Reality Sucks

February 28th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

As a parent of teenagers, I get this sentiment a lot. “They’re mostly good kids. And with these things, you have to be realistic.” Be realistic. The trouble with reality is that far too often it sucks. I have no intention of being realistic.

That’s not to say I am unsympathetic to the harsh realities of being a teenager. It can’t be easy being judged by a jury of your peers when your peers happen to possess the devastating combination of being the most judgmental of people while being of the least sound judgment. Walking that five-year gauntlet would be rough without having to do it while everything about you is changing. Mind, body, and heart are shuffled about. Hormonal effects are real. Girls become women and boys become men – the body first, while the mind usually lags. And how do they? Who knows? So, yes, we can all agree that teenage life is not all roses and cupcakes.

All the more reason not to be realistic, no? Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about style or availability. They’re going to dress funny. I get that. They’re not going to want to hang with Dad. Fine. Nor are we talking about a dumb decision here and there. Of course that’s happening. What I’m talking about is accepting as a part of their nature things like being self-absorbed, like they can’t be bothered to be considerate, respectful. I’m talking about their acute vulnerability to be people pleasing, to go with the crowd. Treating them as if they are incapable of courage, sacrifice, self-control.

“They’re mostly good kids. With these things, you have to be realistic.” Have you seen reality lately? It sucks. “Realistic” is not where I intend to lead my teenage kids.

 

 

 

 

Kiss

February 12th, 2015 § 5 Comments

If ever you’ve wondered whether or not you could love a child, not your own, don’t. The answer is you can. Definitely. Our foster child has been with us since October. We’re at about the four month mark. And I can tell you without a doubt, I love this boy. Initially, the fact that he was someone else’s kid was the backdrop of all our interactions. I was a caretaker in a “place holder” kind of way. I understood this. No, I more than understood it, I relished it. In doing so, initially, I kept a certain distance between us. That’s all changed now.

The shift can be measured in any number of ways, but one clear metric is the number of times I kiss him. The first month, I don’t think I kissed him once. The thought was, “I wouldn’t want some dude kissing my kid.” This baby has a father and he, not I, ought to be kissing him. Right. This knowledge kept me guarded in my interactions with him. Remember his place; remember my place. That’s all done now. I’m kissing him all the time. When I get him from the crib – kiss. When I put him down – kiss. Holding, bobbing – kiss. Walking – kiss. Kiss here. Kiss there. Can’t help myself. And I’m Korean. I’m genetically predisposed to disdain public displays of affection. But this kid, he’s turned me into a gay French dude at fashion week in Milan. Kiss. Kiss. More kiss. I haven’t kissed so much since … well, since my own kids were babies.

So, yes, definitely, you can love a child, not your own. As I write this, I realize I need to amend this declaration with this caveat: Yes, you can love a child, not your own, provided you love the child well. My calculated interactions turned to uninhibited embraces through the hard work of 2 AM feedings, diaper changes, soothing inconsolable cries, through sacrifices. By labor, I grew to love. By doing, I began to feel. Love as a whole is not what we’d like it to be – an effortless response to a bottomless reservoir of passion. It’s not so simple, not so one-dimensional, not so linear.

And maybe we ought to esteem this sort of love – the kind that begins with our hands, and runs through our heart, and ends with a kiss.

 

 

Fantasy Friday – Super Bowl Edition

January 31st, 2015 § 2 Comments

Super Bowl XLIX

The Super Bowl is one of those over hyped events you can see from space. The frenzy around it rages like a forest fire with enough hot air to create it’s own microclimate. And so naturally, the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl is a frenzy of busy nonsense. The world has descended upon Scottsdale to promote products, themselves, themselves using products. Nothing much of worth happens. We wait and listen to analysis, injury updates and predictions. Same old interviews – another year, a new set of players, same old stuff. Then some more analysis. More predictions. Please! Play the game already!

Not this year. This year, we got Marshawn Lynch and his obstinate media hatin’. I love it. He’s … “All about that action boss.” The dude doesn’t like to talk. Is anyone surprised? C’mon, this isn’t a real story. We’ve all known Marshawn’s a little nuts. And I don’t think it’s an act. Just look at his official NFL headshot.

I’m all ’bout that action boss

A picture says a thousand words.

Here’s a question: Why is it that when Belichick is aloof and condescending, he’s a genius, but when Marshawn says he doesn’t want to talk, he’s a miscreant?

