Show Some Love

life can surprise you sometimes.

several days ago i was surprised.

here’s what happened…

i was on “solo duty” (watching the kids on my own) for the night, because my wife was out having some fun with her girlfriends. i thought about making dinner (for a second), then decided we should stop off somewhere to grab a quick bite (there were a few things on the schedule for the night–dinner, homework, showers, etc.). and, my students at the high school had been on my case about the fact that i hadn’t yet been to “cane’s chicken” (like in a relentless, merciless way, like there was no other place on earth to think of getting some chicken)–so, i thought we should try it out.

after picking up the kids at school–that’s where we headed, to cane’s chicken. and, after navigating the winter wasteland of the twin cities area, we made it there. as i approached, i could see that the parking lot was jammed with vehicles–including the drive-thru line, which wrapped around the entire establishment. and, of course, the drive-thru line was where i was headed. i mean, i’m on solo duty, here–got to get this show on the road–no time to go in, sit down, and have a normal-paced dinner with my children.

so, i pull into the parking lot and make my way towards the end of the drive-thru line. as i cruise in, i see a red car parked to my right, as if the driver is waiting for something, but it’s not clear what (at least not to me and at that moment); so i cruise by it (her) and we exchange a quick glance and i settle into to my spot at the end of the drive-thru line. within 2 seconds, i hear a horn blast from behind me and i look around. then, i look at my side mirror. i see the woman in the red car “flip me off” and mouth some swear words at me.

my kids are aware of the horn, but can’t see the woman who is upset — so, I tell them “the woman behind us is unhappy”  🙂

then, i sit back for a moment.

i pause and think.

i’m agitated and annoyed that she’s pissed off at me.

i consider staying in the spot.

it’s what i would’ve done in my younger, more immature days (a couple of years ago 😉 )

[but seriously, it is what i would’ve done before. i grew up fighting. but, over time, i’ve tried to work on that response, that reaction–pick my battles, you know. sometimes i’m successful, sometimes i’m not–sometimes i realize that i still need to work on that shit (but, that’s a whole ‘nother story for whole ‘nother time)]

regardless, it’s not what i do now. at this moment–i don’t escalate, i don’t fight.

[it’s not what i do now because a thousand traffic incidents flash through my mind in a millisecond–times where people have cut me off–and i see myself, my reaction. and, it’s exactly like hers!]

so, i tell my kids, “she’s upset because i cut her off, though i didn’t mean to.”

and then, i do something i’ve never done before. i pull out of my spot in the drive-thru line and slowly go around the entire building. i circle back to the end of the line and come to the spot right behind her.

well, the line moves forward (slowly). after some time, we finally get to the speaker box and place our order. two chicken strip meals for the kids and the “big box” for dad. as we get past the turn we can see the woman in the red car in front of us. she is at the window where you pay. the kids and i are talking a little bit and we’re happy to be getting closer to getting our food. then, i notice something. the woman in the red car is talking to a cane’s employee and gesturing back at our vehicle…it seems like they’re in conversation “about us”. i mention this to the kids and the kids are wondering (like i am) what this could be about. i’m thinking, now what, is she taking up the incident with the staff?!

eventually, she rolls forward to the “pick-up” window and i pull forward to the “pay window”. i roll down my window and reach out to hand the worker my cash for the order. as i’m halfway there, he stops me and says, “you don’t need to pay for your food, she did” (and he points to the woman in the red car in front of us). i’m incredulous-what?!

the worker and i exchange a brief rundown of the situation, then i immediately put my hand up and wave a “thank you” to the woman.

she waves back.

with all five fingers this time 🙂

we get our food, head home, and enjoy some “really good chicken” (the high school students were right)–but, i’m fuckin’ jazzed–i can’t believe what just went down in the drive-thru line.

i know it’s such a little thing, but it’s fuel for life–it gives me hope, you know.

so, send out your love.

you never know what will come back.

lessons in love (for my son)

it’s taken me nearly 44 years on the planet to understand what it means to love a woman…here’s some of what i’ve learned, jack…because you might want to know what that might mean for you–if “loving a woman” is something you want to do, or choose to do yourself someday–if not, that’s another conversation we can have–regardless of what path you take–know that you’ll get the same love and embrace from your old man, cheers!

