No Wimps Continued

June 27th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Every Korean American kid growing up had one of these – an Ivy League cousin. Damn you, Ivy League cousin! Mine was not Ivy League, but that’s “splitting hairs”. He finished his undergrad in a little over two years, and went on to MIT for his Masters and Doctorate. Crushed all of this before turning 30. Pssh. The funny thing is I don’t even know this guy. I’ve seen him once, maybe. Oh, but my folks made sure I knew of him … well, of his academic exploits, anyway. What does an eleven year old kid with a average do with that kind of info? What is Massachusetts Institute of Technology? If the idea was to motivate me into the Oak paneled halls of some dusty Ivy League Institution, it didn’t work. What it did accomplish was it told me: “In things that matter most, you don’t measure up kid.”

Not good. So, what now? The answer isn’t to blow up MIT. Or stop handing out grades. Nor do we solve anything by disparaging the accomplishments of Ivy League cousin. I think it’s an adjustment in the “What matters most” category. And as I’ve said before, I think children are often closer to “What matters most” than we adults. Your child may not get into MIT. He may not play in the NBA. She may not be a concert pianist. Not everyone is a doctor or an Olympic athlete. But they can all take a step toward Courage, Humility, Compassion 

He just missed qualifying for Championships by a second. It was the last meet of the season, so the last chance to get a qualifying time. All week, he had worked hard, putting in extra time outside of practice. As he walked briskly away from the timers, shoulders shrugged and head down as boys often do when trying to hold back tears, I saw he had missed it. When I caught him, he told me what I already knew – his face trying without much success to hide the disappointment. If at that moment, being the fastest was the most important thing, I would have been useless to my Son in his time of need. I haven’t always gotten it right, but on that day, I grabbed him by his little shoulders. I told him it was okay to be disappointed. I was disappointed for him. I told him I was sorry. Then I told him how proud I was of him. He had the courage to believe he could do it. And he worked hard and raced hard. “You gave it everything. I saw it. There will be other races. You are great.”

I don’t want to do away with races. It was a precious time for us to remember what matters most. On a stage of competition, in his time of failure, we were given an opportunity to affirm his greatness. Hey, he’s no wimp.


Marriage Mondays

June 26th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Beer Cart Girl

Like Pavlov’s dog, seeing an oversized beer cooler on wheels sputtering toward them gets the foursome of middle-aged men at attention – salivating, the tail involuntarily wagging. And then you see her, behind the wheel – shapely, cute, barely-out-of-her-teens optimism. “Hi, guys!” She bubbles. She can’t be happier to see you. “You guys need anything?” Can it get better? She actually wants to serve you beer! Bless her heart, she’s been scouring the golf course for you, to refresh you ’cause God knows beating up a golf course is hard work. What a nice girl.

When she steps out in her cute little outfit – the tiny shorts, the snug shirt so as you don’t miss any of her youthful perkiness – you say to yourself, “DAAAAAMN.” As she happily digs in to grab you your beers, her enthusiasm says in effect, “Not only do you deserve to be out here away from wife and kids, it’s really hard work breaking 100. Let me get you an ice cold beer.” By this time, you don’t even care that she’s charging you $5 per. In fact, you’re so grateful you’re ready to chip off the biggest tip of your life. As she drives off, she gives you a delicate wave, “See you guys later.”
“Okay.” (For proper effect, insert own doofus mimicry)
Ah… Why can’t my wife be more like the beer cart girl?

Wake up dude! You’re wife can’t be more like beer cart girl ‘cause beer cart girl is not real. She’s a player in a five-minute vignette of a male fantasy. First of all, she was cast in the role. What do you think are the hiring criteria for beer cart girl? Do you think they give ’em a driving test? She knows; she’s dressed the part. Secondly, she meets you on a golf course! Your happy place. When she meets you, she just needs to be happy for five minutes. That’s it. Man, beer cart girl ain’t happy to see you. Look around. You’ve fallen into a distinct demographic: Ugly, middle-aged men who’ve been forced to trade in games requiring running and jumping for a game of walking. And then even the walking became too much and so you’ve opted for motorized assistance. She’s smiling ’cause she knows how easy it is to separate you from your cash. And if the thing isn’t stacked enough, she rolls up in a mobile beer cooler.

Your wife can’t be more like beer cart girl because beer cart girl is not real. Anyone can be bubbly for five minutes. Your wife, she has to live with you – love you for real.



Fantasy Friday

June 22nd, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Running Backs

I like Running Backs.

In my opinion, you ought to use your top five picks to secure a couple of solid ones. Quarterbacks are predictable. We pretty much can name the top five Quarterbacks before the season starts. Relatively speaking, they are not major injury risks. And in a standard 12 team league, there are plenty of serviceable QBs. These reasons tell me to wait on a QB.