Not only did we get BeastMode on media day, last week we got Deflategate 2015. Again … loved it. Not that I care whether or not the Pats footballs were doctored up to Tommy’s optimal psi. Did they cheat? Technically … maybe. Did it matter? No. Does it matter that it didn’t matter? Who knows. My love for “Deflategate” had nothing to do with all that. I loved it because I could hear the collective chuckle as the junior high boy in all of us was brought out by the unavoidable talk of balls. Balls in hand. Balls being rubbed down. How Tom likes his balls. “I’m not an expert in balls.” Balls deflating in the cold. My balls. Your balls. Hehehe… It was fantastic.

Okay, sorry. Onto the game. I’ve got to wonder, when these two teams look across that field Sunday afternoon, will they feel like they’re looking into a mirror. Solid in the trenches. Exceptional secondaries. Unsung heroes out wide. Monsters in the backfield. And late round QBs without a pulse. Both teams will be ready. Both will be physical. Probably why the betting line has hardly moved off center.

So, who wins? After calling Denver last year, I’m undaunted. I’m prepared once again to show you five readers how little I know about football. This year, I’m taking Seattle. I don’t care that my gut says New England is going to win – that Seattle will struggle to cover the short, quick pass. I don’t care that money is coming in heavy for New England. I’m just not going to make the same mistake twice.
Seattle 24 New England 20.

 

Fantasy Football Wrap Up 2014/15

January 20th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

Ryan Tannehill for President

201311061809653941276-p5
I won the championship in the fourteen team league. That makes it back to back, and five out of the seven seasons.
Aw..shux … you don’t have to go and say that. Really? You really think so? Aw…Go on.
Okay, joking aside: Yes, a ridiculous run. But if you’ve been reading my fantasy football posts, you know what I think of fantasy football. Anything involving grown men and fantasy is … well, goofy at best. If anything, it proves I’m dorkier than the next guy. And as I’ve always insisted, luckier.

Now, about this luck thing. I have to admit, it’s hard to call five out of seven pure luck. Could there be something here? Some pattern or some secret to fantasy football supremacy? I think we ought to take a look. How about I lay the back to back, league champion rosters side by side to see if something catches our eye?

2013 Championship Roster
QB  Ryan Tannehill
RB  LeSean McCoy
RB  Zac Stacy
Flex  Maurice Jones Drew
WR  DeSean Jackson
WR  Larry Fitzgerald
TE  Greg Olsen
D/ST  Cardinals
K  Greg Zuerlein

2014 Championship Roster
QB  Ryan Tannehill
RB  Mark Ingram
RB  Jonathan Stewart
Flex  Kenny Stills
WR  Antonio Brown
WR  Mike Wallace
TE Jimmy Graham
D/ST  Ravens
K  Stephen Gostkowski

You see that don’t you? So obvious now. How did I not see this before? Ryan Tannehill. It’s Ryan Tannehill! Ryan Tannehill is the key to fantasy football domination. Next year, take Tannehill in the first round. But hey, shhhh… Let’s just keep this little nugget between us.

 

Falling Asleep

January 12th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

I’m pretty sure I fell asleep standing up. In my forty-five years of life, it was a first. I was holding our foster child in one of those front packs, gently bobbing to keep him asleep. It was early evening. A college basketball game of no consequence was on ESPN2. Bobbing. Watching. “Who’s even playing? I care less and less about basketball.” Bobbing. Patting. More watching.

And suddenly, I was falling forward. That internal equilibrium thing got triggered and fired a signal to my legs. A couple frantic, instinctive steps kept me from face planting atop our coffee table. More importantly, it kept me from inadvertently body slamming our five month old foster baby. Thank God for that equilibrium thing.

When I came to my senses, I realized I had done one of those violent, dozing head jerks except I did it with my whole body. I can use some more sleep.

Foster parenting has cost us a few things. Time is scarce. Meals are interrupted. Plans are adjusted. Of the different tolls the little man has levied, sleep has been the big one. I am learning anew the value of a good night’s sleep.

The other day, I was thinking of our tendency to believe that there will be a payoff. I want to tell myself, “It will all be worth it in the end.” I dream this kid will be a good man someday. And that maybe he’ll be the trigger that re-writes his family story. Change the trajectory of his generational line. Of course, I’ll learn something invaluable. This whole thing will do something in our family, in the hearts of our kids that cannot be done any other way. It’ll all be worth it. The payoff is far greater than the cost.

I don’t know. Maybe none of this happens. Will I then look back and think, “What was that all about? What a waste.” Is sacrifice only worthwhile if as a result something more is gained? I thought I’m dying either way. All my trying, I cannot keep. My life will be spent. Maybe the payoff is in having a say in where it will be spent. Maybe the payoff is in the dying for something … someone other than myself. Maybe the payoff is at the end of this life the falling asleep will come without the violent jerk.

