Browsing "Family–Parenting"
Jul 10, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me, Travel    Comments Off

My Daughters Are Growing Up

My daughters are growing up. It’s a daily event, but there seem to be certain waypoints along the way.

These days, my eldest is soon to begin her senior year in high school, while the twins are beginning their sophomore year.

Two of the three now have entered the workforce. Dabbled in it.

One is taking two courses at the local junior college for credit.

The twins turned 15 just Monday. The eldest is ready to turn 18 in December.

Oftentimes, as their Dad, I wonder where the time went. Maybe that’s something of my Myers-Briggs’ INTJ temperament coming thru, but in many ways it isn’t.

As parents we often get so caught up in the daily grind, we don’t notice how the kids are changing, maturing into young ladies and men on their way to being adults. Some parents coddle. INTJs like me want to give them the freedom to figure out what this world is all about, largely on their own, without hovering or “helicoptering.”

My parents raised me similarly. Not sure what Myers-Briggs Mom or Dad are. And while there are additional life lessons I wish they’d not shielded me from, I have to say I got a lot out of my youth in large part thanks to the USAF, which moved us around like ping pong balls on a pool table with no pockets. But I have to say, it worked out the way it should have. God’s way, clearly.

So as the eldest ponders colleges–she wants to get out of the South and go north–like to Indiana University, I keep reminding her that she’s free to go to any college she wants so long as it’s Auburn. I understand the desire to get as far away from home as she can. There should be enough written between the lines on this site to explain.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Many are the days when I wish I could pick up and get out of the South myself. Dreams fill my head at night of returning to the woods of Northern Michigan, where we were stationed three or four times when I was a child. I often drift to sleep with memories of the sounds of the wind racing through the evergreen pines and Birch trees that make up the deep woods of the North. I hear sounds of my footsteps echoing through the wood as I trounce on fallen leaves, step on and snap dead branches, inadvertantly kick rocks, and even the sounds of boots that slip or trudge into the dirt upon each step.

Hidden across our family land are natural springs that bubble up from the forest floor, trickling with an icy cold flow of crystal clear mana one could put a water bottle or soda can in and chill to perfection; no additional ice required.

And during the winter months, wow, do I ever miss snow. Visually, there is so much ugly in this world that I truly think the Lord created snow just to give Northern foke a break from much of it for months at a time each year. Johnny Mathis records have made immortal the sounds of him singing about that “mantle of white shining down from the night” as he’s walking in that Winter Wonderland. Few sights in life beat the shroud of freshly fallen snow, pine boughs weighed down with large clumps of white, and miles of it for as far as one’s eyes can see.

For me, many of those memories remain alive in my heart, much as this child once longed for a Tyco train set at Christmas.

Here in Texas, my daughters only vaguely know of snow and it’s allure. They’ve journeyed into my wooded playgrounds of Michigan once but need to return again. This time for longer. Someday.

September is but around the corner and in it’s third week, the leaves will be changing in the UP of Michigan. Maybe then the four of us, and guests, can once again walk into the woods ablaze with the colors of fire.

For now, I must leave you with these thoughts. My girls grow closer to becoming women each day; each with their powerful names to encourage them to prosper and seek out the best of what this life is all about. I’m proud of each of them, my darlings, Chandler, Reagan and Haley.

As the autumn of my life draws closer each day, late spring blossoms for my children and life races onward with us all ensnared its infinite circle…..

 

May 27, 2014 - America In Ruins, Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me    Comments Off

It’s Time To Get Serious About Abusers

It’s been noted here on this site before that I have had to deal with abusive relationships and people before. I don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior any longer and won’t going forward. Abusive people suck and there is no place for them in my world.

North Texas bar sign: "I like my beer like my violence-Domestic"

North Texas bar sign: “I like my beer like my violence-Domestic”

Today The Dallas Morning News has this story published about how a manager of a local bar this past weekend wrote on a sign on the wall: “I like my beer like I like my violence–Domestic.” As of this afternoon, the owners of the bar have fired the manager who posted it, and from the article, it also looks like a subsequent manager who a customer complained to about it, is gone, too, for not taking appropriate action.

What’s worse are the comments on the TDMN site of people who are making fun of the situation or dismissing it as political correctness gone overboard.

But I will say again here, there’s nothing funny about Domestic Violence or abusive, hurtful people, and if you’re tolerating one, you need a wake up call because it’s only going to get worse and later on, you’re going to be blamed or framed by the abuser because it will have become “your fault.”

Abusers Suck

Abusers are mean people. There’s a lot going wrong in their heads, things that don’t get resolved in a simple blog post, counseling or a one-time conversation. No, they have a lot of messed up in their worlds.

