All You Need is Love

“Love…is a many splendored thing.

Love… Lifts us up where we belong.

All you need is love…”

While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.

Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.

Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.

In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).

Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.

But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.

God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.

Advertisements

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Adventures in Fathering

Four out of five, because it’s impossible to get them all together…

When you take over as a full time parent, people always seem to have expectations for your success or failure. Dads are particularly singled out with these expectations, but not in the way one might think. From what I have experienced, the male of the species is expected to do a lot less.

I get compliments all the time about my kids. I suppose I could just chalk it up to how good they really are, and beautiful, and smart. But most of the compliments seem to be aimed at me. But I am only half of the reason they are how they are, if that. Would people compliment my wife like that? Would they compliment her if she had to wrestle all five of them through a church service? They tell me I’m doing so well bringing them week after week, would they do the same to her?

The double standard seems to assume men aren’t as capable of parenting as women. Fathers are inept creatures, barely able to juggle one child, let alone five.

Frankly the assertion makes me laugh. Yeah, my kids are a handful. They are constantly moving, vibrating really, and sometimes they make noise at inopportune times. They treat me like a jungle gym. They stand firm in “no” and make me drag them by the leg into certain places. But it isn’t hard. It’s exhausting sometimes to be sure, but not “hard”.

I love them. I love the challenges they bring. I love watching them make connections and grow and learn. I love that they force me to be strong and active. I love that they ask complex questions and make me think. If I was not actively involved in their lives I dare say I would atrophy.

I pity the men out there who don’t have kids, or at least act like they don’t. I pity the men who don’t know their kids well enough to know what discipline works for what kid (hint: they are individuals, every one is different). I pity the men who never engage with their kids, physically or mentally, for they will grow olds quickly without the exercise.

Most of all I feel a bit grumpy towards the men who fit the stereotype of inept and aloof. They are the reason for so many misplaced compliments towards men like me. They are the reason I will get five compliments to every one my wife gets. They are the reason my kids never get told how awesome they are, everyone is too busy being surprised by me.

Next time you see a lone father (or mother) with well behaved (mostly) kids, compliment all of them.

They’ll appreciate it.

Just How Smart Is “SmartSteem”?

SmartSteem logo used by permission.

This may not be of interest to my WordPress followers, but anyone who is on Steemit should find this valuable.

A few weeks ago I realized I had not won a @photocontests contest in awhile. I thought maybe it was due to my use of SmartSteem to promote my posts. Then I noticed that @juliank, the sponsor of the contests, also uses it on occasion.

It turns out my photography is just crappy.

But it got me wondering, if someone as huge as @juliank uses it, it must be profitable, right?

I never actually did any calculating, I just took @smartsteem ‘s word for it that if you send them any amount you will earn 180%-216% (15% ROI) of that amount (after 25% curation).

So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to keep track of a week’s worth of my posts. I would spend various amounts on each post and see what the payouts ultimately were.

I made a spreadsheet for all the info and calculations and entered in the data once the votes stopped rolling in. Then I reran the numbers once the payouts occured. Most of the time they changed because of the fluctuating value of Steem Backed Dollars (SBD).

Method:

As soon as I made a post I upvoted it. Then I visited SteemBotTracker.com and used the SmartMarket bot to purchase votes.

I then waited for the votes to stop rolling in, or for the refund to come back. SmartSteem returns whatever it can’t spend on votes. I would then subtract the refunds from the amount spent to calculate how much I actually spent.

I did have to re-enter my bid on a few occasions. I only did this if the returned amount was 80% or more of the total amount allocated.

I then recorded the reward in SBD, subtracting my upvote amount from the total, since that would be there ordinarily.

I didn’t break down the votes by whether they were from SmartSteem voters (you can find out from your SmartSteem profile) or organic votes. I assumed the organic votes were harvested from the exposure from the SmartSteem votes. This may not always be the case, but for this experiment I made that assumption.

I also recorded the Steem Power rewards. It was not possible to calculate a rate of return for these since I only spent SBD and not STEEM in this experiment. I converted the amount of SP into SBD at the end just to see what difference it made and it made quite a bit of difference.

Overall I spent $39.203 SBD with an initial return of $38.914 SBD and 11.37 SP.

Results:

Actual return in SBD was $29.934. This was a 23.64% loss.

SP return was 10.246. I converted this to SBD (1.39 SP/SBD) and found the equivalent return to be $14.27 SBD.

Adding the total return of SP and SBD gave an ROI of 12.77% ($14.21 SBD). Given that SmartSteem has a flexible ROI I would call this close enough to the 15% usually quoted.

Pros of SmartSteem:

Easy to use, just go to https://smartsteem.com or https://steembottracker.com/ or send Steem or SBD through a transfer.

Gains user post exposure by getting posts into “trending” or “hot” categories.

Gains user followers.

It’s easy to keep track of votes and their total value on the SmartSteem site.

Great customer service through their Discord Channel. The few times I have had issues with refunds, @TheRealWolf has been more than willing to help.

You can buy upvotes for any post, even if they are not yours. This allows you to do a little undercover charity work for smaller minnows or people working for a cause.

Cons:

If you are hoping for a positive return just in SBD you will be disappointed (unless SBD value is on the rise). I think this very thing is the reason SmartSteem has had some negative press lately. The guy spreading the slams doesn’t understand how the returns work.