  1. know yourself…take time to examine and evaluate the things that you’ve said and done…learn from the past…sometimes your heart gets broken because of things they’ve done…but, sometimes it gets broken because of things you’ve done–from the way you’ve been living in the world, guaranteed.
  2. love yourself…see and “believe in” the good that’s in you…no man can have love for another person while at the same time despising himself.
  3. let her know that she’s your queen…court her, pursue her intentionally (and in a healthy/’law-abiding manner’)…listen to her, show up in her life when it counts, give a timely gift, treat her right, woo her–to win her over and beyond!!!
  4. women are not disposable objects that were put on the earth to please and entertain you, son–treat them with love and respect…’call out’ men who don’t.
  5. only say, “i love you” if you really mean it…those words carry a lot of weight.
  6. balance – if all you’re doing is spending time with your “special one”…then, that’s a problem …now, if you’re anything like your old man, when you do fall for someoneyou will fall hard…it’s gonna happen…and you’re gonna lose your mind for a minute (at this time, you will most likely start to see cartoon versions of blue birds flying around and chirping as you randomly and uncontrollably burst into song–zippity doo dah day!)…it’s o.k., it’s a good thing to have those feelings and emotions–but, don’t forget to share your time and love with your friends and family, too!
  7. date one person at a time.
  8. reciprocity – no romance is 100% fair or equal…but, most good ones get close–if you’re doing all the work, making plans, showing up in her life, etc…and she’s “phoning it in” and “treating you bad” — that’s a red flag, son–so, cut her loose, “break it off” and move on.
  9. don’t play games – if you’re not “into her” or “not feeling it”–have the balls to tell her that to her face (never “break it off” by text or email) and move on.
  10. when your heart gets broken, and it will–(privately) share your pain with those “select few” family members and friends you trust; you will know who they are–not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing this shtuff–they will be there for you; and keep your distance from her–physically, socially, online, phone, etc…trying to pursue her beyond this point doesn’t do a damn bit of good and makes you look like an idiot.
  11. and if/when you “mess it up” (in how you’ve treated her)…step up, be a man, own it–and apologize for the harm you’ve caused.
  12. sometimes, “i’m sorry” doesn’t cut it…and what happens is a product of not knowing yourself and not dealing with yourself and your shit (this one goes a lot to #1, but probably pops up at other points as well)–because eventually, your shit will rise to the surface – – my shit has a long history of flying out sideways  🙂  [if some of your issues keep resurfacing, keep coming up…then, have faith, be brave, and do the right hard thing–talk to a trained professional counselor–someone who is qualified to advise you and who doesn’t have an axe to grind].
  13. you can talk to me, too…anytime, anyplace…in joy, in pain, in exuberance, in sadness, and in all those “in-between” times…you can ask me anything–and i mean anything…i’ve been there, believe me…and i’m still here, i’m still standing.
  14. trust God, trust the process.

i love you, son.

dad

[this is the tip of the iceberg for the things that i hope to impress upon my son regarding this topic (as he gets older), most of the other things “not listed here” are not for public consumption–they are private matters, personal ones, that are just for me and jack–but today, you get a glimpse behind the curtain…so, enjoy–and have a happy valentine’s day!]

love is thicker than water

but nothing lasts forever
your best efforts don’t always pay
sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better
that’s when life is short even in its longest days

