Category Archives: Family

Why Health Care Reform Represents our Downfall

We aren’t bad are we? We don’t have a core wrought with evil or vengeance…do we? You and I have been listening to stories of infidelity (Jesse James/Tiger Woods), audacities of the Highest order (Catholic Church), and vitriol spewed from men and women who are supposed to represent us and our interests (Health Care Debate). I watched in disgust as a man with Parkinsons Disease was belittled for all to see because he supports President Obama and the health care bill. 

Are we all strung out on life? Have we been beaten down by so many that we have lost our way? What are our real or true complaints? Do we have any? Sure we do. But…no matter how upset we are, should we really be tearing down others for our own gain?

Common sense says we should not. But common we are not…and sense is running low these days. It baffles the mind how we are, collectively, getting by. All of our costs are escalating…services and products are declining in quality…the nuclear family has gone up in smoke like its’ name…

Normal? Abnormal? That is for you to decide. That is for you to evaluate…and you alone. Personally, I am sad that we are becoming a wishy-washy people and country. When our party is in power we know it all…when we are not, we do all in our power to extinguish the other. We rejoice the downfall of our celebrities and casual hero. We say, “better him than me” when a colleague loses their job.

Are You Living a "Life" You Can Be Proud Of?

Either patriotism has given way to narcissism or something even graver has settled in our living rooms.

Apathy…

Apathy for all that is good, that matters, and that rejuvenates our souls on a daily basis. The Discovery Channel‘s new documentary entitled “Life” shows in great splendor the core drive for survival. Sometimes I wish we could all watch our actions in slow-motion. Maybe we, too, would see the ills of our ways and treat one another with kindness and concern.

Do You Care?

Living a Normal life and being the Normal You requires a rich participation in the wonders of the world. Making a difference for others and thinking before we tear down. Something tells me that the very men who despicably undercut one mans’ spirit have experienced the kindness of others when it wasn’t asked for themselves. Do we really want to be known as the home of the free when we can’t even call ourselves brave?

Expect more from those around you….Demand more of yourself.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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A Normal Education? Graduation Rates and Sports

Graduation Rate Czar Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed a bill that would require universities who want to participate in the hallowed NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to produce graduation rates exceeding 40% for their student-athletes. This has outraged many in the sports world and has taken a lion’s share of radio time from actual basketball banter as we welcome another heart pounding tournament to our tubes later today.

There are some who regard the proposition as a foolish attempt by a politician, once a Harvard basketball player, who lacks an understanding for today’s student-athlete. Earlier this morning on ESPN’s flagship show “Mike & Mike in the Morning” guest host Doug Gottlieb (former collegiate athlete at Oklahoma State) spoke to the global issue of athletics and education. Gottlieb stated that the majority of current college basketball players are not accustomed to college life, expectations, and need for higher education. He further opined that many of these athletes come from homes where college was never discussed or experienced by previous generations. So…how can we expect these kids to understand the value of an education when all they have been told is that their athletic ability is the ticket “out?”

Of course Gottlieb didn’t say it…but I will—His statements are really about race and resources and culture…and the commodity that is the student athlete. Should graduation rates be up? Absolutely! The mere fact that 12 out of 65 teams in this years tournament would be home watching instead of playing (University of Tennessee, Kentucky and others…I’m talking to you!) should say something about priorities of BOTH the student AND the institution.

Who is kidding who? All children begin their educational careers as commodities. Sorry if that doesn’t sound p.c. enough for you, but it is true. Last week I wrote about the Kansas City school district that is closing nearly 50% of their schools to save $50 million dollars and slash 700 jobs. Just yesterday Detroit announced the closing of 45 schools by the end of the academic year. This continues a string of closings (100 since 2004) in a system that has over 50,000 open seats.

