Wednesday was a great day. I got some really great news at work, I got to have a year-end celebration with some of my favorite students, and then I got to be on one film set as an actor, and then another as a collaborator. Pretty great, right? I mean, big picture, most days are just mundane. Any ONE of those things would have made for a great day. Satisfaction guaranteed…
Wednesday was also this: I didn’t get to see my kids. That sucks. While parenting is a real time warp where the days seem to never end but the years fly by, I genuinely don’t like when I feel like a figure that simply passes through their days sporadically. I don’t know if they see me like this, but I definitely feel like I see them twice a day in passing, giving light reprimands when they are required, but I’m basically an authority figure who makes them feel safe in short bursts. I feel like a live-in crossing guard.
Wednesday was also this: I was able to serve my wife by picking up our monthly glut of coconut milk that we get from the Asian market that’s on my way home, and we coordinated schedules regarding my visit to the chiropractor. We communicated details about upcoming events, relayed information regarding her degrading health, and I (probably insufficiently) expressed sincere sympathy for how hard it is for her to still run the home in her condition. It’s just where we are in life right now. Through no fault of her own, I sometimes feel like a live-in personal assistant.
Wednesday was also this: I had to hurry home to “take care” of a dead bird.
I had recently trimmed our tree in the front yard, and doing so had exposed years of overgrowth. The tree hadn’t been taken care of properly, so I’d slowly hacked back the branches that were choking each other out. Also—and I’m not your stereotypical lawn nut, but I’m starting to see how those guys get that way—the tree was killing my grass. Lawns are the final point of competition with nature for suburban middle class men, and I’m losing it badly. So, I trimmed the tree! And that exposed a dove’s nest. Which was made unstable by my horticultural hack-job. Which, during the rain storm that night, dumped a poor baby dove to the ground.
Ginny and the boys had seen it and wanted to do something about it. She knew you typically aren’t supposed to touch wild animals because it could lead to the parent smelling human and refusing to care for the baby any more. She called a bird rescue hotline, and was basically given a tongue lashing for trimming the tree and a lecture about how the number she looked up online was the incorrect number. She should have looked up the correct one online. Good call, government employee. Good call. The boys prayed for the bird, and went to bed.
She ended up calling me late last night to ask if I could bury the dead baby bird so the boys didn’t see it in the morning.
Crossing-guard-personal-assistant-guy to the rescue!
Now, there’s a lot going on here. I’d been at work overseeing a student film shoot, so I didn’t even get home until 1 AM. I need to take care of the litter box and take care of this bird, so I don’t exactly want to dilly dally. I get a spade from the garage and head out. Then I go back and get a flashlight because I don’t want to accidentally step on this bird’s carcass. That’d wreck my shoes, my day, and, frankly, this bird has had a bad enough day as it was. I’m lighting each individual step so as not to create dove pâté. I find the bird. Super dead.
Ok, now where to plant this poor sucker. As I’m hastily digging a shallow grave in my front yard flowerbed in the dark in the middle of the night, I get this subtle, inescapable feeling that I’m committing a crime. I mean, who else digs shallow graves in the dark at 1AM? Hand-rubbing, mask-wearing, evil-eyed criminals, that’s who! I go over to scoop up the poor little dove, and the wet, matted feathers, the tiny beak, and the delicate claws all look so…pathetic. It’s SO dead! No mother dove is hanging around mourning the dead baby. No news truck pulls up. Heck, my kids won’t even know this happened. He’ll simply be…gone. I flop the limp body into the dirt with a moist thump. Two scrapes of dirt over it, and then I stomp it down with my foot.
That’s when it hits me. As I pull my foot back from the dirt to reveal the waffled shoeprint on the crappy, silty swamp-dirt that is this impromptu burial plot I think, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows.”
Wow. Well, I would certainly hope so.
Here lies the rotted, pathetic carcass of a poor creature with no marker to remember it by. It made very little impact on the world, and in just a few minutes it will be completely forgotten. In fact, that’s entirely the point of the unceremonious ceremony I’m taking part in…to help my kids forget it ever was. It will be like it never existed.
And that is exactly what happens to us.
Well, not exactly, but close enough. I’ll be buried a little deeper and, hopefully, not so late at night. But we create ceremonies, monuments carved of stone, and even family lines to try to not be forgotten. We want to mean something. We want to have made an impact. But, honestly, when all is said and done, I’ll end up exactly like that poor little bird. Another image that flashes before me in that moment is of some of the tomb stones we’d seen in Ireland when Ginny and I traveled there years ago. Memorials designed to create legacy, now too weathered to even read, lean haphazardly or are obscured by wild growth. No one remembers those people. It’s like they never existed.
