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How Summer has Changed for Kids – The Good Humor Man

Published when our son was 12

My Childhood – Freedom!

When I was a kid, back in what feels like the Mesozoic era, summer was always an excellent time to relax and be a kid.

I could get up in the morning, hop on my bike and ride to the local playground and spend the entire day there. The mornings would start with a bit of knock hockey. There were lots of options afterward. Playing on the swings was one. There I would go as high as I could only to jump off and roll! This was all a great warm-up for the Foursquare contest that would close out the morning.

After lunch (they’d cook hot dogs at the park served with Kool-Aid for about 25 cents) nearly every day there was a softball game. Loved that! Then, I could climb some trees picking crab apples to snack on before coming home for a cookout with some neighbors. If I were super lucky, the ice cream man would come around. I’d twist mom and dad’s arm to buy me a Fudgesicle. Then, meeting other kids at the ice cream truck, we’d organize an impromptu game of kick the can, hiding all over the neighborhood in people’s yards.

Those were the days, right?

Looking over the plans we have for our 12-year-old this summer, I was struck by just how much difference there is from when I was a kid.

My summer was characterized by:

  • No school
  • Unstructured time
  • Unsupervised time

His summers:

  • Continued focus on school with learning activities
  • Camps, clinics, trips – almost every moment is scheduled
  • Supervision everywhere

The summer day of my youth that I just outlined would be impossible for our son to recreate today.

Why is this the case?

Our child – Fully Scheduled!

First, our son has no time! Almost every day is spoken for! Daily and sometimes hourly commitments are on his calendar all summer long, Why? Because parents insist that their children will develop into nothing less than a superstar!  In our neighborhood, anything other than a packed schedule with a keen eye toward personal development is considered negligence!

Second, knock hockey, four square, and softball is boring and dull compared to other choices he has in his life. Computer games, texting, and snap chat on his iPhone have his, and apparently, all his peers’ full attention.  Those and YouTube videos by internet celebrities trump such silly pastimes as hide and seek and team sports. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Then, there is the danger factor. Hanging around strangers at the playground, eating crab apples, jumping off swings, and hiding in neighbors yards can be dangerous! “Danger, danger!” is a familiar cry in our hypersensitive world where riding a bike somewhere needs parental approval. The bike was the passport to freedom as a kid!

Does all of this point to some problem that needs to be solved? Maybe not. Time marches on, and things change. I get it.

I just miss the ice cream man.

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Dogs are amazing – they just don’t live long enough.

When something arises out of nowhere that takes them down suddenly, it’s somber.

This is especially difficult when they have been beautiful dogs.

I think dogs are here to teach us – how to love, how to be unselfish, how to make tough decisions, and then, yes, when the time comes, how to mourn.

It sounds a bit hyperbolic, but Lucy, our first standard Poodle, gave Annette and me the confidence to have our son Riley. It’s true!

Coco carried Lucy’s torch, and for this past nearly seven years completed our little family.

Coco was always thrilled to see us – whenever we came home – no matter how long we were gone.

I think that’s called unconditional love.

While she did seem to get mad when were gone too long, her intermittent ire only added to her charm.

Tonight and forever, she’s in the big dog park in the sky. I can see her running full speed – impressing the other dogs while making her owners proud.

Teaching us – again – just how precious life is.


Jim Stalker – Granite Bay, CA

Annette, Riley and Jim Stalker
Jim Stalker, Annette Stalker, Riley Stalker

You have arrived at Jim Stalker’s personal website. That’s my wife Annette, our son Riley, and me several years ago.

I’d post a more recent picture, but, only my wife and son look better today – me – I’ll stick with this vintage photo.

This blog features some of my favorite and most personal posts.

I publish on if you want to see more.

And if you are really up for it, my self-indulgent history will give you more Jim Stalker than anyone should ever know.


Gonzaga MA Thesis

I earned an MA in Communication and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University in May 2010. Gonzaga is most famous for their basketball team, the Bulldogs.

It was an incredible experience that fulfilled a long-procrastinated goal to earn an advanced degree.

The degree exposed me to new ideas and sparked my writing.  The program also got me blogging and intimately involved with social media.

I would do it again and recommend the program without reservation.

I wrote my thesis about Facebook and how its mass adoption conforms to Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation S-Curve.

Writing this thesis was one of the hardest things I have done in my life. Not sure what that says about how hard I have challenged myself in my life – but it was difficult.

Despite the fact that the thesis is nothing great, completing it was something that required sustained discipline and focus. For that I am proud.

I suspect no one would want to read it as these are primarily degree earning vehicles and nothing more.

But I did write one, and here it is!

My MA Thesis