The Comb Over

December 18th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Some things I’ll never understand: techno music, men and plastic surgery and the comb over. The comb over. Why? Has anyone ever seen a comb over and thought, “That’s a good idea”?

C'mon man. Not a good idea.

C’mon man. Not a good idea.

Last night, at my daughter’s orthodontist office, I saw one of the greatest comb overs of all time.

I know. I’m not saying that lightly … of all time. And trust me, I’ve had my run ins with the comb over. An image I can’t get out of my head is of one of my Dad’s best friends, a summer afternoon and ping pong. He was short and stocky, tidy and proper with a classic, well matured comb over. There was a heated ping pong match. The shirts came off and the sweat flowed. With the lunging forehand, the comb over slid off his wet, slickened dome and hung shoulder length to one side of his head. Instantly, this man who’d been up to that point the picture of restraint and propriety transformed into a crazy dwarf who works in underground dungeons. It left an impression.

But what I saw last night … I was standing in the waiting room, holding our foster child who’d had enough of waiting, when walked in an older Chinese gentleman – trust me, us Asians can tell. Taking notice of the unhappy child in my arms, he walked over with a kind smile in what I could only assume was an effort to cheer the kid up. The man, already of diminutive stature, bent slightly to get eye level with the kid. By so doing, he basically shoved his comb over in my face. I was frozen.
Turn away man!
I CAAAAAN’T!

It wasn’t your standard “Bring it over and lay the wet strands across” comb overs. No. This comb over borrowed from every side of his head. A little from the east, a bit from the west. Pull some forward from the back. The fine mesh gathered was spun, patted and held in place like a thin swath of jet black cotton candy laid over shiny flesh. I’ll never forget it.

I suppose the only explanation for it is that of evolution. No one goes bald overnight. The thining and retreating happens gradually. I suppose one can be forgiven for combing a bit over to cover a thining patch. After a decade of “little here, a little there” and you have it – the comb over. Hey, you didn’t plan to end up here. It just happened. So, in a way, your loved ones are as much to blame as you are. Has no one to told you, “Enough’s enough”?

Well, enough’s enough. You’re not fooling anyone. Combing over is not a good idea.

Pete’s Dragon Part 2

December 8th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

If Star Wars was what made an otherwise happy outing into something despised – I still can’t stand that damn dragon – what does this enduring memory from my childhood tell me about myself? What does it tell me about the difficulty of maintaining a thankful disposition? What does it say about discontentment and the anger that so often accompanies it?

The only reason Star Wars came to bear on that afternoon was because I believed I was getting it instead of Pete’s Dragon. Falsely, but believed whole heartedly nonetheless. If I don’t see that poster on the way in, Pete’s Dragon might be one of my all time favorite movies … ahhh, maybe not, but you get the point. When I expected one thing and got another, I was pissed. This was an isolated incident, so how does it translate to an overall state of ungratefulness? Do I live with a general belief that I deserve something more? My life is Pete’s Dragon when it should be Star Wars. There’s a word for this. Entitled. It’s an ugly word. It’s what gets some turning to an absurd line when special demands are denied: “Do you know who I am?” Yeah yeah, I know who you are. Now, get your ass back in line like everyone else.

And so what is at the root of Do you know who I am guy? The question itself is revealing. Isn’t it what we believe about ourselves? More specifically, our belief in the self-aggrandized version of ourselves. An inflated sense self-importance? Somehow, we’ve gottin’ it in your heads that we are more important than others standing in line. And as deplorable as that sounds, isn’t this more or less the default setting for all of us?

I got news for you self, and it’s not really news: You’re not that important. One day, sooner than you think, you will be no more. And when that day comes, if you’ve lived well, a few will cry for you. And just as their tears dry, so will the memory of you evaporate. And if you understand this, you’ll know this isn’t sad. It’s not tragic. You’ll let go of self-importance. Cease from asking, “Do you know who I am?” You’ll not need a lifeless statue erected in your name to realize that you are far more valuable than you’ve ever dared to believe. Nor will you need the idiocy of a discolored, bronze image, staring blankly into nothing, a glorified perch for birds to be comforted by the reality that you’re far less important than your fragility has demanded. And maybe, forgetting that you deserve anything, forgetting that you’re entitled to more than they, you’ll sit back and be thankful for Pete’s Dragon.

And c’mon really, how much better is Star Wars than Pete’s Dragon?

 

Pete’s Dragon

December 3rd, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Pete’s Dragon was one of the great disappointments of my life. The partial animation, musical of a jolly dragon frolicking with a couple of kids. Really. I’m not making that up. It’s what I remember, at least. Look, it was a long time ago. And at the time, I could barely speak a word of English, let alone follow a full length film. And even if I could, I was too bent to make an effort.