The worst part of what an abuser will do when called on to the carpet, according to a great article on abusive kids, is say, “’I wouldn’t have abused you but you…’ and fill in the blank.”

Problem is, there IS NO ACCEPTABLE REASON or justification for BLANK.

Abusing someone else is wrong. Period. Bullying family members, friends, co-workers, spouses, children or other family members is wrong.

Thankfully, many states and even the federal government have passed strict laws to deal with abusive people and bullies. But sadly, those laws aren’t taken seriously enough and are ignored by abusers until you do something matter of fact about their behavior.

Now What To Do About It? 

As a parent, there are various punishments and counseling available. There also are treatments. This article even says that if a child continues to get unruly and a parent feels threatened they should CALL THE POLICE.  Will the kid be taken off to reform school? Not likely, but hopefully, the be-Jesus will be scared out of them to where they can see something in them needs to change before they are off somewhere making big rocks into little rocks.

If it’s a spouse, I whole heartedly recommend the same thing. Why? Because things aren’t going to get better until someone realizes there are some pretty serious consequences involved if things continue. Admittedly, my friend Veronica Galaviz didn’t get much help from the Rowlett, TX police department in 2009, but calling the authorities and filing a criminal report, as the article above says, creates a paper trail.

Worse still, and I’ve seen this happen, if you don’t take action, when something bad DOES happen, the abuser is GOING TO BLAME YOU FOR IT (just like above) and they’re so good at being coy and manipulative, the police are going to have a hard time not believing them and really be wondering if indeed this isn’t your fault after all–i.e. that YOU are the abuser.

It’s Time To Get Serious About Abusers

The mayor of Dallas has done a lot to raise awareness about Domestic Violence while he has been in office, and I’ve often been critical of the efforts. Simply having rallies at City Hall isn’t going to solve this problem and indeed, it really hasn’t while he’s been in office. But it is good he has tried to raise awareness about the problem.

What is going to have to happen is that people are going to have to learn to establish boundaries to abusers and to enforce them seriously and effectively, even if that means putting or trying to put a loved one in jail for a spell.

Even then, as the Dixie Chicks sung about in Goodbye Earl, abusers like to “walk right thru their restraining orders” because they essentially are little more than pieces of paper and they are power freaks anyways. That’s part of the gunk they have floating around in their heads.

But fitting an abuser with an orange county jail jumpsuit or two might just be what it takes. And I’ve come to the point in my life where if that’s what it takes, I’d encourage you to sign an arrest warrant any time in the future you have to to stop an abuser or bully. It might just save your life and those of the ones you love, including the abuser him/herself. It might also mean a good night’s sleep….

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day To Miley Ray Cyrus’ Mom

Happy Mother’s Day To Miley Ray Cyrus‘ Mom

The degrading downward spiral of Miley Ray Cyrus picks up speed. Don't you wonder how her Mother's Day call will go tomorrow?

The degrading downward spiral of Miley Ray Cyrus picks up speed. Don’t you wonder how her Mother’s Day call will go tomorrow?

After seeing the #MileyCyrus hashtag trending this morning, I  have to wonder how Miley Ray Cyrus’ mom must be feeling this Mother’s Day Eve.

Her daughter’s photo is all over Twitter this morning with her straddling a large phallic symbol during a concert. There’s also photos of her letting fans “touch her lady bits.” She’s in England, and so it goes on and on and on.

I’m not judging Miley or her parents, but one has to wonder how long someone is going to let this downward spiral of the child go on. No, she’s not a child, but I’m trying to decide who is acting more like an adult in her life, her fokes or her, and I’m not getting any convincing answer.

The sad part is that Miley will continue to degrade herself in front of thousands at a time until people get to the point of saying they’re not going to pay money for that.  We have a long way to go as crowds have proven throughout time that when someone wants to do self-destruction on a grand and public scale, foke will stand by and give more rope, more gasoline and even yell “JUMP!”

In Scarface, I remember Tony Montana, played by Al Pachino, going home to see his “MaMa,” and her refusing his “filthy drug money. How many people did you murder for that money, Tony?” she asks him.

His mother had pride in working hard and honestly for what little she had and didn’t want Tony’s “blood money.”

For the Cyrus family, you’d hope that degrading, raunchy sex money would be seen like Tony Montana’s drug money.  But it appears, even from some of Billy Ray Cyrus’ comments, it’s green and it’s going to spend just fine as long as it keeps coming in.

Don’t you wonder what the long distance phone call from Miley will be like tomorrow?

