An Aspiration for My Son

In 26 days, my youngest son, Ben, will enter high school.  Times have certainly changed since I first walked on the campus at Socastee High School in 1989.

Textbooks were printed on paper and they were heavy.  They were stored in a locker between classes and we used a JanSport backpack to lug them from class to class.

Technology meant that the pay phone worked.

A parent only contacted you at school if it was extremely important…and you got called to the office via a PA system to take the call.

Your 15th birthday present from your parents consisted of a 35 foot phone cable that would reach to your bedroom.

And we went to class stressing about the latest quiz…and girls – rather than bullying, gunmen, dress codes, metal detectors, and anything other than whether our iPad was charged.

Times have changed, but thankfully, I am not sure that my son realizes this at all.  He just goes day by day and copes without knowing he is coping.


As I consider – and fret over – the endless number of things that are out of my control as I strive to get my son to age 18 as a functional, compassionate, centered young adult, I have one hope for him that stands out above all others.

I hope Ben has Bobby Chandler as a teacher.

I graduated from high school in 1992.  As I think back to high school, I am flooded with endless memories.  However, when I think back to the memories that still influence me today, I find that most are related to Mr. Chandler’s 11th grade AP US History class.  In fact, I still have the red 3-ring binder consisting of daily class notes taken – that once allowed me to pass a test – and now serves as a diary of sorts that means more to me than any other non-familial artifact of my existence.

With any luck, we all have teachers that leave an impact on our lives.  I certainly did.  Mr. Leach showed us that Chemistry was not a bad word.  Ms. Nay made English fun (strangely enough, I hated English throughout school and somehow wound up with a B.A. in English once the dust settled).  Mr. Campbell proved to us that music ability has as much to do with hard work as talent.  Mr. O’Brien showed us how to make argyle socks work.  And, of course, Coach D showed us all how “Shagging” was a dance that could get the girls to talk to us for at least 45 minutes a day.

With even more luck, we all have a Mr. Chandler.  It is difficult to articulate the impact that Mr. Chandler’s class had on me, so I will simply give examples.

Mr. Chandler’s class taught me:

History wasn’t actually about remembering facts.  Facts simply served as tent-poles to organizing our thoughts- and, as I’ve since learned, to winning trivia games.  History was actually about understanding the underlying currents of human progressions so that we can actively – and intelligently – participate in the process when the next wave comes.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

-George Santayana

I certainly didn’t realize it at the time, but Mr. Chandler’s class taught me that the charisma and rhetoric that allowed Hitler to ascend to power in Germany is not entirely unlike the rhetoric currently prevalent in the Donald Trump Presidential campaign.   Trump is not Hitler, but perhaps we should all listen a bit closer to the previously silent minority of people suddenly emboldened to speak out in the midst of Trump’s popularity.

Learning can be fun.  When I walked into the classroom and saw the six string guitar, I knew it would be a good day.  Though I honestly cannot remember what the tie-in to U.S. history was, Mr. Chandler’s rendition of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” sticks with me to this day.  In fact, in college as a bad, amateur writer I wrote a screenplay based upon the story songs of Harry Chapin.  I even had the opportunity to present the screenplay to one of Harry’s brothers, Tom, after a performance of his in about 1994.  I have no idea if he ever read it, but the memory remains a highlight of my university years.

The Civil War was about way more than just slavery.  Beyond the obvious benefits of this lesson, I suppose this is at least a little bit responsible for my enjoying watching movies like “Lincoln” far more than sitting through the latest installment of “Fast & Furious”.  Thinking could be fun!

We’re all a part of history everyday – we each hold the power to effect change if we engage in the process.  I remember the day when we all learned the phrase, “Desert Shield”.  Both of the A-10 flight commanders recently sent to Kuwait from the safety of Myrtle Beach AFB had children in our class.  Mr. Chandler asked us, “What was the last war the U.S. fought in that lasted less than 4 years?  And how old are you today?”  Suddenly, it was real and not just a program on CNN.

It turns out that I had classmates that eventually enlisted and joined what would ultimately become “Desert Storm”.  “Operation Freedom” became no less significant to our generation.  Our generation was far more fortunate that previous ones, but the impact of that single class remains with me to this day.

To over-simplify, Mr. Chandler’s class taught me to understand the past so as to inform the present and hopefully guide the future.  It likely wasn’t intentional, but Mr. Chandler’s class taught me a lot about being a father. When you become a father, you wonder how best to care for your child in the present and how best to equip him for his future.  I do not claim to be a “great” father any more than Mr. Chandler’s hubris would allow him to claim to be a “great” teacher, but we all hope the future will prove us as such.

The jury is out on my ability as a father, but I am as hopeful as ever.  The verdict is clear on Mr. Chandler.  Godspeed and thank you, sir.