Sometimes you have to send your bid a couple times to get it through. This is more of an inconvenience than anything else.

Conclusion:

While my SBD return was a loss, overall return was a gain when one considers SP as well.

SBD dropped in value 24% from the first post to the last payout. This definitely had a negative impact on the results. In fact it lines up exactly with the difference between initial returns and actual returns.

SmartSteem is definitely not a get rich quick scheme. Like anything on Steemit it takes patience and time. It does however offer an easy way to snowball returns for quicker results. You don’t have to buddy up to some whale anymore for decent payouts on your posts.

Overall, SmartSteem is an easy to use tool to gain Steem Power, SBD, and followers. It is a great way for minnows to grow into dolphins and whales quicker than simply waiting for the system that is Steemit to find them.

If you want to get in on the action and give me a little bit of credit, use my link to join: https://smartsteem.com?r=driptorchpress

Thanks for reading!

Music and Art Monday May 21st, 2018: The Finished Works, New Works, and a Song For Good Measure

I finally finished my trio, here are the results:

I didn’t even notice the fly. Argh…

Hobby Lobby recently opened up in town, so guess who’s playing with oil paints? This guy!

Here is the first little bit of it:

Of course the kids had to paint:

The master at work…
“A Bird That’s Flying”
“A Zebra” or “A My Little Pony”

And just for a little filler here’s a song I wrote a billion years ago, somewhere I have a recording of it, but for now you’ll just have to settle for the lyrics:

Billy Joe 3/25/01

Billy Joe’s life was shattered when she was seven years old,
When her mother came home and she was told,
“Your daddy ain’t comin’ back no more,
Last night they found him drunk dead behind the general store.”

And she grew up thinking he was gone,
She never asked why at the break of dawn,
She’d seen him leave with a lady in red,
The morning before they said he was dead.

She’d seen him drunk many nights before,
But had never seen him leave from their front door,
There’d never been a night she hadn’t “fallen”,
When the man she feared came callin’.

Her mother said, “It’s okay honey”,
Told many stories to make life funny,
But he’d come home late at night,
Loaded up drunk and picking a fight.

She always said that she loved him,
She’d never think to even leave him,
Even after all those black eyes,
All the nights Joe could hear her cries.

But one day he was gone,
Packed up and left at the break of dawn,
Found himself a lady in red,
All mother could say is “He’s dead.”

South Alabama’s a lonely place,
All alone at night with her pale face,
Joe lies in bed every night,
To sleep with all the whispers she couldn’t fight.

Her mother had flung herself off a bridge one day,
The sheriff came all he could say,
“Your mother’s died of a broken heart,
Life moves on and has given you a fresh start.”

Billy Joe’s life was shattered when she was seven years old,
When her mother came home and she was told,
“Your daddy ain’t comin’ back no more,
Last night they found him drunk dead behind the general store.”

If you like any of my paintings or pictures feel free to pop over to my Artpal store here.

Quantity and Quality

Have you ever met one of those people who just seem to always churn out perfection? There are people out there who produce not just a quantity of good, but a quality good, every. single. time…

I’m not going to come on here and say that I despise those people. I honestly don’t. Different people are gifted in different ways and it does no good to begrudge them.

If I had to describe my productivity model it would probably be best described as a crap shoot. Sometimes there is quantity. Sometimes there is quality. Occasionally there are both.

When life is slow I might shoot off a few random thought posts about nothing in particular. When life is busy I might post nothing at all. Quantity lacks when there is no time to devote to quality.

I participate in a daily photo contest on my Steemit blog. Each day I have to post from two categories of subject. This is one way to keep yourself on your toes. I have to constantly search my archives for not just quantity (two a day is a lot) but quality as well.

I know people who do writing contests which are similar. I doubt that I could ever keep up! People who can are a truly special lot. More power to them.

As for me, I will just keep playing my craps. Maybe I will post a bunch. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it will be hard hitting and high quality. Maybe it won’t. You’ll just have to keep tuned in to find out.

The Beautiful Life

“Expedition Happiness” Watch on Netflix. Or don’t.

Sometimes when I read blogs or watch documentaries all I can think is “How do these hipsters make it look so easy?”

I don’t know what kind of world these people live in, they are always young, always attractive, frequently childless, and always seem to have an endless stream of money. They seem more like fictional characters than real people. You have to wonder what they do for a living, are they ever stressed? Do they get bored? Do they fight? Where is the ugly in their life?

Sure, sometimes the bus breaks down, the visa gets denied, or the cake in the oven falls. But these people always seem to handle it with a smile. Or at the very least they look gorgeous while crying.

Well, that ain’t my life.

I get sick. Nothing productive happens for days at a stretch. My kids make giant messes, animals get into my trash, my trailer sometimes smells like something died in it.

People thrive on positive. We love comedy and run from tragedy. We live vicariously through these adventurers and beautiful hipsters. We don’t like our conventional lives, so we read about theirs and forget our problems for a bit.

But who’s to say your conventional life is ugly? Who’s to say you aren’t living a beautiful life, even if it isn’t quite the adventure these people seem to have? Life is a gift, even with its warts and wrinkles. Life is beautiful even with the sickness and the smells.

You don’t have to read blogs or watch fru-fru documentaries (both of which I do. Too much.) to enjoy a beautiful life. All you have to do is start enjoying yours.