 

 

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May 2, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me, Yosemite    Comments Off

A Note To My Grandchildren

A Note To My Grandchildren

It’s May 2, 2014 and at this point in my life, I don’t have any grandchildren. Just three wonderful teenage daughters who still are trying to figure out who and what they’re going to be in this world. Many days, even like today at my age of 48, I’m still trying to decide that myself. This morning in Arlington, I had breakfast with my long time friend and mentor, Ron Rose, and he began telling me about a work he’s writing and that prompted me to take on this simple task: Writing A Note To My Grandchildren.

But at this writing, the thing is, I do not have any grandchildren. That doesn’t matter, the Internet will be alive and well when I do and this will be cached away somewhere in cyber space for each to find and to ponder.

Point One

My Great-Grandparents, Clarence and Mamie Claxton are buried in Athens, Alabama, where they lived hard and raised many children. I go to the main cemetery in Athens anytime I’m in town to pay them my respects. Sometimes I leave my current business card on their headstone. I always say a prayer and talk to them, even though I only met my great grandmother “Momma Claxton” once that I can actually remember. We sat on her porch there in Athens with her while she shucked peas, I think.

I know so little about them and their lives. I don’t know about their sacrifices or what a normal day was like. Knowing how we Claxtons have been, they were honest and hardworking. Maybe an aunt or two of mine could tell me more, but nonetheless, this is all I remember about the Claxton side.

Of my mom’s side, I remember my great grandmother on Mom’s side, we called her Granny, and my grandpa’s mom, who could only speak Czech, we called Baba. Granny was Swedish and I remember visiting her apartment in Hobart, Indiana when we would pass thru between moves. She always seemed to have those powdered candy breath mints at her house. That was nice.

My own grandparents, Andy and Joyce Sheptak, my mom’s parents, were hard working. Grandpa was an artist and there’s a wooden carving portrait I’m sure one of your mom/aunts now have. It kind of looks like a heart and it’s a family treasure. If one of you ever get to have it, treasure it.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That's his pic below.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That’s his pic below.

Grandpa Andy wrestled with his liquid demons throughout his life but he was a great grandpa. Grandma Sheptak got bad arthritis in her latter days and died three months after your twin aunts/mom(s) were born in 1999.

Grandma Sheptak was always telling jokes. I called her on the phone all the time throughout my life and have dearly missed her being gone each and every day. In the years after she left us, I was able to draw closer to Grandpa. There were times when he would just cry. Once he said he tried some of the pain medicine she had been taking and later told his doctor he’d done so. His doctor helped Grandpa understand how strong the meds she was on really were. That greatly helped him let go of her and understand she no longer was in pain.

We buried your Great-Great-Grandpa Claxton on Sept. 10, 2001. That night, I flew back from Northern Indiana to Dallas not thinking anything significant about flying. The next day was 9/11 and I was glad to not have been stuck as I would have been away from your mom/aunts. As I write this, your dear, dear Great-Great-Grandma Claxton’s mind is withering away in the dark years of life. She was such a positive influence on me. She would bake. Made me Play Do from scratch once. And she taught me Southern delicacies like how to make gravy and chicken and dumplings. I never learned how to make her biscuits from scratch. I’m sorry. That would have been something good to have passed on.

My dad, your Great-Grandfather, still is alive, too. He’s a retired USAF B-52 pilot who helped bring to life me, three great uncles and a great aunt. My dad spent much of his career on alert in Northern Michigan ready to go attack the USSR, or he was flying, and later, in Montgomery, AL, he worked at the prestigious Air War College. He was great at military history and planning. He was happiest when he was flying. After he got out of the Air Force, he got a teaching certificate to teach high school kids algebra. He enjoyed it, but kids didn’t really want to learn and he wanted to travel.

My mom, your Great-Grandmother, raised the five of us. When your great Aunt Kim got old enough, your Great-Grandmother earned her nursing degree and then spent 20 years working at the ER in the VA in Montgomery, Alabama. She got a bunch of grandkids all of a sudden in the 1990s and insisted on being called “Be Bop.”  I have no idea why, but it stuck. If you ask your mom/aunts, they will light up when you say the name.  I promise. Even with her in Alabama and them mostly growing up in Texas, Bop still had a positive impact on their lives and they each loved her greatly.

So what was the point of all that? Simple. You now have some context of your family that’s probably not written down anywhere else and probably won’t be spoken about much when you’re reading this. I wish I had this about my Great-Great-Grandparents, so please regard this as a special treasure that I learned needed to be left behind because it was not left behind for me.

Point Two

There’s a 2013 movie called People Like Us, and in it, the lead character offers a young boy in it the six secrets to a happy life that were left to him by his father in the movie.

