while still allowing people to voice their views and express themselves as they see fit (being tolerant). So long as no one’s getting hurt and people are allowed to CONVERSE in a civil manner, then tolerance is the preferred path.

The dark side of tolerance however is accomplished by doing almost nothing at all.

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For evil to win all good needs to do is step aside. There are a lot of different variations on this saying but the gist of it is that if you want to let intolerance win, just be absolutely tolerant of everything and let it ride. This is the dark side of tolerance, the ability to just let everything go and not stand up or speak out against intolerance when it becomes a thing used to harm others. Tolerance has its place and its uses, but when people simply tolerate everything simply because they don’t want to start conflict, then it becomes a tool that allows the worst of intolerance to flourish. There’s a balance between the two that has to be struck, and while it will flow back and forth as is needed thanks to morality and the shared ethics of so many, being intolerant of those that would tolerate anything and everything is in many ways an effort to keep the world from falling into utter chaos and ruin.

If you can tolerate others but show intolerance towards those who would willingly harm another for no good reason then that’s a good start.