Wide Receivers are the exact opposite: They are unpredictable. Every year in fantasy, there is an undrafted WR goin’ off. Couple years ago it was Brandon Lloyd. This past year it was Victor Cruz. Here are some names from the list of last year’s top ten fantasy WR: Jordy Nelson, Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, Steve Smith, and Percy Harvin. The opposite tell me the same thing: Wait on WRs.

Running Backs are less predictable than the QB – due mostly to injury – but more predictable than the WRs. There are fewer serviceable ones than either spots. All this tells me, “Grab a RB early. Two, if you can.”

Here’s my top ten, and a quick thought for each:
1. Arian Foster – Again, I love Arian Foster.
2. Ray Rice – Sturdy, runs and catches, and pro bowl fullback. Better than Flacco.
3. LeSean McCoy – Little too much dancing. Can he repeat 20 TDs?
4. Chris Johnson – C’mon. He couldn’t have forgotten how to run.
5. Maurice Jones Drew – Just keeps on ticking. Blaine Gabbert can’t be worse, right?
6. Ryan Mathews – With Gates aging, Jackson gone, SD gets balanced.
7. Darren McFadden – Chicken legs. Roll the dice; pray for them legs?
8. Marshawn Lynch – Skittles strikes me as a bit volatile. Beastmode or apathy?
9. Adrian Peterson – If he says he’s good, and he is there in the 4th. How can I pass?
10. DeMarco Murray – Dallas will score pts. And everyone saw Murray do what Jones could not.
Honorable Mention: Darren Sproles – Can he do it again?

Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Fred Jackson – Kinda like driving with the gas warning light on. Nervous.

Peterson the only one coming off major injury to make the list. Never loved Charles, Mendenhall, or Forte. Hillis, Redman, and Bush mess with all their value.



No Wimps

June 20th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

I’ve gotten wind of something called the Wimpification of America. Have you heard this? Not sure who coined the term, but sounds like a reaction to the smothering of kids with too much care. Coddling. I guess there are people out there who advocate things like not keeping score in soccer games and not handing out grades in school. Their reasoning being we need to shelter our children from the trauma of loss, of failure. I suppose if you let them, they’d get rid of all forms of measurements. No child would be overweight. None slow. Every kid would be smart. Everyone, musical. Not true. And you don’t have to tell a kid that. They already know.

“Make up your mind, dude! Which is it? Do we tell them they’re great? Or do we tell them the truth?” Fair question. It’s complicated. As parents, I’m suggesting we have to wade through the complexities to be able to tell them both – the truth that they are great.

By All babies are beautiful I’m not saying, “Everyone wins.” What I am saying is that though things like winning, being pretty, or getting an “A” are meaningful, they are not close to as important to the measure of greatness as are other things. Dr. King put it well when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I don’t think he meant that the color of their skin was irrelevant. It was just not as important as the content of their character. Had we ordered those properly, we would have seen that they were every bit as great as any other child. Love, Trust, Humility, Honesty, Mercy. These being foundations upon which we build Courage, Perseverance, Generosity, Kindness.

I find that very young children are closer to this truth than us who’ve grown to forget it. We’ve lived too long in a world in which the most, the best, the strongest is everything. To be able to tell our kids the truth that they are great, we need to adjust more than they. And the littlest ones can help us with that adjustment. In a world that incessantly says otherwise, they can help us order our values aright.

And by trying to rid ourselves of them, aren’t we really saying these measurements are everything? Our kids don’t believe that. Neither should we. Hey, no wimps here.

Marriage Mondays

June 18th, 2012 § 3 Comments

A Vow

It was pouring rain all week. That Saturday morning I awoke to the brightness of that unfiltered sunlight following the rain. My first thought was, “I’m getting married.”

About five hours later, I said, “I do.” It was the only thing I said in that beautiful ceremony. The short answer was to a long question: Do you take this woman as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold … To a serious question: …for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health … until death do you part? “No matter what happens, until one of you dies, you promise?” It was and remains the heaviest question I’ve ever been asked.

In the 70s the “No Fault Divorce” became law in California. By the mid-eighties, it was the law across the country. The “No Fault” law stipulates that the dissolution of marriage does not require a showing of wrong doing by either party. “‘Irreconcilable differences,’ you see.” Essentially, we have legislated an easy way out of marriage. It’s interesting that the language makes no mention of the vow you took.

The way I see it, when I said, “I do” I took a vow. Like I said, it was the heaviest question I’ve been asked, so much so, we gathered all the important people in our lives to bear witness to my answer. The point being: It’s a serious promise, one that will be tried. There will surely come days when reneging will seem like the only way to come up for air. And so the vow was taken, not in secret but out in the open.

