Monday, March 19, 2007

Parental Guilt

This morning on my drive into the office I was listening to Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson for a few minutes before I switched over to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio. Dr. Dobson had a guest on that was apparently doing the talk show circuit, what there is of one in the Christian talk show world, hyping her book about parenting and guilt. The basic premise of their conversation, and I have no argument with this, was that moms generally feel more guilt than dads about raising their kids. Further more, that moms can harbor this guilt their entire lives. She mentioned research that she had done, and by research she means collecting surveys from women who had attended conferences she had been to, that had moms as old as 87 who still struggled with feelings over things they felt they had done wrong when their child was young.

I made me wonder for a moment how my own mom might be feeling. Those of you who have moms, and you know who you are, know that they come in all varieties. Some moms are the typical June Cleaver mom and some are the Mommie Dearest mom and every where in between. Still, even with the Mommie Dearest mom, and I don't remember anything about the movie except the coat hangers, I suspect that guilt plays a big part in their psychological makeup whenever they ponder their children. For a tough old bird like my mom, who I am very much like, she would fight tooth and nail to not have to own up to any failings, or any fault, on her part as to how my siblings and I may have been affected by our childhood. I don't think it's a matter of denial, rather it's a stance of 'why must we talk about this?'. For me, trying to empathise with her, albeit from the distance forced on me by my maleness, I would think her approach is: 'I know what I did, you know what I did, I can't do anything about it now, this is who I am, I love you, let's move on'.

Now, I realize I could be very wrong on that point, but for the sake of discussion, and for the millions of readers out there who CAN empathise with those feelings, I feel I must say something. There is something you can do. It's never too late to grow as a person and to heal relationships. I don't care how old or young you are, saying you're sorry, and meaning it, is magic. It's good for you, and, usually, good for them. Our pastor told a wonderful story this weekend about a fight he and his wife had over the phone a year ago, and how he gave up his desire to win the argument and chose to do the thing that was best for his wife. It was as simple as 'I'm sorry, I love you'. Granted, years later, and it might be 50 something years later for the 87 year-old mom, it might take a longer conversation to hash out what the problem is. Your child may not even remember the hurt, but the essence of the matter is forgiveness and trust. Once you have identified your fault to those you feel you have wronged you give them permission to hold you accountable in the future. It's like taking a wall down that has to be scaled every time you want to get close to someone.

I'm all for saying I'm sorry. I wish I did it more often. I pray I have fewer and fewer occasions to have to say it as I grow older. But I also pray for the wisdom and humility to continue saying it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Yearly Checkup

Today was the day for my yearly checkup. I was mildly in fear of going, but not really. It's really more like an inconvenience. When you get to be my age, which is still fairly young by most standards, things start breaking down on your body. I won't terrify you with an exhaustive list here, but let's just say that I feel like I'm always having to learn a new way to live. Now, I don't mean 'live' as in 'live and die'. I'm referring to more of a 'you gotta LIVE life to the fullest!' live. Things like the missing cartilage in my right knee. Fun stuff like ultimate frisbee used to be a no-brainer for me as for whether or not I was going to participate. Now I must consider whether or not I'm willing to put up with the aching in my knee for four days after, and whether or not it's worth taking 800mg of ibuprofen four times a day during that time. You see, not only does the ibuprofen wreak havoc on your stomach lining after prolonged use, but it is also linked to elevated blood pressure and kidney disease. Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's a lot to consider when all you're wanting to do is go out and throw the frisbee with some friends.

It might seem like complaining, and I'm sure I can't deny it, but the whole knee thing was just a freak accident that didn't have to happen. I was already 30 something when it happened so it wasn't like I was some world class athlete whose super developed musculature and God-given speed brought about the inevitable. I was just a wild mannered (it sounds like mild mannered, which is a comfortable phrase that should help the reader feel more akin to my plight, but the truth is I was anything but mild in those days) athletic engineering type person, who really loved to compete in all different kind of sports.

This particular day was pick-up basketball in our church's new gym, with carpet on the floor and the basketball lines, key and all, right in the carpet. I continually ended up on a team opposite some other tallish kind of guy, and since I was the second tallish (I did it again, it sounds like tallest but it's not) guy out there that day, so I was always guarding this guy and having him guard me. Problem is this guy was extremely serious about his basketball, and I must admit I was just as serious about not ever losing, ever. Well this guy was making me work way too hard all day long, and I really felt I had to pace myself in order to continue to play, because we usually would play till we dropped. However, we were losing, and, as I said before, I didn't like losing, ever, so I decided that I would just take matters into my own hands, and put on a 10 minute or so burst of energy, which I figured would be just enough to get my team the win.