This country doesn’t know which end is up or who to ask for help. We are throwing spackle, I mean tax payer dollars, at a dam that is in disrepair. The current topic on the hot stove may be athletes and graduation rates, but that is all that it is. The ball will be tipped up in mere hours, fans will plop down, and the networks and marketers will be salivating. Nobody truly cares whether or not these kids graduate. They just want them to stay out of trouble in the future so that the university can leverage their legacies to garner other prospective athletes and alumni dollars.

Maybe what we should do is bring in Temple Grandin to herd our educational system in the right direction. Or, maybe…and I know this is a novel thought…maybe we should look at our neighbors across the pond. Maybe we should adopt similar approaches to education realizing that not all children want to go to a classic college setting…maybe some would be better off at a trade school. That is precisely how we should view the student-athlete. If we think that raising the academic bar will entice better performance we are truly in stuck the sand. The goal at that point would be grade driven. Knowledge would be left on the kitchen counter just like your cell phone as you race to get the kids ready and the day started.

Temple...We Need Your Help!

Cultural shifts are not easy nor entirely necessary if the intentions are not well thought out. Raise the standards of the educational providers, the environments we call educational, and move the needle away from stats…and you just might uncover a special talent in each child. If we fail to change our perspective, then all we have done is maintain the status quo so that terms like tenure, election, and tax base proliferate our communities. Get the system on track THEN communicate student expectations. Driving reverse at 80 mph only endangers the rest of us.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Boys, Family, Girls, Sports, Success Stories, Work

What Lane is Your Relationship in?

Relationships are comprised of a series of destinations, pit-stops..with a dash of road rage and a hint of irony. Life can move so fast that we are susceptible to potholes in the name of love. We unknowingly hurt one another with our words, our individual decisions, and half-hearted “I love you’s.” Relationships are not easy and sometimes they warrant a check under the hood. A look at the coordinates on the GPS device.

One might wonder…”Why?” The answer is quite simple…which is that before you know it both of you will be racing down the highway of life without a clue where to go or how to get there. And, that doesn’t take into account our individual comfort levels. Some of us might like the Sunday afternoon drive while others enjoy the bumpy NASCAR ride while others still yet like the ole’ cruise control approach.

So I will ask you this…do you know what speed your relationship travels at…where your relationship is going and whether or not your co-pilot in life agrees? These questions sound mundane, but they can really be quite scary.

What if your partner disagrees? What if they really don’t like the direction and/or speed? What then? Fixable? Worth it? What about other couples….how do they deal with all of these questions?

I know people who sputter down the road so cautiously that their family and friends are nauseated. You know the ones…the couple that never wants to officially commit yet they have lived together for years. They never want to go further than two steps and one checking account withdrawal from gettin outta dodge.

Then there are other couples that are traveling so fast down the road that you wonder how they can honestly enjoy the journey. These folks met, got engaged, married, had 2.5 kids, got the house, moved up in their careers, AND got their 2.5 kids on the waiting list of grade-A preschool everybody wants in at…and all within a 3 year time period! Whew! Exhausting to even think about it…

Now of course these couples represent the outer edges of society…which leaves the rest of us. Many Normal couples go through ebbs and flows often changing directions and itineraries at a moments notice. There are couples who change seats, drive for a little while until their partner is ready and then re-assume previous roles and directives. Flexible you might say.

The challenge for all of these couples remains the same…can you honestly and with great humility check the particulars of your relationship? Can you evaluate what is and is not working well while traversing through life? You can, but many of you won’t. Harsh? No. Honest? Yes! Status quo and even contentment can be descriptors for a well-oiled machine or they can be indicators of apathy…a relationship that is on life support with no end in site because neither person believes it is worth it to change it up.

Am I describing you? Go ahead…check and see if you are alone in the room…no one is looking over your shoulder….so be honest. Are you apathetic to the current state of your relationship and its growth in the future? Are you emotionally hurtful? Are you limiting the potential of the relationship though manipulative means?

