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!

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.


November 3rd, 2014 § 2 Comments

There’s this little Mexican kid keeping us up at night. Over the last month, barely conscious, I’ve stumbled into his room every night to quell the little man’s demands … well, really, it’s just one demand. His 1 AM call. The drink of choice: Enfamil Gentlease. I summon every bit of my badly diminished capacity to mix a bottle in the dark as the kid extends me zero consideration. It’s full “fire drill” until he’s stuffed shut with a nipple. Finally, a breath. And on some nights, even a thought: “What in the world did I get myself into?”

A few years ago, my wife and I decided to look into foster parenting. Long story. The short of it is that we believe in God. Although I’ve purposely tried to keep this blog free of religious language (Maybe I’ll explain why in a future post), just about every thought has been inspired by our faith. This faith has us trusting that more than anything else, God is love. And this love extends beyond what we feel. It certainly encompasses our feelings, but it’s also an act … something of volition. A workable definition of love can be To do something for another’s good.

What in the world did I get myself into? We got ourselves into love. Not the happy intoxication, but the dazed sacrifice. And truth be told, I didn’t get myself into anything. Myself would have strenuously opposed this. God got me into this because he loves this precious little boy. Move mountains for him. He loves the boy’s parents. And he loves us.

This week, a friend asked me, “Do you love him?” In some ways, not anything like my own. In another way, I don’t know if I’ve loved anyone more.


Fantasy Friday

October 3rd, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Do Something 

Four weeks is enough of a sample size to know who you are. You know; you’re either a contender or a pretender. If you’re a contender, remember this one thing: Don’t mess it up. The reason you’re a contender is you got lucky…uh..hum…I mean, you drafted well. Now just resist the temptation to get all up in there with your analytical tools, with all the expert advice and that feeling in your gut. That feeling? Ignore that. Remember: Your gut is a turd factory, not a crystal ball. The only thing your gut is sure of is what you ate yesterday. If you’re fortunate enough to be sitting on DeMarco Murray and Andrew Luck, give yourself an undeserved pat on the back and enjoy the season. Sure, keep a eye on the wire. Pay attention to upcoming Byes. Fill in a hole here; make an adjustment there. Just don’t go worrying about DeMarco’s ankles until you work yourself into a panicked fit and go trading him for Alfred Morris and Stephen Gostkowski.

If you’re a pretender, you gotta do something. Something. Whatever. It doesn’t even have to work. Most likely, it won’t work. But you gotta do it. First of all, everyone else in your league is depending on you to not roll over. If you’ve played for these first four weeks to a 1-3 record, seeing Megatron on the injury report might feel like the last straw. But if you roll over and die, those four teams who played you at full strength got jipped. The one other win in week twelve can change the whole playoffs, maybe determine the champion. If not for yourself, do something for the sake of the league.

Secondly, doing something fills you with hope. A reset. A do over. Try it. Go drop Maurice Jones Drew. Pause to do some sort of cleansing ritual to get the Raiders funk off your team. I don’t know … call a priest, throw some water on it or something. And then go pick up Ryan Mathews who was dropped in your league because of his MCL sprain. Trust me, you’re going to feel a hundred times better about your sorry team. Or go ahead and make that trade. Offer DeAndre Hopkins and Montee Ball for Eddie Lacy. A few new faces in your line-up will do wonders for your outlook on the rest of the season.

At 2-2, I’m thinking of trading the back with the most potential on my team for a solid QB. The way my team has gone, I’m thinking for the first time of trying to win this thing with QB and WRs.


Ray Rice

September 11th, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Monday, TMZ released the “in elevator” video clip of Ray Rice knocking out his then fiance, Janay Palmer. Hard to watch is putting it mildly. I’ll spare repeating what has been said and said again. All descriptors warranted … and then some.

What we saw on that video demands thorough, unqualified condemnation. It’s exactly what it got, but it didn’t end there. The vitriol has now spilled over into that most dangerous of mob moods – self-righteous indignation. Did I hear this right? Robert Mueller, the former director of the FBI is to lead an independent investigation of the handling of this abuse case. Former director of the FBI! This being about Ray and Janay Rice is long over. They’ve unwittingly been swept onto the poster as the new faces of domestic violence. And everyone is stepping up to scrawl their take.

Aside from the very real possibility that this thing was mishandled from the word Go, what I’m finding difficult to stomach is everyone coming out, dressed in white to wag the finger. I found particularly rich Ray Lewis and Robert Kraft’s pronouncement of judgment.

Lewis pushed forward amongst other current and former NFLers to hurl this bit, “There’s no comparison … there’s no comparison between me and Ray Rice. It’s night and day.” Yeah, you’re right Ray Ray. You were implicated in a double homicide. In exchange for rolling on your homies, you got to plead down to a misdemeanor obstruction charge. Night and day, Ray Ray. That ESPN analyst gig must be heightening your powers of analysis. You nailed it; double murder is not domestic violence.

And then there was Robert Kraft sitting smugly on the set of a nationally syndicated morning show. When asked if he believed Rice would ever play another game, responded that he thought Rice was done. Then went on to say that his Pats would not pick up Rice if he were ever reinstated. That’s rich Bob. You who presided over an organization that housed a dude currently awaiting two separate court dates on three murders is too good for Ray Rice. That was you, right? Yeah, that was you at the helm of the biggest criminal scandal to rock the NFL since OJ. With Hernandez yet to even be tried, how do you get in front of a mic, Bob?