And just like “Cat’s in the Cradle”, things seem to always come full circle. My son is entering high school about to face a different world than I. If I could hope for anything as he embarks on this journey…

I hope Ben has Bobby Chandler as a teacher.

And I am proud to be his father.

This Country Once Celebrated – and Protected – Our Differences

First, allow me to apologize to everyone because the following diatribe will likely offend each and every one of you.  Those who read without thinking will see this as a discussion of politics – it is not.  It is an articulation of my beliefs regarding what is the single most destructive, fundamental issue in this nation.

There.  You have been warned.  Leave your knee-jerk reactions at the door. We have no use for them in this discussion.

So let’s talk about the mass shooting in Orlando – and why the commentary in the aftermath is evidence of why this tragic event happened in the first place and whether it will lead to positive or negative future events.


The concept that is The United States of America has worked for nearly 240 years because our leaders, elected by the people, have intrinsically understood that the key to unity is to embrace, protect and accept our differences.  In 1776 – and again in 1787 – our differences threatened to unravel even the best efforts to present a unified front to the King and the world.  Certainly, the colony of Georgia had different concerns and needs than the colony of New Hampshire – but they found a way to make it work.  It worked because our forefathers accepted – and protected – the differences.

In fact, the forefathers went out of their way to articulate their recognition of these differences.  First, in the Declaration of Independence (not actually a legislative document, but certainly one that should help inform any inferred meaning to the ultimate legal document) and The Constitution of United States of America.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The colonies declared war on the King largely because the wide variety of beliefs, needs and rights of the colonies were being ignored, suppressed and outright violated by the Crown.

AMENDMENT I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The newly created United States of America sought to protect our differences – and our right to profess and live them.  In fact, it is articulated in the FIRST amendment.  Surely, they felt it was an important point to make.


So what does all of this do with the tragic events in Orlando this past weekend?  I believe it comes down to our national acceptance – or lack thereof – of a single concept:  pluralism.

Wikipedia offers 16 distinct, yet overlapping, definitions of pluralism.  I’d argue that our country was built based upon several of these definitions including cultural pluralism, political theory pluralism, religious pluralism and value pluralism.

Basically, the United States of America has been able to remain united because we support, protect and accept the concept of pluralism.  Unified by identifying as “American” but not entirely and destructively separated by our identifying as any specific religion, race, gender or political affiliation – among others.

The Constitution of United States of America protects and supports the right of each an every American to believe something different than each and every OTHER American.  

Until we, as a populace and as individuals, truly understand and accept this tenet, we can not truly move forward and progress as a nation.

And here is where I upset each and every one of you.  To illustrate my rights, I would offer that:

  • I have the right to promote the notion that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee ownership of a machine gun in every home.  Own a gun, fine.  But my right to freedom surpasses your right to own your own a military-grade arsenal.  It is the right to “bear arms” – not the right to “bear arms”, on an unlimited basis, that infringe my ability to be protected by the rights of our government to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  My right to tranquility and liberty are in the first line for a reason, folks.
  • I have the right to exist without fear of being victim of a hate crime.  Hate – and hateful acts – are not freedom of speech.  Sorry, they simply aren’t.   My rights are protected against you infringing upon them.  Tie goes to the runner.
  • I have the right to point out that the Orlando terrorist was American-born and bought his weapons legally and point out how Trump’s plan to block entry to this country to Muslim’s wouldn’t have changed these facts – or subsequent events.
  • I have the right to point out that recent events are the result of our collective lack of acceptance of “pluralism” combined with our cultural stigmatization of mental health issues.  Let’s recognize the problem(s) and work together to fix them.
  • I have the right to identify as a Republican and still believe that Donald Trump is not fit to be President of the United States. Hate begets hate and Trump has certainly helped to reveal how deep-seated our collective prejudices are in 2016.
  • I have the right to not vote for Donald Trump without having to vote for Hillary Clinton.  This is not a matter of heads or tails without any alternative.
  • I have the right to vote for anyone I choose – from Mickey Mouse to my next door neighbor – without being threatened by my “friends” on social media, family, clients or peers.
  • I have the right to enjoy firing my son’s AR-15 – that was obtained legally – while still hoping that owning such a gun is illegal in the near future.  Guns can be fun.  I play war-based video games.  I’d love to sit in a Sherman tank and launch a shell into an old jeep on a firing range.  It doesn’t mean I am a hypocrite to promote abolishing certain types of currently available weapons for the sake of my own – and our collective – safety.
  • I have the right to disagree with my own father’s religious and political beliefs – and still play golf with him on a random Wednesday.
  • WE have the right to disagree without fearing consequences of any kind.
  • I have the right to write this blog post – and you have the right to hit the back button.

I have the right to my opinion.  And you have the right to yours.  This used to be what made this country great.  Differing ideas co-existing to create a new level of progress and greatness.