These are important questions even if you are not sabotaging your relationship. Never forget that relationships veer off course not because of the big potholes, but more often from the little ones. Those day-to-day interactions that point to confusion not coherence. Remember the days when doing the little things for our partner was fun? When we actually thought about what they wanted…even needed to thrive.

Tempted to Veer Off Course?

We did all of those things because we wanted our partner to feel loved…to feel special and unique and cared for even when we weren’t around. But, sometimes we forget our collective purpose and even direction. We forget why we chose each other and worse yet we forget that love takes effort…conscious effort.

If we don’t make a point of planning our collective road-trip we run the risk of glancing over into other more desirable lanes. Chevy Chase might have discovered Christie Brinkley in the movie “Vacation” while driving with his family cross country, but we all know who he ended up with in the end.

Images Appearing More Realistic in Your Mirror?

Don’t set a trap for your relationship out of pure fear. Ask the tough questions that will yield growth over time. I, personally, have had great results when I queried my partner on the mutual direction and satisfaction of our relationship and you can too.

If you scoff at this then maybe you already know the destination your relationship is headed for. A wise business man once told me that you never go into a deal unless you are prepared to lose or leave the deal.

Your relationship and its success depend on continued calibration and assessment. No successful relationship ever endured with an approach that celebrated ignorance.

We are all human and it IS Normal to have a change of heart, a change of direction and/or purpose. That doesn’t mean that our relationships have to suffer or end. Don’t be the couple that holds each other down out of fear.

Give each other a chance to drive the relationship and who knows…you might actually find your relationship accelerating in new and exciting ways.

Afraid to Ask for Directions?

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Divorce, Family, Marriage, men, Relationships, sex, women, Work

Adults Failing our Children?

The last time I checked…adults were supposed to be the ones providing good examples for children. Ironically, the opposite seems to be occurring the wider we focus our lens. If you happened to peruse the top headlines yesterday you would have seen stories like these:

“Governors Propose National Education Standards…48 governors seek nationwide standards for what kids learn in school”


“Kansas City board OKs plan to close nearly half of schools


7-Year-Old
911 Hero an Example for all Families
Experts Say Carlos Likely Saved His Family With Quick Thinking, 911 Call

At first glance you might say, “What’s the big deal?” You might even say that we have heard these stories before. If you dig a little deeper, though, you will see how desperate our educational system is at the present moment. The Kansas City school board voted to close down 28 out of 61 schools saving approximately $50 million dollars and shedding 700 jobs. CNN is reporting that schools in 17 states have opted to run four day weeks. The federal government assembled the nations governors in an effort to standardize English and Math standards. And…do I even need to comment on the fact that 48 out of 50 agreed. Alaska? Texas? I will take the 5th at the moment…hoping that they have better solutions to the ever-growing gap between American kids and the REST of the world.

As I dust my hands off from these appalling stories like a brick layer tired of the cement after a long arduous day…I find the story that has been plastered everywhere…little Carlos who calmly called 911 while protecting his sister as armed gunman stormed his home. As the media descends on this little guy we all find out that his mother regularly went through the proper procedures during an emergency. Smart. Concise. Thoughtful. These are the words that come to mind when I think about the effort made by his mother to lay the foundation for difficult work.

She is just one woman whereas the state and federal agencies and representatives are vast and, supposedly, representative of our communities.

Taking Down the Very Folks That Will Be Taking Care of YOU?

It is refreshing to know that somebody is being educated these days…even if reading, writing, and arithmetic are not. The irony can be found in the manner with which our educators are approaching the various problems at hand (i.e. low test scores, crowded classrooms, declining educator skills etc.)…and the irony is that we are scrambling to fix the problem.

We are scrambling like a kid who forgot he had a book report due today. Our schools are eroding, literally and figuratively, and the only thing we can think of is to throw test scores at the wall. We have decided to treat education and our children like NASCAR vehicles plastered with ads. It is and will always be about the almighty dollar unless we begin to focus on the way(s) children learn. Innovation does require funding and support from multiple levels. It requires a humble mindset. A way of thinking that looks at the experience of the audience….the child.