And about that word 'team'. Why do I care so much about these guys. 20 minutes ago half of them were trying hard to make me the loser. I mean, gee-whiz, who is even going to remember anything about this day in 5 years? Probably not even five days! That's the problem with boys. It's always about being the winner. Being the man! No matter what the cost. Deep down we know that guys are always going to remember that so-and-so was always the guy who was on the winning team in basketball, and so-and-so always hit monster home runs in softball, and so-and-so could make red kool-aid come out his nose at YMCA summer camp. That's important stuff.

But nobody remembers. Not that stuff. If they do remember anything it's not because you were such a great this or that, but that they liked you, and you were nice, and hopefully not that you were mean. Maybe they'll remember that when you played the guitar you really seemed to love doing it, or that you never gossiped about anyone, ever. Maybe they'll remember that you were always the shy one, but you kept showing up to youth group every week even though you hardly ever said a word. Maybe they'll remember that time you went on a hiking trip up in Colorado, even though you had a club foot, and it hurt like hell after a few miles, but you kept on going and hardly complained at all. Maybe it was your sense of humor, your generous spirit, your beautiful smile which always seemed to be turned on. You get the point.

Back to the game...because of my limited actual talent for basketball, my solution was to make up for it in hustle. Even though I shot 25%, I tried to make it like 50% by getting as many rebounds as I could and shooting again. This day, however, it was the wrong move. 6'-3", 180 lbs. moving swiftly in one direction, trying to stop on a dime as I reach the ball that was trying to find safe haven out of bounds. Body keeps going, all except that part of the body that was below the right knee. Somehow the grip of the carpet on that tennis shoe was more than strong enough to overcome the, up-until-now, stranglehold my anterior cruciate ligament had on the upper and lower bones of my right leg. Two surgeries, 15 or so years of relative inactivity and lots of excellent Mexican food have added 60 pounds to my once svelte frame. Again I'm not complaining. But really I am. I wish I hadn't been so stinking competitive back then, but how was I to know.

If it hadn't been the gym carpet, or my silly competitive streak, it probably would have been something else before long. The fact is, our bodies don't stay teenagers for ever.

But I still wonder all the time how I could be so young and have a kid in college.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Anaesthetised by Idol

Yeah, Yeah...Yesterday I'm bashing the complacent American for watching Idol on Tivo and today I'm going to admit that I watch Idol on Tivo. It's not duplicitous. I've only been blogging for three days. I'm waking up and saying my piece. My anesthesia is wearing off and it's mostly due to a kid named Sanjaya Malakar. No flu-like symptoms left. I'm hopping mad. I knew who was going to be voted off and I did my part to try and save him for at least another week, but not enough of us took the 30 seconds required to vote 6 times for Brandon. Granted, Brandon doesn't belong on the show either, but it's just not right that someone like Sanjaya even made it to the final 12. Sundance was just starting to get in his groove, and I know there were three or four more out there that the three headed monster didn't even let get past Hollywood.

Why all the fuss you say? Well, I don't rightly know. I DO know that this proves, even further, that I'm just not in touch with the average American, and frightening as it may sound, I'm much more in touch with Paula than Randy. They've (by 'they' I mean 'The Man', 'Suits', etc.) axed my favorite shows in the past two years without giving them a chance ('Love Monkey' and 'Studio 60') and I'm crying along with Paula as I watch Melinda Doolittle's tears flow when she gets the standing O after Tuesday's performance. I've always been known to shed sympathetic tears for a lady now and then, and my daughter seems to be waiting on the edge of her seat to stare me down and laugh at me when I do. Yeah, and it's not just sympathetic tears either. Hallmark commercials, extremely inspired musical performances and Nic Cage movies do it to me also, and all for different reasons.