Unfortunately, our collective acceptance of individuals infringing upon these rights may just be what makes this country no more.


Epilogue:

Within the last week I have heard two different voices in society articulate my position in very different ways.

Listen and think.

Watch a New York born Jewish-American comedian speak of his life-long friend, Muhammad Ali – perhaps the world’s most famous and celebrated Muslim.

Speaking of Muhammad Ali:

We were always there for each other, and if he needed me for something, I was there. He came to anything I asked him to do. Most memorable: He was an honorary chairman for a dinner at a very important event where I was being honored by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He did all of this promotion for it. He came to the dinner. He sat with my family the entire evening. He took photographs with everybody; the most famous Muslim man in the world honoring his Jewish friend.


This country was built on the idea that we do not all agree on everything. That we are a tolerant, free nation that encourages debate, free thinking, believing – or not – in what you choose.


Please feel free to vilify my publishing of this text and know that your comment may very well help me in proving my point.

If you are in the seemingly silent majority, please share it with your friends and await the backlash.

And if you pray, please do so.  With any luck, you’ll pray to a different God than me and we can, together, spread the word just that much faster.

Sincerely,

Paul J Dumas
American

It’s National Pencil Day, So Naturally I Thought of Mike Rowe

From the minutia file:  Hymen Lipman received the first patent for attaching an eraser to the end of a pencil on this day in 1858.

Whenever I think of a pencil, I cannot help but be reminded of an incredibly interesting, humorous and enlightening essay posted last year on Facebook by everyone’s favorite dirty jobber, Mike Rowe.

I have even referenced the essay as a potential sales training aide.  Summarizing the essay would never do it justice, so please take a few moments and read it yourself.

 

My Affinity for All Things New

I got into website design because I am easily bored with the never changing.  Each new project is unique and presents different challenges and it keeps my creative juices flowing.  The Internet evolves so quickly that I cannot imagine ever getting tired of creating tiny little worlds within the world wide web.

My affinity for all things new goes far beyond just website design.  I enjoy getting a new phone every 18 months or so.  I always try the newest restaurants in town.  And lately, I find myself getting excited by something entirely new to this area – Escape Rooms HQ.

I had the pleasure of creating the initial launch website and continue developing what will become their full site as they celebrate their grand opening tomorrow (March 31, 2016).  Even the SEO focused on ‘DFW Escape Rooms‘ has proven to be a unique experience since the category is still early in the maturation process throughout the DFW market.

I have never experienced an escape room adventure.  My only exposure to the concept prior to working on the website was a year old episode of “The Big Bang Theory”.

I will report my experience here soon.  Having witness all the work that has gone into building this incredible attraction, I simply cannot wait to test my skills @EscapeRoomsHQ.

 

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

My New Favorite Website Design

Over the years I have designed somewhere in the ballpark of 500 websites.  When we start a new design we strive to build what we imagine the client will like – and more times than not we nail it.  Most people won’t understand – or appreciate – the fact that I have no ego invested in our designs.  We build what works for each individual business.  Our clients absolutely HAVE to be proud to share their website or I have failed in the task. Sometimes this leads to us creating websites that frankly I don’t like – but they work for the specific market.

All that being said, once in a blue moon, I get carte blanche to design whatever I feel works best for a client.  Our most recent design fits into that category – http://completesolutionsdfw.com.

I absolutely love this site in relation to what it is supposed to accomplish for the client.  With over 1000 client-provided images of actual projects completed – NO STOCK PHOTOS – this site truly serves as the ultimate brochure for the awesome work the company does.

Complete Solutions | Flower Mound, TX | interior and exterior home remodeling

Most WordPress sites begin and end with a combination of the chosen theme (template) and the designers expertise.  This is the first site I have ever created using the Avada WordPress Theme – and it is simply incredible.  The only drawback I see moving forward with our designs is the limited options for modifying the cosmetics of the primary menu, but we can work on that at a later time.

Thankfully, our client shares our opinion of the site despite perhaps not fully understanding the evolution of WordPress website design and the process we have taken over the last 5+ years of working with WordPress in order to get to this particular design.

It is always a joy – albeit somewhat more rare than you’d think – to work on a project that results in a site that I like as much or more than our client.

If you want to see some sites that I have designed that I do not like, you’ll have to contact me.  Publishing such a list is bad for business.

Thanks for reading.

Paul J. Dumas 

 

The First Post

Old School Paul
Old School Paul

There simply has to be a first post.

Until I figure out precisely what I want to do with this site, I intend to use it as a laboratory for testing various off-the-wall SEO techniques.  From time to time, I might even use this platform to share random thoughts that simply don’t fit into our other outlets.

If nothing else, this site will serve to distract me from the world at moments when such a distraction is needed.  It has to be better than wasting time on Facebook.