I’m going to repeat them for you here now:

The Six Rules

1. If you like something because you think other people are going to like it, it’s a sure bet no one will.

2. Most doors in the world are closed, so if you find one that you want to get into, you damn well better have an interesting knock. 

3. Everything that you think is important, isn’t. Everything that you think is unimportant, is.

4. Don’t s*** where you eat.

5. Lean into it. The outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were there for it, whatever it is – good or bad.

6. Don’t sleep with people who have more problems than you do

These rules are simple and clear. They don’t need a lot of extra explaining. If you need some help with them, I suggest a conversation with your mom/Aunt Chandler.  She and I have talked about them. Hopefully I will have time with the twins before it’s too late.

Point Three

I don’t know if we ever will get the chance to meet, but I pray daily that we do.  I also want to encourage you to keep an open mind about your mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. And your grandparents.

People at no matter what point in human history will make mistakes. Some of us fall into holes. There will be some days and some holes so deep you might think it’d be easier to reach up out of it and pull the dirt in on top of you. Other days it will feel like people, even the ones you thought were helping you, are tossing the dirt in on top of you on purpose.

Family members seem to get at odds with each other so easily and so often over the simplest of things.

Sadly, as a parent yourself many days from now, you will have to experience the tension of not talking to your mom, your dad, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a grand child, etc.

Trust me. It will happen. And when it does, I encourage you to keep loving them and say and particularly write as few harsh words about them as you might. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to hurt, but keep praying for them and believing that in the end, someone is going to turn a corner and come around.  And if it needs to be you who turns the corner, do it when the time is right.

We all get forced to grow up faster and faster with each changing generation. I can not bare to think of the challenges and world you will have to face.

Point Four

Trust your faith. I have done what I can to instill it in your mom/aunts. But ultimately know how they relate to God is in their own way and as a parent, all I can do, and all they can do, is point a child in a direction we would hope they would go. Forcing doesn’t work. I’ve seen it and there are people still alive who might read this and think I was talking about them, so I shall stop there.

Point Five

Live your life honestly. Work hard. And fight like the Devil for what you believe in. The one thing people cannot take away from you in this life is your personality and your integrity. It is your job to protect both. They can pour cold water on your ideas and maybe even hold you back from time-to-time, but I encourage you to get back up and keep going. We Claxtons have seldom just had anything spectacular given to us. It’s been all work. I’m sure life is going to be very much the same for you. And remember, even if we were able to amass millions, in the end, we’re not taking any of it anywhere with us.

I’ve told your mom/aunts multiple times that Grandpa isn’t/wasn’t going to pay for any weddings for them until they each had/have set foot on at least three continents, worked in their own job, finished college and been on their own for a while. The order those things happen in is up to them, but to my dying day, I shall be suggesting the same thing to them and hopefully them to you, too.  Not doing those things is going to lead to avoidable failures, but you’ll also find, some people just have to make failures in order to actually learn something.

Final Point

My lineage ends with your mom/aunts because I wasn’t fortunate in God’s plan to have a biological son. So carrying on my legacy is left in a diluted way to you.  Know always, even as I write this in 2014, that I loved you very much, whether we are ever able to meet or not. There are many a days when I feel the presence of my three retired grandparents upon me, much as though you might feel a warm breeze touching your face as you view the passing sun at the end of the day.

I’ve asked your mom/aunts some day to leave my ashes off the beaten path near the Sentinel Dome area of Yosemite National Park in California, the side facing off toward Half Dome. To me, there is no prettier place on this earth and if you put me in a box some six feet under, I won’t be there anyways, for I shall do all in what cosmic power I have left to lift my spirit to that point anyway. Yes, I hope to be in the Heavens with our Lord, but what’s left of the physical me should be left where I have longed to spend the breadth of my days but was not able to.

Never let go of the beauty God has put into this world. Your mom/aunts can mimic for you how I would get excited about the beauty and power of the morning light, particularly at Yosemite, as beams of radiant energy from the sun pierced the treetop veil over the rocks and nature below. And as you sit along the water way at the foot of Bridalveil Fall and hear the rushing of the cold spring rapids racing toward the Merced, know that my spirit also will be there encouraging you to slow down, to stop, to breathe deeply and enjoy the beauty of what God has left us all.

Thanks for reading. I love you and your mom/aunts more than words here can tell. Love them back for me.

Grandpa “Daddy Claxton”

 

 

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A&E Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson Sidelining To Backfire #StandWithPhil

A&E Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson Sidelining Makes No Sense

If you’re a fan of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and upset about the A&E network decision to pull him from the show after his comments in GQ, just stop for a minute and consider what you’re doing.