-john mellencamp

my cousin died when she was 46…

her name was lisa and it happened last fall…

and i remember walking into the funeral home with my mom, dad, and sister…we came first to an anteroom, and upon entering, my eyes found her three children…one in college, one in high school and one in junior high…and then, i saw her husband coming ’round the corner…and that’s when i lost it…and then her husband lost it, too…and then we all embraced in a messy, tearful, tangled hug…

my aunt and uncle were there, too…bonnie and jay…and though they were visibly broken, somehow, some way they were keeping it together…my cousin john was there, too (lisa’s brother–it was always just the two of them)–wrecked, but holding strong as well…i guess they had all cried enough tears in the previous few weeks…lisa had been in the hospital for a little while before she died…and despite the fact that she had maintained an amazingly optimistic and hopeful attitude, right up until the end, the cancer was merciless and relentless…it would not be held at bay, it would not yield…

sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better…

so, over three days time, we went from the viewing, to the funeral service, to the burial and then to the reception …returning to my aunt and uncle’s place on occasion to regroup…it was weird, it was surreal…being around people who you normally long to see and visit with…our relatives, our family…yet, not having her there…it didn’t make sense…

along with that, i didn’t have a lot of experience being at funerals or knowing people who had died…in my world, it added up to a handful of people….most of them were older…grandparents, even great grandparents…people from “the greatest generation”…people who had lived long, full lives…and while we definitely felt the loss of their passing, their dying made more sense…and their funerals more closely resembled what people commonly call “happy funerals”…where the person “is celebrated” and the funeral is “a celebration”…

this wasn’t a “happy funeral”…this wasn’t “a celebration”…

this was sadness, grief, and pain…

i think everyone felt that it happened too soon…

probably because everyone that was there knew lisa…and if you knew her…you knew what living life really meant, you knew what true innocence and goodness and faith really meant…you knew it because when you saw her, when you talked to her…you would see it, you would hear it…and when you see that kind of life, that kind of life force…in a human being…you think to yourself...nothing on earth can stop that, nothing can extinguish that fire, that spirit…  

and when a light like that goes out, it goes dark for everyone who looked upon it…

that’s the way i felt (and feel), anyways…

and there was something else…there is something more to the story…

something remarkable, despite the utter pain of her passing…something unique about her story…from beginning to end, from birth ’til death…

the remarkable thing is the love that her family holds for one another…the four of the them–lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…now, don’t get me wrong they’re not perfect or without trial or tribulation…they’re like any other family–any other real family, that is, that goes through the up’s and down’s of life…and believe me, they’ve come through their own fires…and yet still remained–a family…a family that they created…in love…especially between lisa and her parents…and, most especially, between lisa and her mom, bonnie…a mother and daughter…but more than that, best friends…i guess it’s significant for me because lisa (and her brother, john) were adopted–early in their marriage my aunt and uncle came to realize that they couldn’t have children…but, they still wanted kids…so, they adopted lisa and john…

as a man, i have no idea what a woman experiences or feels when she’s told she can’t have kids…when she’s told she can’t give birth to her own children…i mean, i know women who have had that experience outside of this story and often think that…

that’s really, really terrible

because

man, she would be an amazing mom (and he would be an awesome dad)

then instantaneously, the same thought always pops into my head…

i wonder if they’ll adopt?

my thinking probably plays out like this because at my base, at my core…i know lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…i know their story…i know what they mean to me…

i know that their family was (and is) closer than some biological families are…

i know that bonnie and jay have always seen lisa and john as their own…their son, their daughter…

i know that we (my sister and i) always saw them as our cousins not our ‘adopted ones’…

i know that, growing up, they were (without a doubt) our closest cousins…

i know that they have been and always will be my family…

not by blood, but by love…

somebody’s son

as a teacher, you have a lot of power…

and, depending on how you use it…it, and you, can either be a force for good or for evil, you know…

a couple of weeks ago, i was in a position to use my power for good…to stand up for a student…something that’s always been important for me…it’s always been important for me because i’ve always had a strong sense of justice and fairness (some might call it an overdeveloped one;)…i can trace the origins of this kind of mindset and posture back to my youth, back to elementary school…back to one week in elementary school to be exact–the week when we watched the movie ‘roots’ in class…that movie blew my mind…sitting there, watching it, i couldn’t believe that one human being could treat another human being so harshly just because they were a different color, just because they were a different race and culture, just because they had power and the other person was powerless…it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right…that movie had a great impact on my life, then and now…

anyways, here’s what happened in class…

we were watching a video in class and i had called a student up to the front of the room to help me with something…so, he got up and came towards the front of the room…right away, when he got up, a few other students started snickering…that got my attention…so, i looked over…my eye caught an object, a thin strip of paper peeking out from behind the student who had stood up…so, i told him…young man, you’ve got a piece of paper on your back…