And, if that pains you too much to think about then think about what you liked/disliked when you were a student. What connected you to the material, inspired you to put forth the effort, and provided you with an overall pleasurable experience? It really isn’t that difficult. How do teachers and administrators feel? What works for them and what continues to befuddle them? After my work in education over the past 10 years I can tell you that the general consensus from educators is that they are inundated with new “campaigns” on a yearly and sometimes semester basis. A new way to score, a new way to observe, new boxes to check…and all we are doing is creating mass burnout.

You are getting slews of educators that aren’t enjoying their jobs anymore. They are asked for more and more with less and less professional development and support. The children see this coming and what you end up with is the makings of a perfect storm. Two disenfranchised groups of people who can’t wait for the awful song to be over…kinda like Simon Cowell screaming “rubbish!” after a grueling 2 minute karaoke audition. Ladies and gentlemen…we are not auditioning educational principles…we are preparing the next generation so that they will prepare the next.

Ah! You Scared Me! I thought You were trying to TEACH Me Something...

It is sad that widespread education has become a laughing stock to the participants and to our global neighbors. We have been so concerned with a child’s behavior that we have failed to ponder whether or not it is actually our methods that are eliciting dry heaves from our children.

We want our children and educators to wake up with some degree of optimism not pessimism. Tough decisions lie ahead. Some will be unpopular…some desperately needed. Get out of your comfy lazzyboy, stretch your legs, and get ready to stand up for the needs of the new world and the children tasked with saving it.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Boys, Education, Family, Girls, Work

Man-Up or Stand Up? The American Boy is in Trouble

Who Needs Lifting? Men or Boys?

I am a staunch supporter of males and the females in their lives. I believe that we can do better, as a gender, but must step up and be accounted for. Some of you who read this might wonder if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed or took my politically correct vitamins in excess. Some passerby’s might wonder if I live in the basement of my mother’s home and spew comments in a an environment where anonymity is a given and gravatars act as i.d. badges.

Though this image might bring you joy it just isn’t true. I am a Normal, insecure, bold when I need to be, confident in waves, man who loves ESPN, the arts and yard work on any-ole-day U.S.A. And, yes sometimes I find it necessary to shed light on a social practice that isn’t helping males in their pursuit to be Normal…in an effort to reach personal greatness…and life satisfaction.

As a part of an online community, The Art of Manliness, I am often challenged to think, laugh, and cry at the experience of being male. The members are thoughtful and thought provoking which I applaud with all sincerity. Yesterday was a perfect example wrapped into a single thread. A member asked a question…he wanted to know how to Man-Up a 13 year old that he knew. He described this young boy as soft, squishy, an unmotivated sissy, and lazy. I, of course, commented and to his credit the author said he didn’t know of any other word to use other than Man-Up.

The Art of Manliness

I was also given a review on the term and its usage on the site which said:

“Within the context of this site (AoM), “manning up” simply refers to “growing up” and coming to grips with yourself as a man. It’s not so much about toughening up as it is about maturing beyond boyhood.” -Jamie

To Man Up? The Urban Dictionary actually has 25 definitions and there is an organization, by the same name, that strives to end violence against women. Many of us have seen the phrase in reference to sexual enhancement and performance. We have seen it used at Little League games to dissuade emotions associated with females from being aired. Many of us have heard the phrase as a call to action; a rising up from self-induced-pity to a place of formidable stature and strength.

The American Way?

And, we have to wonder what is the impact on a generation of young boys without fathers, without male role models in schools, without heroes on the athletic field, governed by a society and educational system determined to squeeze the boy out of them, reprimanded when they become addicted to video games as a result, and told that success only comes to those who can effectively repress feelings and push on in the name of the American spirit.