In reality, today's post it similar to yesterday's post in that I'm begging and pleading for America to stand up and be heard. Let's not promote mediocrity just because it comes in a pretty package, unless the pretty package is really what it's all about (and what's pretty about Taylor Hicks?). Just because Idol sucks 3 hours of our lives away from us each week, is no reason to be angry and vote for Sanjaya. Truth be told, I pulling for Haley Scarnato to turn things around, and start taking this thing seriously. She's got nothing to lose, and nowhere to go but up! And, boy, ain't she pretty!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alternative Lifestyle and the Military

Yesterday I caught up with a running conversation on Gen. Pace's recent comments on homosexuals in the military that was happening via an online newspaper comments forum. I've got to say right off the bat that I've been a fairly closed minded individual for most of my life regarding the granting of civil rights over and above what the average guy is afforded. I've got friends who are gay, and in general, life around these guys is just the same as life around any other guys. I will admit that public displays of affection, say at the bowling alley, by these friends is viewed much differently than the same behavior between my wife and me in the same circumstances. I don't rightly remember ever seeing my friends actually behaving in the same way my wife and I would, though, and I suspect it is because of the potential reaction of the dis-approving public.

There are a couple of issues sparked by Gen. Pace's comments that I would like to briefly chime in on. The right of public officials to speak about their own views on issues, and the actual issue of gays in the military.

With elected officials, and people appointed by elected officials, it would seem to be incumbent upon them to do their jobs the best way they see fit while at the same time tempering their public commentary so as to allow them to continue to remain an elected or appointed official. Sometimes the decisions they make are just so controversial that any explanation made to justify the decision made is bound to offend someone. Sometimes decisions are made based solely on our elected officials opinion on the matter, and not necessarily on a complete set of pertinent facts. Therefore, because that official has the power to make the decision and have it carried out, many policies are set based on the personal biases and prejudices of one individual. This happens on both sides of the political spectrum. It's not just a Republican thing or a Democrat thing, it's how our government works.

So, now that I've established my viewpoint that we have chosen people to make decisions for us, and that they are all going to make decisions at some point based on who they are, and that we have the right to try and hold them accountable for what they say and do, I now want to address how a small group of people who are angry can end up being more powerful than a huge amount of people who are apathetic. Complacency with the status quo has most of us anaesthetised to the little stings of a needle here and there that threaten the very status quo that has us asleep in front of the TV watching American Idol on Tivo.

The dialogue between theses two opposing forces in this newspaper forum was enlightening, and did tend to alter my viewpoint on the general issue. Yet I'm still left wondering 'where are the complacent ones?'. The angry voices of the minorities are heard loud and clear, and yet it seems that the complacent majority is mostly silent. There are a few standing up every now and then, and being pushed back down because their speech is not politically correct enough. Still, yesterday I read and watched as two people from drastically different sides of the issue, managed to make it through the hate talk, and accusations, and attacks, and slowly but surely end up seeing where the other guy was coming from. They started to listen to each other, and realize that there is another, legitimate side to the story. They found out that all conservatives aren't idiotic Bible thumping, hate-mongers and all liberals aren't me-first whiners who want the destruction of our country's moral fiber.

So, what about gays in the military? I love 'em! They've been there for years and will continue to be there for years. They have fought bravely for our country, and died for our country. They are honorable US soldiers just like the heterosexual soldiers. No different. But there is a line that I feel must continue to be drawn, and it works to the benefit of gays and non-gays. As in any workplace, sexual harassment is not tolerated, and from my own personal observations, the great majority of people never cross that line. Our jobs are just not places where our passions for our teammates are going to offer us much help and acting on these passions at the workplace more than often leads to problems. Multiply those problems by degrees as you move into the stressful world of a soldier, and problems can become disasters for the lives of the people involved.

For those who feel that practicing homosexuality is a sin, and a great majority of Americans feel that way, they've got to remember that we are all sinners. We are face to face with our sinning brothers and sisters everyday, watching them in their sin as they fail to do what their heart tells them is the right thing to do. We must choose to love these people, whether their sin is something we consider major or minor. To truly love them, however, doesn't mean it is your life's duty to make them think like you do so that they can be saved. To love them is to follow Jesus' example and truly, deeply, long to know and be known by them.

For those who feel that practicing homosexuality is just OK, they must come to grips with the fact that their sexual behavior is something abhorrent to the majority of the world. You can try and flaunt your sexual preference out in public in hopes of slowly changing America's mind on the subject, but that method just seems naive to me. Whether or not homosexuality is something that our society will one day embrace is something for the future to decide. Nations have risen and fallen throughout history with morals right smack dab in the middle of the conflict. Certainly, it is your right to try and make that day come about and that right is being defended day in and day out by our soldiers all over the world, both straight and gay. Just remember, they are also fighting for the other side's right to try and make it not happen.