[one thing, there are 43 kids in this particular class…which makes it a bit difficult to see what the kids are doing all the time, especially those that are a few rows deep…i wish i could say i was the only teacher in the u.s. that had this problem, but i’m not…and it’s an issue for learning and classroom management–and for student safety…anyways, had i not had him come up to my desk i probably wouldn’t have even have seen it, maybe he wouldn’t have seen it until later]

when i told him that he had a piece of paper stuck to his back, he spun around and awkwardly pulled it off his back…he looked down, read it, then looked up and walked straight towards a group of guys a few rows back…i got up from my desk and followed him…a heated verbal exchange ensued between several young men (the guy who had the note stuck to his back was standing in front of two students who were sitting at their desks)…one of the guys who was sitting at his desk grabbed the piece of notebook paper and started to crumple it up…

when i got to his desk, i said, hey let me see that… 

reluctantly, he gave me the piece of paper…i un-crumpled it and read it…immediately, i looked up (and at the two students who were sitting in front of me) and said (in a low growl), who wrote this?!

one of the boys spoke up…i did…

i looked at him and said, plain as you like, pick up your stuff and head to the clas program…

[clas program = iss]

we resumed class…

when i got back to my desk, i sat down and re-read the words on the piece of paper…

it read: he likes it in the ass

at the end of the class period i addressed the entire class, with a quiet intensity (it’s a register i hit when i really want something to stick), saying…

a student, a person…should be able to go through daily life, walk down the street, and most of all–come to class without being bothered, without being harassed…when something like this happens, there’s usually more than one student involved, i got one of the offenders today, and he’ll be out of here for tomorrow’s class as well…so, if you were in on it, i’m talking to you right now…don’t do it again.

when the class was dismissed, the student, the one who made the mistake of putting that note on his peer’s back came back to my room from the clas program…as i requested…

i asked him, why did you do it?

he said, i don’t know, it was stupid…

i told him, i can tell you regret it…but, just to remind you–that kind of behavior doesn’t fly in here, got it?! it’s serious enough that i’m going to keep you out of class for another day…please don’t do that again.

he said, yes, i’m sorry…

i said, we’ll see…

[and i didn’t say “we’ll see” to provoke him further or to belittle him…i told him that because i’ve told all my students that–on occasion–saying “i’m sorry” is important and does mean something…but, a lot people say it and it doesn’t mean a damn thing…teenagers and adults…so, i’ve told them i don’t want to hear i’m sorry, i want to see it–so, do it different next time!!!]

after he left, i emailed my principal and ‘the other powers that be’ to document the situation and allow them to follow-up if they wanted to…

we’ll see how the next few weeks go…

if i had a heightened sense of justice before i had kids, it has only magnified (x1000) since my own kids came along…i guess i’m like parents everywhere–when i send jack and grace out to daycare in the morning, i want to know that they will be safe and secure…and believe me, it’s a risky proposition, a high stakes game…sending your children out into the world…i want to know that their daycare provider, teachers, coaches and other trusted adults will be looking out for them when i’m not there…i want to know that they’ll be alright, you know…

it’s what i try to do for my students…it’s what i was able to do for the kid who was ridiculed with the sign on his back…

it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right…what happened…he deserves to be treated with respect and with dignity…