I do not watch this show, my three daughters do, and our U-Verse DVR tends to be full from all the recordings, but I’ve seen a number of people who are protesting A&E’s decision by either canceling the network with their cable company or blocking it with parental controls. And while that’s understandable, it’s going to be twisted in the end to send a message that’s only going to make you more angry. That message? “We at A&E are canceling Duck Dynasty because it was obvious so many others were offended by what Phil Robertson said.”

And you and I know that’d be BS, but it’s kinda like the old saying of don’t pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

On the other hand the sad part is the A&E money changers are going to ramp up profits from the controversy.

WHAT SHOULD DUCK DYNASTY FANS DO? 

1) Don’t block the programming. If fact, you should keep watching the show as you did before.

2) Use your social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, to post pics of you and your family watching the show, expressing your continued support for the show, and tell A&E you want Phil Robertson back.  Twitter now has a hashtag #StandWithPhil that is being widely used.

3) Call A&E and write their offices and tell them you want Robertson back on the show: 235 E 45th St New York, NY, 10017 United States (212) 210-1400.

In everything you do, print, text, or post, remember to express your support for Phil Robertson and the show.

A&E made a very strange decision to alienate the majority of their viewing audience with this move only to placate a smaller audience that isn’t watching them anyways. A&E was worried about what that smaller demographic could do to their bottom line.

And now it’s time to show them what happens when they further attack the values system that created our country and one networks like theirs continue to espouse as okay or normal.  I really think they underestimated who was watching this show. The people who watch it are fiercely spiritual. I’ve known of situations in the South where down-the-street-from-another churches were competing with which one would host the cast on visits.

In the very principle of what Mr. Robertson said, if you let this go and become acceptable, the next time it happens, you’ll be less aware of it, less conscious of it and the sin will have advanced another step.

And that’s all he really said to begin with.

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My Daughter Chandler–Coming of Age the Past Few Weeks

My Daughter Chandler–Coming of Age the Past Few Weeks

Since the week before Thanksgiving 2013, my daughter Chandler has done a lot of growing up and I want to tell you, and her, how proud I am of her.

We’ve been thru two “big” ice storms now, overcome some geographical obstacles, and dealt with situations that have made some things she probably already knew all the more clear.

I won’t go into a lot of the details, but I’m proud of my daughter and the way she has handled the adversity of the past few weeks. She’s had some important deadlines and projects due and has handled them with poise. She’s stayed up into the night to get her work done and been up first thing the next morning to trudge forward.

She’s had someone in her life make it clear that when the going gets tough, not to lean because there’s little or nothing there. That’s a hard lesson to learn at any age, but it’s become more and more clear.

So here’s a pic from us in our hotel room this morning. I was told yesterday we probably were making that whole bit up. You just can’t fight stupid sometimes, but maybe a picture … ah, never mind.

I’m proud of you, Chandler. Keep it up.  You’re making Dad proud.

IMG_1129

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Dec 6, 2013 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me    Comments Off

Goodbye 47

Goodbye 47

I’m running out of time.

That is, if I want to get this posted before midnight which by the calendar, but not by actual time, marks my 48th birthday.

Compared to the last four years, this has been the best, by far and for multiple reasons. And yet with each ticking of the clock as we dip round the clock on the right side to head to the top on the left, so many thoughts and conflicts fill my head.

On Being 47 in 2013 

It’s been a good year, for the most part. The work we’ve been doing on Claxton Creative with books for iPad and books in EPUB format have increased in production and sales. No, not where I should have hoped they would be, but this is still such a new field of opportunity, and for pioneers, things like this do take time to grow into something.

Through God‘s hand this past year, the tumblers of time fell into order and I found the woman who I knew as Julie Nelson as a young teen boy after 32 years. Because I made contact with her, I’ve also made contact with some of my best friends from 7-9th grade who I was forced to leave behind at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school because of my Dad being in the USAF. Like so many times before then and even after, my brothers and sister were compelled to pull up stakes and move clear across the country from what was familiar and start the planting of roots all over once again. As a child, it was hard to constantly be uprooted from your friends, and harder as I got older to want to make friends, knowing eventually that they’d be ripped away once again and barriers of miles would be put in between.

Recently in the ice with Julie

Recently in the ice with Julie

In Julie’s case, she didn’t have any feelings for me in our teen years, though I thought she was the definition of what beautiful is supposed to look like. And after 32 years, it’s easy to say she still is. Getting to know her again, and really for the first time in many ways, has been one of the best aspects of the year.