Does Ray Rice left hooking his wife deserve condemnation? Certainly. A man hitting a woman is as wrong and as ugly as it gets. Should there have been heavier punishment levied? Yes. Jail time? Possibly. A year suspension? Hard to argue against it. But don’t we have to take into account Rice’s remorse? It seems genuine to me. Judging by his now wife’s response, they were working hard toward healing. If it’s a reasonable possibility, don’t we have to pull for rehabilitation, hope for restoration?

Judging by the faces and words of his current teammates and his head coach, I’d say that’s what they were hoping for. I guess in a world of TMZ and Ray Lewis, it’s a bit too much to ask.


Long Road Part 2

August 27th, 2014 § 4 Comments

We’ve all seen this. And mostly, I’m guessing it’s fairly innocuous – especially, if it’s inconsistent with the rest of a given child’s experience. It does however illustrate how caring, thoughtful parents can for the sake of expediency turn to “techniques” that harness negative motivations.

A mother who’s obviously had a long day makes her last stop to pick up a prescription at one of those mega drug stores. On display next to the pharmacy is a rack of stuffed animals. While waiting for the prescription to be filled, her three-year old daughter rummages through the stuffed animals and settles on a pink pig. The mother happily allows for the distraction thinking, “Ah … a moment to myself …”

After a short wait, the prescription is filled. Already concerned about the groceries warming in the car, she tells her daughter to get moving. The call to move is ignored. In those five minutes, an unbreakable bond has formed between the girl and the pig. She’s not leaving without the pig. The girl is told in no uncertain terms to drop the pig and follow. Once again, the mother is ignored. Instead of compliance, she gets,
Mom, can I have this?
No. Honey, we need to go. The ice cream is melting in the car.
But mom, I want it.

Having neither the time nor the energy to reason with a three year old, the mother rips the pig from her daughter’s hand, grabs her by the arm and begins to proceed to the door. The little girl goes limp – the dreaded “dead weight” move.

Exasperated, the mother turns to the threat of abandonment. “Okay, I’m going. Bye.” She turns and begins to walk away. Of course she’ll glance back, but she knows she has to sell the abandonment to get the result. Before she’s out of sight, her daughter will cave. Has to. There’s too much a stake. “Hell with the pink pig, I need my mommy.”

For a child, abandonment is on a short list of the scariest possible things. The terror of it will garner immediate results, but at what price? Like I said, good chance this one is mostly innocuous. Mostly … I think. Couldn’t be sure, so we decided early on that we’re never going to do it. The commitment we made stems from our belief that the source matters. The thing to which their actions can be traced lies in that mysterious place where self and life are realized. Yeah, I think it’s worth it … think we’ll be taking the long road.

Long Road

August 19th, 2014 § 4 Comments

Back in the old country, corporal punishment was permitted in schools. Teachers doled out the pain in various ways but the preferred technique was the ruler across the hands. I’m not talking a flimsy, 12 inch ruler; I’m talking the big, honkin’ yard stick variety. Or am I remembering through my seven year old, terror filled eyes? Whatever. Either way it hurt. I can still hear that thing woosh as the little lady wrapped it into my palms. The thing to do was boldly open your palms up so that ruler caught all flesh. Of course, I was never very bold. My timid, flinching hands would cup to take most of the force on the thumbs. If you were one of those repeat offenders, you’d get the ruler to the back of the hands – right over your fingers and knuckles. I never got that; the palms were enough to straighten me out.

Most of my classroom experience in Korea lies disintegrated in the recesses of my mind, but one event remains pristinely preserved. I was late to class … about five minutes. When I walked in, my teacher, a woman I can’t even remember called me to the front. I got that “Oh no” hollow feeling in my gut that seems to sap the strength from your extremities. I’m pretty sure the most intense version of this is where we get the term “shittin’ in your pants.” When I got up to her, she slapped me. Really, it was more an open hand swat over the entire side of my face. I remember stumbling to retain my balance. The shock of it got me so disoriented, it was all I could do to keep from peeing in my pants. She said something about not ever being late again. I turned to walk to my seat; the classroom blurred. I kept my head down to hide the tears flowing down my cheeks.

I’m pretty sure I was never late again.

As fathers, we must figure out a way to motivate our children. We need to teach them to obey. Instill values. Build character. Most of this is at least initially an uphill proposition. Kids don’t naturally mature. This part of fatherhood takes focused, patient persistence. In the midst of it, you’ll be tempted to use “devices” – things that you know intuitively will get you an immediate response. In the end, these will be their undoing. If behavior modification is all you’re after, shaming your kid will work. Threats of abandonment will get them up and moving. Asking why they can’t be like so and so will get them so angry that they may actually do the work to prove you wrong.

In the immediate, yeah, you’ll get what you want. But at what cost? Take the long road. Love them. Tell them of all the good you see. Take the time to properly discipline without cruelty or shame. Push them to live up to who they are meant to be. Take the long road. Light that thing in them that will burn pure … pure and clean.