because he’s a person, because he’s a human being…

because he’s somebody’s son…

love hurts

‘love hurts’ (by the band nazareth) was one of my very good friends, one of my brothers–einar monstad of bergen, norway–favorite tunes back in the day, back when we went to college together (in the early 90’s)…einar loved and stills loves music…back then, he even achieved legendary status on campus for singing and bangin’ a drum at the crack of dawn throughout the dorms to celebrate norwegian independence day…he was/is a great and unstoppable force of nature…

anyways, i was reminded of the song this past summer when my kids (jack and grace) were playing together in the backyard…they were running around chasing each other as my wife and i sat nearby talking quietly (it was a warm summer day–far from the arctic smackdown we’re getting this week–winter in minnesota hurts, too)…

as they were playing, i looked up to see jack push grace to the ground…grace wasn’t happy about it and started to cry…

i said, “jack, that’s not o.k., help your sister up, please”…

he paused for a moment and then tried to help her up…but, what he did next wasn’t the most helpful thing in the world…

he really tried to help her, truly….he really tried to help her up off the ground…but, not by the hand…and not by the arm…

but, by the throat–he grabbed her right around the neck, with both hands (like you would do if you wanted to choke the life out of someone) and tried to pull her up that way…

what the what?!

so, my wife and i bolted out of chairs shouting “no, no, no…” and separated him from his sister (while we tried, at the same time, to keep ourselves from laughing…because it was pretty hilarious)…

though not evident by his actions–we could tell that it wasn’t intentional and that ‘what he really wanted to do’…was to help her up

chances are, you’ve been there…maybe with your own kids, maybe with your family at home or on vacation, or maybe with your colleagues at work …sometimes, you try to help someone and it doesn’t turn out that way, it doesn’t end well…sometimes, someone tries to help you and the situation goes from bad to worse…

it’s in these moments, when you realize that…

sometimes…

love hurts.

mother’s day…part I

this post goes out to my wife–the mother of my children…

the fact of the matter is…that some women are born to be moms (regardless of their status/standing in the world, marital status, or biological factors and realities)…it is a trait they possess…it is something innate…it is something that you know ‘when you see it’…

my wife is one of those women…

one of the things that i love to watch…other than the mummy’s day celebration on amc (‘mummy movies’ marathon)...is…the way that she loves our children…jack and grace…it’s not half-way, three-quarters, or even 99.9%…it is a complete and total immersion…100%!!!  this is not just ‘every other day’, or when ‘she feels like it’…but, she is there, she is present…every day…and they know it!!!  this is significant because she also works full-time, as a middle school teacher (7th grade science)…try doing that, then coming home and lovin’ your kids like she does, people!

amazing…

so, here’s to you, babe!  i love you, i admire you (bigtime)…and i wouldn’t want to herd (our own) cats with anyone else!

happy mother’s day!!!

love, me

you’ll never walk alone

as difficult as it was to navigate the early days with twins (nearly) two years ago (see previous two posts)…what made it possible to survive…what lifted us up when we were down…what made the difference was…

the people who showed up in our lives…the physical presence of friends and family saved us…

as a man, to ask for help…to accept help–is not something i relish…”we men” (in general) are brought up to do it ourselves–if a job needs doing then we’ll take care of it on our own, for ourselves and for our families (images of john wayne blazing through town, tall in the saddle, fill my head)…because submitting to others or being that vulnerable–to need someone else’s help, to rely on someone else–would reveal a weakness in our very character as men…

but i had to do just that…i had to submit, i had to surrender at that moment (and thereafter on occasion), when they showed up for us…because, truth be told, we wouldn’t have survived the storm of ‘being new parents’ without reinforcements…

these visitations…by our friends and family–they were the living, breathing incarnations of love, care, courage, strength, and hope…

long ago, there was a singular, miraculous, and glorious incarnation…when, a little fellow was born…his name was Jesus…and he came to a world who needed him…to those who were alone, hungry, crazy, helpless, pained, excluded, poor, and more…in their weakness, in their vulnerability…

he showed up…embraced mankind…and spoke…

it’s o.k., i am here, i am with you, now and forever…

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