So, there I stand semi-covertly on my dying lawn—shovel in one hand and flashlight in the other—contemplating my own meaningless mortality and inane legacy. How does anyone move forward knowing that at some point, probably sooner rather than later, we will receive a cosmic foot-stomp in a too-shallow hole where our wet pathetic carcass will slowly turn into swamp dirt? Luckily, I’m worth more than a lot of sparrows.
God loves me, and has a relationship with me. He doesn’t promise a great life. He doesn’t promise an eternal legacy. He doesn’t promise ease, comfort, happiness, or wealth either, and anyone who tells you otherwise hasn’t yet had to bury a dead infant dove. He does promise hope for today, but paradise in an eternity somewhere else. Life isn’t meaningless, but once it’s done it’s done. He whispered to my soul right there, “So don’t worry about it.”
He’s right, you know. We will all die, and we will be forgotten so we should stop trying to live like we won’t. You have people in your life right now who want you to be more than a crossing guard or a personal assistant. The inevitable doesn’t require anything from you, but the present does. You will have what is, in the big picture of the universe, a silent, meaningless burial, so you might as well have a great day today. There should be a fantastic release from your present troubles if you can actually embrace the smallness of your role in the cosmos and the largeness of your role in the lives of the people around you. Very few people lay on their deathbeds wishing they'd spent more time at work.
A woman’s work is never done, and once a mom, always a mom. But a father’s job has a beginning, and an end, and we do everything we can in that middle part to make our sons good men.
I don’t remember being born, and for that both my mother and I are truly grateful. But I do know that I was born to a man who very often felt like he was in over his head. And I think if we were all being honest, that’s how every man feels when his role as a father is beginning. He grew into it, though. With my Dad, we always knew right where the line was, and we had complete freedom right up to it. And when we crossed the line, his justice was swift and thorough. But he did it out of love. He was really a gentle giant. He was a 6 foot 275 pound introvert. He was a pastor, and unlike pastors you see on TV, he was smart, good, honest, and he loved people so hard that it healed them.
But things weren’t always good between us. In my mind he became a real self-centered, ignorant, tyrant the year I turned 14. By the time I turned 18 and went to college he actually—again, in my opinion—got a little smarter. Then when I went away to graduate school and studied the arts (with his full, but non-financial support) he got really smart. We had great talks about humanity, and audiences, and how to honestly reach people effectively. Then when I got married he got a little insecure and immature, which was really weird to me because he had JUST gotten so smart again! And it’s really weird the moment you realize that in your relationship with your father there are times that YOU are the adult! And your justice has to be swift and thorough. But even in all of that middle part he was doing everything he could to make me into a good man.
By this time my wife and I were living in California, and my parents were in the Central Time Zone, so I would pretty regularly get phone calls from my well-intentioned yet forgetful mom at 6 o’clock in the morning. I’d answer, “Hello?” and she would THEN remember that we were two hours behind and say, “Oooooooh, sorry, sorry, sorry! Go back to sleep! I’m so sorry!” And then one day, she called at 4 am. And I already knew it wasn’t good. I picked up, and in a very flat and tone she kept emotionless so she could hold it together she said, “You father has collapsed in the bathroom. The ambulance is here now. They’re taking him to the hospital.” I was 25, he was 55. A few hours pass, I’m crying, my wife is holding me…my mom calls again. The same flat tone, “He’s had an aneurysm. They say they’ve never seen one this big before and he needs to be airlifted. What do we do?” Wait, you’re asking me? I’m not ready for this. I can’t make that decision. But here’s my mom looking to me to do that very thing. “I say we give him every chance we can.”
They airlifted him, he has brain surgery, he’s not waking up, and he’s not breathing on his own. I’m drowning in my own emotion. But my Dad had done everything he could in this middle part to make his sons good men. My two brothers and I fly out. The night I got there, my mom is in his room. It’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s really, really cold. She’s whispering to me that when a blood vessel bursts in the brain, blood covers the brain cells and kills them. Then in order to repair the brain the body pumps the cranial cavity full of white blood cells to help heal it. The cold, the quiet, the hole drilled in his skull to let fluids escape, and a strict lack of physical contact is to minimize the brain’s responses to stimuli so it can focus solely on healing. She says, “I just want to crawl up there with him, and hold him, and tell him it’s going to be ok, but this is all I’m allowed to do,” and she kneels down next to the bed reaches out with one finger, and barely touches his hand…and she cries.