Life with my daughters, Chandler, Reagan and Haley has been good this year.

Obviously, trying to get a new company in a new field up and running has been a constant struggle, drain and challenge. Some run around thinking I’m flush with cash, but they’ve not had a clue about anything having to do with reality for a very long, long time.  No, ever.

Monday I felt like I was on the losing end of a never-ending battle and my friend from The Dallas Morning News, columnist James Ragland encouraged me to keep fighting. “Hang in there,” he wrote. “You’re a trooper.”

Life at 47

There are so many things going on in my life right now that I’d not planned to be dealing with at age 47, 48.  I won’t go into them here, but I’m reminded of the old saying, “Wanna make God laugh? Tell him your plans.”

I’ve been trying to make my way through Job again in the Bible. He was a man who had most everything he could want and then God allowed Satan to take it away to see if Job’s faith would wane and he would curse God. In my four-year journey now along the path Job once was subjected to, I know I’ve not done as well as he. Not anywhere near, and not even close at others.

And as the day comes to its close, I can’t help but wonder how many more nights like these I shall ponder.

Riding For The Brand

On a plane ride from Denver to Tulsa recently, I met a man who calls himself a professional provoker. We had an extra long time to talk with each other on the flight and a ground delay and he gave me two books to read. One of them is called, Riding For The Brand, by Jim Whitt. His second book is a workbook. We had a good chat today. Jim’s books are about helping people find their purpose in life and then being able to help them solely focus on doing just that. I’ve been doing some of the exercises in his material and we’re working in that direction.

My daily prayer to God for as long as I can remember has been to “give me the opportunity to have a positive influence on as many people as possible.” And through a decade in the Alabama Governor‘s Office with two governors, six years in the Dallas school district as their communications director, time working with ExxonMobil on math and science programs for high school students, and now, making interactive books for the iPad, I feel like I’ve been doing that. But with Jim’s help, we’re going to be working on how to refine that purpose and make it even more crystalline.

Turning the Page

They say when one door closes, another one opens. So as we near Dec. 6, 2013, I close the door on age 47 and invite 48 into my life. It’s time to continue to refine who I am. It’s time to lean harder than before on God and to become more and more active in his Word. And it’s time to further focus on my purpose in life and do only that until my Lord takes my last breath from me and calls me home.

I’m thankful God allowed some of my childhood friends back into my life this year. It’s made a tremendous difference in my spirit and attitude, as well as bringing a lot of healing and closure from wondering at night while trying to drift off to sleep wondering what ever happened to Danny Kasper, Rod Jefferson, the Sanchez brothers, Julie, Diana, Derek and more.

It’s icing over here in DFW, more so than the ice storm we had a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving. I sure do miss my days in Upper Michigan as a younger kid. Ugh.

Here we go, 48. Let’s figure this out as much as possible before 49 gets here….

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Nov 28, 2013 - Family, Family--Parenting, Geeky, Product Reviews, The Real Me    Comments Off

How John Ed Mathison And God Redefined My Possible

John Ed Mathison–How God Redefined My Possible

Just a few days past Thanksgiving in 2012, I was in Montgomery, Alabama visiting my mom when I went and met with long-time United Methodist Preacher John Ed Mathison about a book he’d written and was contemplating turning into a book for iPad. The title–When God Redefines The Possible–was only available in printed form and is a compilation of some great stories that John Ed has been telling for a few years.

But what I didn’t realize going into that project was how much God was going to redefine MY possible, and I have to tell you, it’s an amazing story.

John Ed Mathison--Inspirational Leadership

John Ed Mathison–Inspirational Leadership

How God Redefined My Possible

John Ed gave me a copy of his book to read and sent me on my way. In late December/Early January I’d read through it and figured out how we could make it into a fun, interactive project, complete with 23 videos. In mid-February, we spent some time at his old church in Montgomery, Frazer United Methodist, and shot the videos with one of my old compatriots, Stacey Rimer Stakely and their video master, Matt Gamble. The next two months was a time of productivity and editing to get the book ready for sale on iTunes, Amazon and the Barnes & Noble websites.

But here’s the thing–Every time I worked on John Ed’s book, God started doing more and more and more to redefine my possible.  It was an amazing process and up until it began to happen, I had noted, even in this place, that it had felt like at times I was Job and God had unleashed the Evil One on me to see if my faith would waiver.

Honestly, I didn’t handle those days and times as purely as Job. I questioned my faith, even questioned God’s existence and didn’t much darken the doors of my church. You see, since June of 2009, much of my life, my family, job, house, car, finances, just about everything one would consider as a standard in modern-day life, had been ripped away from me either from the greed, evil, jealousy, or whatever of others. It was the worst time of my life and has changed me significantly.