More than an institution to step in and out of, I’ve thought marriage in these terms: Marriage, a promise to someone; and divorce, a breaking of that promise. Furthermore, since we have had children, our children have become a part of the promise I made to their mother. When I think in these terms, it helps me to “blow up” divorce as a real option. The “No Fault” law makes it easier to get out. By taking the “Vow” perspective, I have welded and bricked up the door, and caved in the passage to it. “Stop looking around, honey. We’re in it to win it.”

One simple practice for me on this has been to never say the word or anything related to it. Man, it doesn’t even exist.

A Note: One of my five readers suggested this new category. I thought, “Perfect, another thing to which I cannot claim expertise.” Thanks for the suggestion. You know who you are.



All babies are beautiful …

June 15th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Ed – “He’s beautiful.”
HI – “Yeah, he’s awful damn good. I think I got the best one.”
“I bet they were all beautiful. All babies are beautiful.”
“This one’s awful damn good.”
“Don’t you cuss around him.”
“He’s fine, he is. I think it’s Nathan Jr.”

A small sampling from one of many memorable scenes from Raising Arizona. Love Raising Arizona. I’ve probably seen it a dozen times. It still kills me. Granted, it’s not for everyone – definitely strange. You either love it or hate it. If you haven’t, give it a watch. See on which side you fall.

In the scene, Ed (Short for Edweena. Turn to the right!) declares, “All babies are beautiful.” Well, you and I know not all babies are beautiful; I’ve seen my share of less than attractive babies. So, is Ed wrong? Is she being overly exuberant? I wonder. Maybe, Ed here’s got a point. Maybe the beauty she speaks of is a different kind of beauty.

H.I. her parolee husband is confused. He’s fixed on the more traditional beauty. Outward beauty. The kind that goes straight to comparison. “I think I got the best one” or the most beautiful. Measures and judgments are required. “This one’s awful damn good.”

I want to see as Ed sees. Think with me for a minute. Think about very little children. Let’s take for instance how trusting they are. Even though they hardly know you, they’ll give you their hand and expect you to help them. They will without hesitation ask. And tell you without the fear of judgment their weaknesses: “I’m scared”, “I can’t do that.” They will believe what you tell them. Santa? Sure. Tooth Fairy? Yeah, why not? If Dad says so. Isn’t trust a beautiful thing. And consider, these are but a few examples from the one category of trust. What about their honesty? Or how quick they are to forgive? And have you noticed how free they are of judgment? And on, and on.

In my last post I suggested that we as fathers need to search and discover our children’s greatness. We need to do this so that we can call them in truth into who they are. I think the search begins with little children. With them we get a clue as to who they were meant to be. And it is these little ones who inform us where true greatness lies – what real beauty is.

I agree with Ed. All babies are indeed beautiful.

Daily Affirmations

June 11th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Al Franken is a Senator. He is currently serving as a Junior Senator representing the State of Minnesota. It is a crowning achievement – one to which only a select few even dream of aspiring. And who knows what more? A prestigious appointment – a seat in the Senate’s Appropriations Committee? Who knows. But look, regardless of what he does in his legislative career, nothing will touch Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. Nothing.

As far as I’m concerned, this is how Al Franken will be remembered. Should be remembered. And nothing he says will have the breath of recognition as the closing line of every Daily Affirmations sketch on SNL, delivered as he turned to himself in a mirror, in his desperate longing, tenderness: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And dog-gone it, people like me.”

Brilliant. Stuart Smalley pointed a satiric finger at the growing school of baseless, “feel-good” therapy. Every Saturday night, he enacted for all of us the absurdity of building self-esteem by what is tantamount to lying to oneself. No amount of repetition is able to make the truly unbelievable, believable.

As fathers, we play an important role in establishing our children’s identity – their name, their call. Amidst the uncertainty of a forming identity, being Stuart Smalley to your child is useless. As they “sway and buckle in the wind,” to try to post them up with words you yourself do not believe will do more harm than good. They will look into your eyes and know that you are being untrue.

Don’t be like Stuart. We have to be interested enough to make a search, to discover the greatness of our children. As we tell them who they are, they have to be able to look into our eyes and think, “He really believes it.”

Fantasy Friday

June 8th, 2012 § 2 Comments

Theory of Relativity

This time last year, we were all talking “lock out”. As owners and players squabbled over how a nine billion dollar revenue pie was going to be sliced, we fantasy football degenerates sat  at the edge of our seats, wringing our clammy hands. We jumped to our feet each time Shefter or Mortensen appeared on our TV screens.  All summer long they delivered the same news, “Close, but …” Slumping back in our seats, we yelled, “C’mon, get it done! Do these people know they’re messing with our fantasy season? And what? For a few dollars more? Spoiled millionaires.”

