A Jump Skip and a Hop

April 20th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

The thing I’ve heard about poverty is that it removes the steps between what is by all appearances a normal existence to a life of utter destitution. In other words, the steps between a poor person and the streets are fewer and in many cases non-existent compared to those of a middle class person. Most of you – maybe all of you reading this would have to have multiple things go off the rail before wandering the streets, not knowing where you were going to lay your head for the night. The chances of you not knowing where your next meal will come are so remote that words like “impossibility” would best describe the unfolding of such a scenario. For the poor, not only is it possible, that world lies just on the other side of the door.

Ever since we’ve had our foster child, we’ve spent six to eight hours a week with his parents. As you might imagine, they are not without their flaws. One thing they cannot be accused of is lacking interest in their son. Despite the many challenges, their determination to try to regain custody of their child is undeniable. In a significant way, we believe he is an anchor that keeps them resistant to the forces that would shove them out the door. It is their love for him that stirs in them a certain, healthy love for themselves, and a love for life itself.

Early in our pondering about foster parenting, a good friend helped us look beyond the child to the plight of parents. She put us in the shoes of parents whose child was removed. And by so doing, stirred in us an empathy for those who deal with the unthinkable: Losing a child.

Like countless others in their situation, our foster child’s parents are a jump, skip and a hop from a destitute existence. Their unlikely savior is the baby they hold in their arms for eight hours a week. And the love they have for him is the thing that keeps them standing on their tenuous foothold on life.

Indignity

April 8th, 2015 § Leave a Comment

It was one of those times. Somehow, I just knew that what I was hearing needed to be stored away for safe keeping.

Two older men, both in their sixties were talking. One was asking … well, really more complaining to the other about a child who had long since stopped listening to him. The child in question was a daughter who had moved away – clear across country. While there, she fell in love with a man. Naturally, the man was not one who met her father’s approval. They got engaged anyway, and were planning their wedding when the subject of an open bar came up. And that was it. On this, he wasn’t budging. It was the proverbial straw buckling the camel’s back.

As the father went on and on, the other older gentleman carefully listened. Finally, he got an invitation: “What do you think?” I don’t remember his exact wording, but in essence what he said was that no matter what it took, as much as it was in his power to do so, a father needed to stay connected with his child. As long as the child didn’t bolt the door shut, he was going to be a part of the child’s life. Then he recounted a trip he took, across country to visit his daughter who likewise had years before left them. She had moved in with a man he didn’t even know. They took a road trip together, just him and her. No demands. No efforts to redirect. Just spent time with her. Let her know, no matter what, he was going to be around. She was always going to be his daughter. She was always going to be loved.

Then he asked, “Do you really want to close the door over an open bar?”

 

There’s a certain indignity in going to a child who’s out there because they decided they weren’t going to listen to you. It’s something to suffer speaking to a child in and about the place that is their rebellion. To pay for an open bar of a wedding you never approved. I think the man’s point was that a father committed to love his child at all costs had little use for dignity.

I’m pretty sure he was right.

 

Fantasy Friday

April 4th, 2015 § 4 Comments

Football.com

For all interested in fantasy football stuff, I started writing a weekly fantasy post on a start-up website. Please head over and give it a read. Gracías.

Here’s the link to last week’s post:

https://www.football.com/en-us/fantasy-kickin-it-with-stephen-gostkowski/

 

Dating

March 10th, 2015 § 2 Comments

I got a problem with dating. Not all sorts. I’m not one of those who use words like “courting”. I don’t think you have to be thinking marriage before asking a girl out for dinner and a movie. So don’t clump me in with that group. But when I see a pimply faced thirteen year old who couldn’t find his own butthole with a map, draped on a twelve year old, drowning her in his slobber as he tries to eat her face, I think, “There’s something terribly wrong going on over there.”

First of all, what exactly is dating? No one knows. Everybody is doing it, but nobody knows what it is. And let’s get this straight: Everyone calls it dating, but it’s not just going on dates. It’s having someone be your girlfriend/boyfriend. Yours … my – it’s about possession. A pseudo commitment. And who decides what all this looks like? The majority. Everyone from that thirteen year old kid to Kanye and Kim – they set the status quo.

The whole thing is bought and sold, totally unexamined. It bothers me. But what bothers me more is the pressure it puts on kids. Like I said, dating is really an illusion of commitment where a real commitment does not exist. It’s making yours that which is not yours. Insecurity is built in. The last thing a teenager needs is help feeling insecure. Grasping for security, they’re left reaching and overreaching for a distinguishing mark. “I guess we better get physical.” Hold hands. Hang on each other. Make out … and then there’s unleashed one of the more irreversible forces in the universe – a teenage boy with a hard on. Your average fifteen year old is not prepared to deal with all the stuff swirling around once the spit gets swapped and the “I’ll love you forever” gets dropped.

I don’t know. Can’t we get some sort of legal age limit going? A thirteen year old can’t just walk up and drive a car. Why should he be able to walk up to a girl and say, “You’re mine”? Can we get a petition or something started? Get it on some sort of ballot? What age? I don’t know … how about … how about like twenty-four?

What?

 

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 feel about all this? 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. A given. 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

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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.