But I held to my faith, though it felt like at times the only heat from it I was living on was the equivalent of holding a match in one’s hand in the darkness of a cave miles underground. There was little light, little to to be optimistic about. And in the midst of that time, I had a heart attack–at 45.

The 2013 Redefinition

So this Thanksgiving, I sit writing and sharing this story. I’ve been on something of an emotional journey this past week and each day have been contemplating how to reshare with each of you the beauty and power of John Ed’s book. This morning I awoke and began composing this blog post. And as I have been writing here this morning, I just received the first text I’ve received from John Ed in about two months. It simply reads: “Donny, I thank God for you!!”  It came at 8:21 a.m. on a Thanksgiving morning. John Ed knows thousands of people around the world and yet God found it on his heart to send me and who knows how many others a special message.

But isn’t that how God works, too?  We may not feel like God is there with us. We may think God has forgotten us.  We may feel like God SHOULD forget about us at times. But he is always there, and always in reach.

This year has been a good growth year for my company, Claxton Creative. We’ve done some great book for iPad work and some more projects are lining up. No, I’ve not been restored to where I was when the crisis of 2009 began to take away nearly everything in my life, but I have a new birth of freedom and love in my life and a renewed passion for God.

Are there still things I want to improve upon? Certainly, but I have been able to change the makeup of the type of people in my life and it has all been for the positive. It is making a difference in who I am, who they are and most importantly, our walks with God.

So this Thanksgiving Day 2013, I want to encourage you to check out John Ed’s book for iPad, Kindle or Nook.  This work has made all the difference in my life the past 365 days and I challenge you to download it and read it. The book has video messages from John Ed about the power of God. It has puzzles and study questions you can use to study God’s word. And it has the power to redefine your possible. And that, I have found, is what our God is truly all about.

 

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Nov 19, 2013 - Family, Family--Parenting, Geeky, Product Reviews, The Real Me    Comments Off

Facebook Privacy Settings Take Another Step Toward Super Scary

Facebook Privacy Settings Take Another Step Toward Super Scary

I awoke this morning and fired up the Mac to see what was new in the world. That of course led me to Facebook to see who had commented on anything I’ve posted in the past day or so and I couldn’t help but notice a HUGE change in the CHAT settings. Now, it was showing me, not just an icon of a friend being on a phone signifying they were mobile, and of course, there’s the countdown as to when they were last active on FB, but now, in big, green, bold letters were the words MOBILE and WEB.

Facebook now shows users if friends are on FB via a Web browser or Mobile. Do we really need to know that?

Facebook now shows users if friends are on FB via a Web browser or Mobile. Do we really need to know that?

Now, I suppose in the mind of a programming engineer, it’s probably cool to be able to now discern and share with Facebook users everywhere the fact that I’m either logged into the platform via my computer and a Web browser or my iPhone or iPad (oh, wait, it just still says Mobile, I think I just gave someone in Palo Alto a new idea), but DO I REALLY NEED TO KNOW THIS?!

For that matter, does anyone?

I mean, sure, I could understand that I might want to know if one of my daughters was logged in on a Web browser and active on Facebook and it’s the middle of the school day and she should be in school, but for Close Friends, a level I have set up, and even for not very close friends, I can see the same level of information and they can see that about me, too.  I’m sure, at least I’d hope, there’s a way to turn this off, but I really don’t have the time to go looking for it nor do I have the desire. And I shouldn’t have to, really, be in an opt out situation on something like this.

A Woman In Montgomery

I was in Montgomery a few weeks ago and joined Mom for some pizza at our favorite pizza place in town–Corsino’s.  During our dinner, a woman from across the room came across to talk to the couple at the table behind us. In her chat with them, she talked about how dangerous Facebook is, because just the slightest posting and crooks can tell if you’re home or not, plus “It just leads to too much gossip and ego bragging.” So then what did she do? Yeah, she started talking about the $2,000 dogs she and hubs had out in the car and about her kids, and about….  It is good to be away from all that….

But going back to the crooks point.

This latest development is troubling to me. I’m sure in a week or two I’ll have forgotten it and accepted it as a part of life in this digital age. It just seems for now that this is too much information to be generally shared.  I know, yes, with many types of software on Websites, who is hitting a site, from where, with what, where they went, how long they were there … all that and more can be tracked, and is for marketing purposes by techies worldwide.

My question is, do we really need it on Facebook, too? This really is taking a step toward super scary, particularly if there’s not a way to simply turn this off so no one can see it, and most Facebook users probably never will.