Whenever there is a labor dispute in pro sports, the prevailing public sentiment is outrage. The average working person takes one look at the numbers and decries the indecency of millionaires fighting over billions. But, hold on a minute. Isn’t it all relative?

Relatively speaking, the average American wage earner placed on a global salary scale is extremely wealthy – a relative “millionaire”. No one in this country bats an eye when a grocery worker “holds out” for better wages. But go tell a doctor in Sri Lanka that a grocery worker making 45K annually is striking for 5% more. That Sri Lankan after scratching his head at the puzzling reality that an American grocery worker makes double what he as a trained physician in Sri Lanka makes, will decry the greed of demanding more on top of what is deemed from his perspective to be a paltry salary.

It’s relative. And so it’s about perspective – a perspective that does not come easily. To see the world consistently from a place in relation to others is challenging. We generally struggle to empathize. “Not everyone is like me.” So, next time you’re tempted to shake your head at a labor dispute in pro sports, consider this: Who among us average wage earners would leave money on the table – money we believed was due us – out of consideration for the guy in Sri Lanka?



My Superhero

June 6th, 2012 § 2 Comments

Spiderman the Movie is coming out. Oh, wait a minute, no, it’s The Amazing Spiderman that’s coming out. Spiderman, the Movie came out ten years ago? The Amazing one is going to be drafting off the nice box office pace set by The Avengers. The Avengers of course came on the heels of Ironman, Captain America, and Thor. Before all that, there was Batman, the two Hulks and all the X-Men. And hey, don’t forget those cinematic golden nuggets, Daredevil and Elektra brought to you by that cute couple who frequent those Fenway Park infield, box seats. Superheroes are the rage.

I have a little theory on why the Superhero so captures our imagination – especially the imagination of a boy. I wrote in my last post how the soul, the ego knows what lies beneath. It is brutally honest with what it sees. A boy looks inward and sees weakness (more than physical). The world in all its untamed glory looms over him like a giant villain. Fear. Powerlessness. Fear feels bad – powerlessness, loathsome. Just the kind of crap necessary to fertilize the sprouting fantasy: Oh, that I were able to command my universe or at least kick some ass.  Into this fantasy the Superhero swoops in. Powerful. Unafraid. The mythology only strengthened by the Superhero’s vulnerability/weakness or some sort of internal struggle. Huh? What d’you think?

Yeah, I never got the Superhero thing. Wasn’t into comics. Aside from a brief fascination with Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk, Superheroes just never have had much appeal. Comics? Guys running around in tights, masks, capes? C’mon. Kinda dorkie, right? Nerds. Thinking about all this though, it dawned on me: Bruce Lee! My superhero was Bruce! Buff: Check. Super powers – flies around and kicks ass, all while “OoWahing” and cawing: Check. Style: Check. Tight jumpsuit: Yep, check that one too. Damn. Count me in – A Superhero dork.

Naming – A Conclusion

June 4th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

We’ve all heard it said: “The ego is a fragile thing.” True. I think deep inside, we all wonder: Am I good? Worthwhile? Do I measure up? And I think whatever is deep in there – your soul, ego, whatever you want to call it – is incredibly astute. Nothing gets by it. And with what it sees, it is brutally honest. So, though it longs to be full, it will not budge on the emptiness it sees. All of us.

I’m no psychologist. Not a licensed therapist. Just a dad “groping in the dark” to give words to my experience. And my experience confirms the validity of the term, a fragile ego. It is this fragility that makes it important for us as fathers to call our children by a good name.

Here are some things I’ve tried to keep in mind:
• Be very careful with my words. Period. They are very difficult to take back.
• My role is to imprint (part of naming) on them who they are. Calling them and reminding them. My goal is to establish and fortify an identity resistant to the many forces that contribute to its fragility. Important categories to establish are: Value/worth, Character, Innate – Gender and Ethnicity, Beauty (not just physical, and not just feminine), Skill/Gift.
• No negative identifying names: Dumb, ugly, liar, mean, lazy, worthless … and the list goes on.

Here’s an example:
One of our kids went through a period of telling lies. This child we discovered was gifted at it … they, the lies just rolled off the tongue. It was so tempting to call the child a liar. Instead we said, “You are meant to be true. To be honest. You almost always tell the truth. This lying is unlike you. It’s wrong.” Take the time to be careful with your words. Remind them who they are. And do not negatively name them – in this case a liar.

Fathers have the awesome role of naming a child. Give them a good name. And keep on naming them. Call to remembrance who they are until they believe you. When they do, you will have strengthened them to remain true to who they are amidst the torrents of life that will surely come upon them.

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