One of my brothers was in the Navy, so we only had a few days to do whatever it was we were going to do. My my mom and my two brothers and I sat down with the neurosurgeon, who explained that his brain was continuing to swell due to the extent of the damage, and that no matter what they did … he was going to die. We could ride it out or take him off life support. My mom and both of my brothers—both good men—turned and looked at me?
On July 16, 2006 we all came into his room, took some pictures, said our goodbyes, took out his breathing tube, and watched him choke to death.
We had to rush everything to get my brother back to the Navy in time. We were meeting with the funeral director across from St. Luke's Episcopal Church where we were going to bury him. The cheapest and fastest way was to cremate him. The dear, sweet funeral director was walking us through what the process was going to be. His body would be burned, but the bones wouldn’t, so those would be ground up. “He’ll come in a bag, about this big,” he says holding up his hands to indicate something exactly the size of a breadbox. And all four of us started to laugh. My dad was a fat man! I said, “That’s it? Won’t there be a candle or a bar of soap or something too?” This is how we dealt with stress. I still do.
He was eulogized by my brother, he was buried, and then somehow…inexplicably…life went on. Without him. His job was done.
And then, one day, my job as a father started. On our 5th anniversary, my wife woke me up by telling me that she was pregnant. I was shocked, I was scared, and I was really sad because this child would never know his grandfather. He'd know his other grandfather well, but not my dad. But I knew that I had to do everything I could in this new middle part to make my son a good man. All my dad-friends kept telling me about how amazing it is to hold your son for the first time and to feel the instantaneous elation and connection and love that ran unfathomably deep. Yes, from time to time, and with a beer in hand, men do talk about their feelings.
The day came. Contractions were had. My wife labored for 30 hours and pushed in active labor for 8. She was a warrior. And I was going to take my role by the horns just like she did. I was going to be a good dad just like my dad was. I helped pull my son into the world. I cut his umbilical cord, and I wrapped him in a towel, held him on my chest, and I looked in his deep eyes--anticipating that instantaneous and unfathomable connection--and I thought... “’Sup?” I had no idea who this dude was. He looked all pink and squinty, and he was covered with snot. We took him home, and he pooped on everything I owned. He would scream so loud through my face that my teeth would ache. He took complete ownership of my favorite of my wife’s parts, and he made me sleep on the couch. He was the worst roommate I’d ever had.
And I didn’t feel that instant connection. I thought I was broken some how. I wasn’t a good dad somehow. And it took me a long time. I hadn’t had those 9 months of being connected to him. I didn’t know what movies he liked, what music he liked, or his favorite beer. I didn’t know who he was.
But in time, as I did get to know him, and as I saw him learn all about the world by putting it in his mouth, I came to love him deeply. More than my self. I gave up sleep, the comfort of a bed, every preference I ever had about how our house was run, all my money, time, and all my everything. I very often felt like I was in way over my head, but my job had begun. He was my son.
Eventually my wife said she was ready for another. I’m thinking, “Are you sure that’s such a good idea? I don’t know how much you remember, but I was at ground zero. And now you want more? Of that? Again?” I was nervous. I didn’t want to feel like my emotions part was broken again. By now, my first son was also interested in what was going on with the baby inside Mommy’s tummy. He was smart, and curious, and had tons of questions. We told him everything that was appropriate for a 3 ½ year old to know. He was looking at pictures in maternity magazines and was fascinated by fetal development. He wanted to meet his brother so badly, and that just made it worse for me. I wasn’t even as excited as he was. Because, see, I remembered the pooping, and the screaming, and the pooping, and the not sleeping, and the pooping, and the vomiting, and…the pooping. I remembered holding him in my arms and wondering if I was broken for not feeling that instantaneous elation and connection and love that ran unfathomably deep.
The day came. Contractions were had. My wife labored for many less hours and pushed in active labor for only a few. She was, again, a warrior. And I was going to take my role by the horns just like she did? I was going to be a good dad just like my dad was. I helped pull my son into the world. I cut his umbilical cord, and I wrapped him in a towel, held him on my chest, and thought, “This is my son!” And I felt...that instantaneous elation and connection and love that runs unfathomably deep. A woman’s work is never done, and once a mom, always a mom. But my job had a beginning, and it will have an end, but I will do everything I can in that middle part to make my sons good men.
