Tag Archives: Friends

ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge: An Imperfect Place

The devil hides down amongst the cubes*.

You’d have to have not paid your Internet bill over the last couple of months to miss out on knowing about the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge thing.

It started with some professional athletes, not — as myth would have it — an ALS patient. The challenge was to either be filmed dumping a bucket of ice over your head or give money to a charity of your choice. It morphed from there.

And promptly went viral.

Which led to thousands of people filming themselves while having a bucket of ice dumped on their heads while challenging others to do the same. In fact, my dad and I even watched one of those happen poolside at Chabil Mar, a resort in the Central American country of Belize. It was a few weeks ago, before this really hit big so we had no idea what it was about.

Those last four words there. . . That’s what this is about.

So far this post, I’ve written a lot of words about the Ice-Bucket Challenge and mentioned ALS only twice. And never said what ALS really is.

Better known as Lou Gherig’s Disease, named for the New York Yankees baseball player who contracted the disease and thereby showed the bits of the country that liked baseball and were paying attention that the disease existed, ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that gradually destroy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal column. Over time, the disease annihilates voluntary control over the body’s muscles, robbing the person with the disease of the ability to move, to speak, to breathe. For some patients, the end point of the disease is total paralysis of the body. And the worst part is that their mind still is active and aware and trapped in a decayed body incapable of responding to anything.

ALS is, to put it mildly, a horrifying disease. Donating money to help fund research into a cure or a way to slow the progression of the disease is definitely a worthy cause. (Those who want to donate without resorting to dumping ice water on their heads can do so at the ALSA gift page.)

So, given all that, I should be all for the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge, right, dudes?. After all, as of Friday, the challenges have resulted in the ALS Association receiving more than $41 million in donations.

My issue is with all the challengers who do nothing but dump ice on their own heads, laugh, record it and then post it to some social media site, daring others to follow suit. They don’t know what ALS is. They don’t donate to any sort of charitable institution, including the ALS Association, and only do it because everyone else is doing it. 

After all, the challenge is donate to the ALSA OR dump a bucket of ice on their heads.

I talked about this on Facebook and was called out by several of my friends there (actual friends who I actually know) for dumping (no pun intended) on the whole idea. They focused on the positives, on the donations that were raised, which are substantial.

I thought about it and talked it over with Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, who has some similar issues with the challenge. While Zippy the Travelin’ Boy still takes issue with it (mostly, I think, because it’s popular and he likes to be a contrarian) and, to be honest, so do I, it all led to the realization that I was focusing too much on the negative.

I’ll pause now for your shocked intake of breath.

This was brought home to me — literally — when Hyper Lad walked up to me with a hang-dog look, holding a bucket of ice and a video camera.

Before I would participate, he and I had a long talk about what amyotrophic lateral sclerosis actually does and agreed that he would donate money to the ALS Association.

Only then could I laugh at him when his oldest brother, Sarcasmo, poured cube-filled, ice-cold water over the young dude’s head.

Yes, in a perfect world, Hyper Lad’s fellow shiverers would be donating to worthy charitable causes on a regular basis and also donating their time, sweat and effort. They’d already know what ALS really is, why we should support research toward a cure, and be doing the ice thing only to help raise awareness and get more people to donate money to worthy charities.

But, as the estimable John Bender once said: “Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

And it’s true.

Screws do fall out all the time.

I guess I’ll just have to live with the idea that people are dumping ice on their heads just because everybody else is doing it. And also some of them might actually understand that this is being used to help raise money to combat an appalling disease.

It’s not perfect, but that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

As if the world were waiting for my approval anyway.

*Yes, this was an imperfect metaphor. I was trying to evoke the whole thing about the devil being in the detail and then conflating that with the ice-bucket challenge. Don’t judge me. I was . . . stretching.


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Distraction Drama Dismay

The twitchier I get, the more inventive I get.

What with the youngest dude, Hyper Lad, starting to get behind the wheel now that he’s 15, I’m probably more twitchy then I’ve ever been when I consider having to teach this guy how to drive.

I feel like one of those short-timers from any movie about Vietnam. As the date they will rotate home gets closer and closer, they get more and more paranoid about something happening to them before they get out.

I’ve made it through teaching two other young dudes how to drive, but now that the last one is come around, I’m starting to freak out more than I ever have before.

Fortunately for me, I actually have made it through two other driving debuts so I do have a couple of tricks in my bag.

The first big trick in the bag is repetition, which is the trick I take out of the bag first. This is one trick I have been using for a long time with things like texting. Knowing I have/had three sponges sitting behind me, I make sure to loudly and often refer to the fact that I got a text, but can’t read it because I was driving. Or I will ask one of them to read aloud the text and respond.