I say with great confidence and sadness that our young boys are at a crossroads. Our boys are flailing in the wind with no direction, purpose, or sense of self.

Late yesterday afternoon as I was in the backyard I heard three young men talking and making a bit of noise. When I looked over to my neighbors house I noticed these three young men (approximately 18-21) crawling through an upstairs window. The house, you see, is in the midst of renovations and the owners are looking to rent the top unit out. I stopped them, at least the one young man who looked nervous, and asked them if they were with the work crew and found out they wanted a “peek inside.” Let’s just say they got my drift and headed out of my urban neighborhood.

You might say to yourself that this was a harmless act, but I am concerned at the lack of judgment. It concerns me that these young men were so apathetic to getting caught. I very easily could have called the cops and I would imagine a charge of breaking and entering could have been established. To them…nothing. They drove away quietly without verbal exchange.

Before we can ask young boys to Man-Up, we first need to establish what they are actually Manning-Up too. We need to provide a playground and environment that let’s them explore with guidance, tussle safely in the name of bonding, and believe what they feel inside. Just because we have generations of men, mine included, that were cast aside from the rational side of life doesn’t mean that we have to send them down the river as well.

If we, adult men, want a seat at the proverbial table of life then we have to set the example…together. We have to communicate our disgust for the medical system that limits access and respect during pregnancy. We have to communicate our needs with our medical and psychological doctors. We need to role model the great dualities of manhood…that we can grunt to our friends one minute, compose poetic stories the next, protect our children, cry with our children, love our spouse and most importantly ourselves all at a moments notice.

Apathy for ourselves is one thing…apathy for the next generation—shameful. Think about the language you use and the story it supports or erodes…young boys are waiting for us to Step Up…in the process we might just figure out what it actually means to Man-Up.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Filed under Boys, Dumb Men, Family, Fathers, Girls, Good Men, head of household, Males, men, Mothers, sex, Sports, women

Is Your Life a Waste of Time?

Oh the Oscars! Oh the Oscars! The award show for all award shows. The glitz, the glam, the awkward interviews about this designer and that designer. Blah, blah, blah. Right? A waste of time and money…right? Tradition? You and I might have different opinions about last night’s show, but there remains a reason why we all tuned in…

…we tuned in because each year one movie touches us. One movie reel spins a tapestry unique to you, your life and the trials and tribulations weaved throughout. We all celebrate those moments that whisk us away from ordinary, transpose our life for all to see, and reap the rewards of a like-minded character and storyline.

The beauty of the show is that when our “horse” wins we get a brief glimpse into their lives and approach. Some confirm our estimation of ignorance for the “common folk” and others remind us that good actors and movie magicians are thoughtful, well spoken humans who capture the day-to-day better than any bought-off politician aiming to win re-election. One such magician did just that…

Now he may have flown under the radar, but (Oscar for Best Original Score for “Up”) Michael Giacchino delivered the kind of acceptance speech that radiates long past the lights of Oscar night.

“Thank you, guys. When I was… I was nine and I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you”
Michael Giacchino

Mr. Giacchino’s speech got me thinking…Is he speaking of an epidemic? Could he be talking about the millions of children who are instructed not to be kids, but rather robots in classrooms? Could Mr. Giacchino be talking about the droves of women who are in marriages where tradition means one thing and support another? Or, maybe Mr. Giacchino was talking about all of the good, normal, and well-intentioned men who want to participate more in the lives of their children, but feel society’s mountain is just too steep to climb?

Thank You For Taking The Time

How many of us waste time…not because we are inept, but because we are scared to death to access life? How many people out there squash the dreams of others to keep our own dormant? Do you view life as a big waste of time? Do you look at the miracle of life and realize you are lead character or do you see life passing you by. Mr. Giacchino spoke poignantly to those children without support systems last night.

He reminded us all of the children in our lives and the children hidden deep within our hearts. Can we dust off the child inside, rediscover our dreams, and live a life filled with purpose?