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Nov 11, 2013 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, Movies/TV, Thank You, The Real Me    Comments Off

Veterans Day 2013: Thanks Dad, Mom and Families

Veterans Day 2013: Thanks Dad, Mom and Families

USAA, the military insurance company, has sort of backed into the theme of this post, almost by accident it seems, but in part because what they’re saying is true. When they have a dependent talk about “mine having been earned” through the service of another, they’re really onto something there I think most Americans tend to forget.

Lt. Col. Bernard D. Claxton, USAF-Retired

Lt. Col. Bernard D. Claxton, USAF-Retired

It’s Veterans Day 2013 and this is my annual tribute to the service and sacrifice my father, Lt. Col. Bernard D. Claxton, USAF-Retired, gave to our country from April 1968 until some time in 1993. In that span of time, the US Air Force, and particularly the Strategic Air Command, moved us from one corner of the country to the next, and then back, and then to another corner and back, and then….

Dad flew T-38s in training in Laredo, then progressed to B-52s at Castle Air Force Base, the 644th Bomb Squadron at KI Sawyer AFB and over in Southeast Asia, including Anderson AFB on Guam and Utapoa, Thailand. He also flew in the 20th Special Operations Squadron in Hueys in Nam in an elite helicopter group.

I didn’t know it until much later in life, but we almost lost dad on Huey a mission in Nam in December 1971. Tragically, one of his crew members didn’t make it that day and it’s something our family is mindful of more and more every December now that we kids know more and more about what happened. You see, in a military family, the war stories almost NEVER get told voluntarily and only upon inquiry do you get any sort of details.

But my appreciation for Dad’s dedication to our country makes me proud to this day. The Star Spangled Banner is one of those tunes that stirs a passion in me I cannot describe and I never clap at the end of it. Protocol actually says you’re not supposed to, and for me, hearing the tune runs deep to my core.

Spouses and Dependents

But here today I also want to pay tribute to whom we seldom hear about on Veterans Day and that’s the spouses of soldiers and their dependents.

In the movie The Right Stuff, Trudy and a couple of the other test pilot wives are talking in the living room at Edwards AFB in California while discussing “Keeping an even strain” and one of them says, “The Air Force owes me for this. I expect them to make good” on the sacrifices she and the kids have made.

Sadly, it seems that seldom ever happens. I mean, yes, I treasure the life I had as an Air Force brat, but it was hard on us, too.

We sacrificed a steady home life. In Michigan, Dad was on alert crews and gone for a week at a time, ready to get the Go Code and go. Mom raised five of us, not by herself, but there were times when it was by herself because of alert and TDYs to SEA.

We traveled from one base housing to the next. If you’ve never seen base housing, even for officers, it’s not the best of digs. It’s a couple rooms, a kitchen, a bath or two. The housing area in Northern Michigan I’ve long heard it said was designed by an architectural firm in Florida.  What does that tell you? At KI we had an average of about 200 inches of snow a year. How much snow do they get in Florida?

My mom, Cindy Claxton, was able to earn her nursing degree when the five of us got old enough to be more self-sufficient. She did 20 years herself thereafter working in the VA Hospital in Montgomery. In that time, she worked mostly nights working to provide healthcare to those who had been of military service to America. That’s a great feat for a mom of five kids and one that goes largely unsung.

In my 48 years of life, I’ve lived in about 35 different homes and housing units. Most military. I’ve got good friends who I have been able to reconnect with via the miracle of Facebook who for years I’ve wondered about and missed. It’s been hard to be getting uprooted all the time. How many others do you know who went to at least five elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools?

When I was at Auburn my freshman year, I was in doing a newspaper interview with President James Martin. As I was packing up to leave afterward he said, “You’re a military kid, aren’t you?” I checked the length of my jeans (No, I wasn’t “Flooding”), looked for anything on my shirt that might give it away, and said, “Yes, how’d you know?”  His reply: “I don’t get many freshman in here asking me about the budget.”

So it has helped me in my confidence. I have no problem getting to know or meet anyone. I’ve been practicing that every few months for most of my life. But I also long for the stability that my peers had when they were civilians and we would pass in and back out of their lives time and again.

I’m proud of the service to our country offered by my dad, but encourage you this Veteran’s Day to also seek out and thank the spouses and dependents who also “served” with them. Sometimes we didn’t go voluntarily–drafted by birth, as it were. But we are a part of what has made this country great and special as well. And we’re some of the ones who tear up at the sound of the national anthem in remembrance of the sacrifices that have been made on more levels than one.

Thank you Vets, service members, spouses and dependents all….

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