I’m pretty sure it was a field trip. I don’t remember anything leading up to it. I don’t remember looking forward to it. The bus ride. Nothing. The first thing I remember of that day was seeing the Star Wars movie poster outside the theatre. My brother was with me, and I remember turning to him, wide eyed, “StaaAAH WaahhSSEH!” We were straight outta Seoul, but we weren’t living under a rock. In 1977, there wasn’t anything bigger than Star Wars. And as far as I knew, we were walking into a theatre to watch it. I wanted to run around in circles, jumping and screaming.

Barely able to contain myself, I took a seat in the theatre. The lights finally dimmed. “StaaAAH WaahhSSEH.” Into this space of unparalleled anticipation entered a fat, green, stupid dragon. “Huh? Okay, this must be … wait. What? No. No. No. No!” In the first thirty minutes of Pete’s Dragon, I went through my own stages of grief: Shock. Question. Denial. Anger. Resignation.

Pete’s Dragon was one of the great disappointments of my life. But it shouldn’t have been. I was at the movies! First time ever. And not on any day, but on a school day. Any movie is better than a day at school. There were plenty for which to be thankful, and yet it was one of my greatest disappointments. Why? Star Wars, that’s why. When I thought I was getting something better, the good I got was worse than nothing.

After a weekend of pondering the act of giving thanks, I wonder if the ease of it eludes me because I still think I should be getting Star Wars instead of Pete’s Dragon.

 

Fantasy Friday

November 21st, 2014 § 2 Comments

Playoff Dance

You know the saying, “You gotta dance with the one that brought you.” Walking into a dance scanning the floor for better options is not cool. Tempting? Yeah, sure. Maybe tempting … Okay, maybe definitely tempting. There’s bound to be someone there who looks better. So, can you be blamed if you walk in with Mark Ingram and you take a peak at Jonas Gray and his four TDs? Or while you’re slow dancing with Ryan Mathews, you’re hit with a tinge of longing as you see Latavius Murray – all 6’3″ 225 of him blow by with his 4.3 gallop? Hey, it happens. The saying wouldn’t be a saying if it didn’t.

But remember, anyone can look great walking by. In the right light, putting on their five minute best, even a wide receiver in the Rams offense can turn heads. Do not give in. The dance is not the place to look around. You had thirteen weeks leading up to it for all that. You made your choices. Dance with who brought you. Giovani Bernard might not look like much these days, but if you ditch Giovani for Jonas in week 15, you’d better have a real good reason.

All this isn’t to say you cease from all team improvement over the next month. You’re weak at WR? Sure, go ahead and pick up the aforementioned Kenny Britt. Grab Latavius if for some reason he drops to you on the waiver. Just saying the dance isn’t the place for chasing points. It’s a single elimination tournament. Dumb luck has more to do with it than your line up decisions. It’s not the time to experiment.

Fix your eyes on the ones who brought you, and with some luck … who knows? You might not go in with the best looking line-up, but you may just walk out the champ.

True Religion

November 11th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Faith, if it’s real, permeates the whole of life. In fact, I’d argue that this all encompassing quality is one way to verify its authenticity. Real faith will appear in every aspect of a person’s life. There will be no “separation of church and state” nor any other separation for that matter. I realize this sounds unsettling, if not unAmerican. This is where it might be helpful to make a distinction: Although real faith cannot be separated, religion can and often does exist separated.

My take is, when drafted, the authors of the 1st Amendment weren’t worried about individual citizens living out their faith. Having fled the hostile environment created when unchallenged religious leaders get in bed with national rulers, they made it first priority to keep these traditional powers at opposite ends of the building. Separate religion from affairs of state? Where do I sign?

So, what was my point? Right. Faith … real faith, affects the whole of life. When I came to believe in a loving God, he slowly began to have a meaningful, tangible affect on my life. The more I trusted him, the more this faith stepped outside of designated places and times. The practice of my religion spilled outside of church and on the days between my Sundays. And it increasingly took the form of love. Love God and love your neighbor – things I could do anywhere and at anytime.

There’s this passage in the Bible that reads, “The religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction …” Have compassion for those in need – small or great. It’s what makes Christ, a person over whom there is great dispute, so universally respected. The religion of Jesus Christ is the religion of unconditional love.

Goes without saying I’m no where near laying hold of it, but I press on. I’m a believer.

This is it. It’s the reason why I’ve gone out of my way to keep this blog free of religious language. If real faith permeates all of life, then words spoken in ordinary life can express my faith. These posts have been about love, hope and faith. They’ve spoken of sacrifice, generosity, compassion. These are the pillars of what I believe to be the true religion.