Effort in anything we do is fraught with emotion. Effort brings reflection whether we like it or not. Why put effort into one thing or person and not another? Our relationships with our children, friends, work colleagues, and partners are all impacted by the belief we have in ourselves to achieve and overcome.

The true miracle is through demonstration. When we demonstrate commitment to our own dreams a little bit of “movie magic” touches the lives around us. For some of us, we were given wonderful examples from the caregivers in our lives…for others…well…we were left to friends, neighbors, educators, and yes characters on the big and small screens.

As so poetically said by a passing homeless man in Pretty Woman…“What’s Your Dream?” Never give up the most important mortal you know…YOURSELF! We only get one shot at this thing…make yourself proud. Be the best with the skills and attributes that make you a miracle!

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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Instant Replay Needed for NBC’s Marriage Ref

Seinfeld or Springer...You Decide

Here at Normal headquarters we have a duty to sniff out fact from fiction, belly button lint from organic accessory, and social responsibility from entertainment. NBC’s The Marriage Ref , from executive producer Jerry Seinfeld, attempts to solve marital problems with a touch of levity and a dash of sarcasm.

In true network fashion…NBC decided to capitalize on the Olympic swell and air the pilot episode after the closing ceremony. The show continues tonight at its regularly scheduled time of 10/9 central Thursday nights. I guess they are trying to relive the ole glory days of Must See TV Thursdays from the Clinton era.

Only problem is that I, and millions of BRAVO TV fans, will have to choose from The Real Housewives series and comedic commentary from celebrities who haven’t exactly been pros in the marriage arena. I mean Alec Baldwin and Madonna are…well very talented, but advisers of relationships I’ll take a pass. Oh excuse me…phone ringing…conference call between Guy Ritchie, Kim Basinger, and A-Rod. Any whoo….

Are you Ready for the Season Finale?

Guests aside, what I can say that is positive about the show is that it does provide an element of relief for couples. The past 18 months have been very challenging for millions of families and the American marriage has experienced the brunt of it. A little humor. A little… “Oh my gosh…no he di-d-nt” never hurt anybody. Critics will probably cite the eerie similarities between the Ref and any 1980’s NBC Baseball Blooper show (yes Marv Albert is actually a part of the Ref), Jerry Springer hi-jinks, and a mid-season fill-in for a network trying to reclaim some…any market share…did I mean the Jay Leno Show?

I'll Give You Some Advice

The featured couples, so far, have discussed stripper poles and the stuffing of pet dogs named The Fonz. I know it sounds a bit like the wacky neighbors down the street, but maybe that’s what we all need. Maybe we need to laugh together as a country and as couples. Maybe we need to set the laptop down, temper our texting addiction and share a bit of humor with the one who once made us laugh more than any other.

For the time being, I will give the show a pass on its usage of stereotypical men who only care about sex, pets, and hobbies. I will let it pass that each marital issue pertained to a husband’s desire to stand firm when looking ridiculously too proud for his britches. The Marriage Ref is, however, put on notice by the board of directors here at Normal headquarters to show the equality of stupidity and tomfoolery.

My guess is that The Marriage Ref will be around just long enough to wet our appetites. It’s appeal will wear off like the guy/gal you bring home that woo’s your family in the beginning only to disappoint shortly thereafter. Take it for what it is…don’t take it too seriously and you might have a bit o’ fun.

Hey....a dog?

I only hope that this is the beginning of Seinfeld’s reemergence and not a tease. He is too talented to stay on the sidelines for much longer and probably a tad concerned that the next sitcom would die a sudden death when compared to the behemoth that was Seinfeld.

I’ll check the instant replay with The Marriage Ref here at Normal headquarters…you…well, sit back, relax and breathe a sigh of relief…I mean now you can choose between Palin on FOX and Seinfeld on NBC…ahh life IS back to Normal.

All the Best!

Dr. Rod
Rod Berger, PsyD The Normal Male

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