They have heard again and again, seen again and again and again, that they should not text and drive. I get the feeling that they’re more likely than not to follow in those footsteps, if only to avoid having to hear me talk about it again and again and again and again. . .

Since the spawn couldn’t see my face while I was driving and they riding, I made sure to continually talk about how I was keeping my eyes on the road even when I had to change the radio or something similar. I recommend them getting to know their car/dashboard well enough that they don’t have to look to hit the radio buttons.

While this next step might be corny, I think it really does work. Before I allowed any of the young dudes to drive on their own, I sat them down and went over point by point exactly what was expected of them. For each point, they had to tell me specifically that they would not or would do that point. You also can do the same thing in a written contract they must sign.

Include repercussions that will occur to the young driver should he or she violate the terms of the promise/agreement. And enforce those terms.

While not necessarily distracting, one thing I have made sure they know is something that my mom made me understand. If I was ever out with friends and either I, as driver, or my friend, as driver, had been drinking, I could call my mom and she would pick everyone up, no matter the time, and never say another word about it.

I only ever called her once, but she was true to her word. I’ve made sure that my young dudes understand that as well. If there is any sign of impairment, they always know they have a free, safe ride without any sort of blowback for them. Knowing that we trust them enough that we’ll offer that kind of thing, actually helps them to do the right thing because they want to live up to that trust.

Or at least that was how I felt when I was on the other end of the bargain.

In North Carolina, new drivers aren’t allowed to stuff the car with their friends. Neither are new drivers with the last name of Jones, who live in Casa de Dude. We make it a point for our young dudes to understand that their first job as drivers is to make their way from Point A to Point B safely. Bringing along anyone else is way, way down the list.

Friends in the car can be even more distracting than driving by a 10-car pile-up of a circus truck, a shipment from a marble factory and a funeral home for mimes.

The two big takeaways from this would have to be make sure you model good driving behavior and communicate with your neophyte driver, which means both of you talk and both of you listen.

Distraction starts behind the eyeballs. Fortunately, safety does as well, so make sure there’s more room for safety.

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Dad’s Role In The Family

Dads matter.

That seems like a no-brainer these days, but for much of the 20th century, the role of the father in family life, especially the rearing of children, was assumed to be minimal.

Note that word there — assumed. There really wasn’t much in the way of research done on the effect a dad has on his children’s growth and development. After all, Freud Himself enshrined the role of the mother as vastly important to the personality of the child so who were they to argue?

More recently, researchers have been turning their gimlet eye to dadsdads_best_1 and finding out what I’ve known all along: Dads matter.

Did you know that a healthy father can ease the impact of a mother’s depression on the children, while a depressed father is a risk factor for excessive crying in infants? That fathers can suffer from hormonal postpartum depression?

Or that fathers’ early involvement with their daughters leads to “a reduced risk of early puberty, early initiation of sex and teen pregnancy”? We’re not sure exactly why, but Bruce J. Ellis, of the University of Arizona, has noted that exposure to fathers’ pheromones can slow down pubertal development.

In a review of Paul Raeburn’s “Do Fathers Matter?” in the New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer reports that numerous researchers are finding that fathers have some surprising effects on their children.

Older fathers are more deeply involved with their children’s schools, more likely to attend ballet classes or know their children’s friends. On the other hand, the children of older fathers seem to have stronger genetic predispositions toschizophrenia and autism — so much so that older dads should get genetic counseling, Mr. Raeburn argues, just as older moms hear about the risk of Down syndrome.

On yet another hand, the children of older dads are taller and slimmer. So there’s that. (Nobody knows why.)

That nobody knows why there at the end is a familiar refrain in a lot of sociological research of this type. We’re able to find the effects, but because the initiating incidents are so intertwined with multifarious actions by multiple actors, it’s difficult to sort out which cause is the, well, cause.

For instance, research shows that dads are the dudes who have a bigger effect on their children’s vocabulary than do moms. One prevailing theory for this has to do with vicious stereotyping. Because, the theory goes, the mothers are around the little dudes and dudettes more (because women stay home and men work outside the house of course), they tend to tailor their vocabulary to words the kid already knows. Fathers, however, because they’re absent for more time, don’t know their kids as well and so introduce words that are novel to the child.

Does it surprise anyone to think I might disagree with this theory. I know the reason my young dudes have great vocabularies (and they do. No question.) is because I actively worked at it. I wouldn’t use baby talk with them and didn’t dumb down my vocabulary when I talked to them.

I did explain a lot of words, but I made sure to expose them to the variety of vocabulary victuals I liked to serve up on the plate of life. Even when the metaphor is horrifically strained because of atrocious alliteration.

Dads matter. We’ve always known it, but now it’s up to science to start letting us know how and why. And it’s up to dads like us to make sure we matter because of our presence, rather than our absence.

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