Wouldn't it be better if we all tried to listen once in awhile?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

True feelings on Futbol

There's not a lot of adults in the US, compared with the number of adults who enjoy other sports that are popular, that really get excited about soccer. I listen to sports talk radio on my way to work each morning, Mike and Mike on ESPN, and you seldom hear one word about soccer. Why should we? Professional soccer in the US draws fewer fans to the stadiums than Arena football. It's a far, far cry from the soccer that is played in Europe, where the fans are so rabid for their teams, they make the Oakland Raiders fans look like sissies. They had to keep the visiting fans from Barcelona out of the stadium the other night until after the game had started so that there wouldn't be any fights. These people aren't any less civilized than Americans are, they simply live and die for their teams. It encompasses every level of social stratosphere, from the CEOs down to the homeless guy on the street. Gang members to church members.

For most US fans they just can't figure out what's to get excited about. I really don't think it's something that can be explained. It's really something that just happens to you one day. Maybe you're watching your six year-old play, or maybe you happen to stop and watch a game on cable as you're surfing, looking for another cooking show. You find that the crowd is roaring every 20 seconds or so as ball after ball is being passed low on the ground, threading its way through two or three defenders, to a sprinting forward who may have a chance at getting a shot off. Maybe it's a ball being passed in the air, by a player running full speed towards the endline, from one sideline to a point in space roughly 5 yards in front of the goal about 8 feet in the air, where 1 or 2 teammates are waiting to get any part of their body on it so that they can score the winning goal. Maybe it's you own son or daughter, playing defense, running down that superstar kid from the other team, and laying out everything, skin, blood and pride, to make sure that kid doesn't even get close to their goal. I choke up just writing that last sentence.

I've got a son in college, playing soccer, loving soccer more all the time. He's achieved so much already, but he knows there is so much more to learn. My wife and I haven't been able to see him play college ball yet, because the one time we made the trip up to Kansas, he was injured during warm-ups. We did get to see his team play, though, and it was very impressive. We thought we'd seen our son play good soccer before, for his high school and club teams, but this was a whole different level. I was very impressed, and very proud that the coach of this team saw something in my son that said he belonged on this field with these other men. Now, consider this; My son, at the time, was on the JV team for an NAIA member school, which is probably somewhere between D-1 and D-2 level NCAA soccer. Above college soccer, in skill level going up, are professional development leagues, semi-pro leagues, professional indoor soccer, professional soccer minor leagues, Major League Soccer (MLS), Mexican League , South American League, Various regional professional leagues in Italy, China, Africa, Japan, Germany and Spain, and then tops above all that is the English Premier League. My son is playing on a team where every player routinely does various things with a soccer ball 20, maybe 50, times a game that I couldn't even dream about doing even one of them once in 100 tries.

I'm not sure what my point is, other than this; soccer at any level is a constant celebration and exhibition of the fruit of hard work and passion, of dedication and discipline, of teamwork and athleticism. Every moment of every game, wherever the ball is on the field, and very often away from the ball, soccer players are exhibiting skills that are worthy of cheering for. From catching the ball with their chest and having it drop right at their feet, to firing a shot with their foot with a ball that is three feet in the air moving at 30 mph. Defenders knowing just where their teammates are going to be and midfielders putting a pass perfectly at the feet of a streaking teammate. I love this game!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mini Cooper Musings

Thanks to CCCC for promoting Financial Peace University at the church. Although my wife and I are just 6 weeks into it, it has already made a life changing impact. I honestly just feel foolish that I haven't applied these principals before. There's nothing really new here, for me, except the encouragement that it is worth the trouble to figure out how much money you are spending every month. I know, I know, that seems elementary. But that's just the point! I've always felt I made enough to cover it all so why bother knowing exactly? Well, in the words of Brian Regan "I know now!" The fact is, I was spending way too much on little things here and there, and, every now and then, a little bigger thing.
Dave Ramsey, on the DVD presentation, is wonderfully encouraging each week, and, for me, is reinforcing things that I already knew about but wasn't applying. I highly encourage everyone who hasn't done this series before to do it.