I'm not a writer. I'm just not. I always hear about "the greats," and the kind of discipline they show is astounding. I don't have it! I'm not one! I write when the muse beckons, and then I just don't. Anyone can do that!
That said, I have won local awards for my writing. One of my best friends in the whole world once said, and I quote, "Man, you REALLY have a way with words." (Emphasis his) That struck me. I kind of do. I've known that, but I've only ever been good in person. Never in writing.
Now, if one of my students came and told me that, what would I say? I'd say something like, "Nonsense. You do have a way with words, and you're ripping the rest of us off by not doing something about it," or, "Oh, really? Have you actually tried?" And then they'd say something that I'd probably generally ignore, and then I'd say something like, "Listen, whether you believe in you or not...I do. Please, don't let this gift slip away." Not that. Like that, but not that.
So, I should. I should write. I will try. I can't say it'll be good (of course it won't, but each time I do it'll suck a little bit less), and I can't promise that I'll be consistent. I do, however, owe it to myself to try.
And so I will.
I suggest you do the same.
While there was definitely a healthy propaganda machine active in the 50's to vilify marijuana, I don't think that is reason enough to write off the negative impacts of marijuana on society. We're at the onset of a grand social experiment here in the US. A few states have legalized it, and I am SUPER curious to see what the impacts will be in 10 years. We're only a few years in, and of course pot champions are hailing the success of the legalization.
I fall on the 'gateway' side of things. Is weed bad in and of itself? Probably not as bad as most people perceive. Does it lead to way worse things and should therefore be avoided/made illegal? I believe so.
"Oh, so you're just part of the teeming masses of idiots who will believe whatever the government tells you?"
No, some of us think for ourselves. Now, let me be clear. I have friends, former roommates, and even relatives who use weed recreationally. I haven't come to my conclusions without hearing a lot of debate. My conclusions are based on empirical evidence, anecdote from medical and law-enforcement professionals and my own life. This story comes from a real-life experience. The names of actual people have been changed to protect their...I don't know, I guess pride.
First you need some background.
My wife and are are on a family cell plan with my in-laws. Have been for years. Since night and weekend minutes were a thing! So, because of that my area code is from the town where they were living at the time we joined with them: Springfield, IL. It's gotten less confusing as the years have gone by. More and more people just keep their number when they move. Now, that was 10 years ago.
So, if I get a phone call or a text from that area code it is without fail a wrong number. Which, in my world, is a perfect opportunity to mess with someone. If it's innocent I'll simply do what most responsible adults do and gently let the person know they have the wrong number. This is where--let's call her M--comes in. Here is where she started:
The minute you drop the N word...especially if you drag it out and spell it wrong...you have earned the right to my ridicule. I decide I'm going to take this person for a ride. I try to type the dumbest response I could think of, and autocorrect turns it into, "wax zap." Nicely done.
Also, Let's keep track of the "lol" count. I promise she thinks it's a form of punctuation.
Now, I hear some of you asking, "Who is jojo?" That is a truly fantastic question. I have no idea. What is going on? I'm getting on my computer and opening up Google Maps to get a view of Springfield. I'm stalling.
lol score 2.
Now comes the truth. M is a pothead. Let's see just how long ago she started smoking and had her development arrested.
lol double combo score. current count is 4.
Chatham is a suburb on the south end of Springfield. Thanks, Google.
Solid. Now, do I know where wild life is? Wildlife is all around us. I can only assume she means somewhere specific. I frantically Google, "Springfield, wildlife, s-curve." This brings up the Lincoln Magnet School's page with directions to the Chatham Wildlife Sanctuary. Searching the sanctuary and the school lead me to a map that looks like this:
Ding! Ding! Ding! That's right, boys and girls. We have an s-curve! So I see that it is right off exit 98A on Interstate Highway 55. I tell her that I do indeed know where it is, and then I think of the douchiest car I can.
Oh, what's this? She drives a Mercedes? She can afford a little gas money for my amusement. So I take a little time to do some research. at the 22 minute mark I send a text sending her to an exit that is 4 miles south of where she is probably waiting for me...very dry.
I tease it out, but ultimately dangle a carrot.
Now, after I say, "That's the 1," I take a few minutes break to play with my kids. About 7-9 minutes later, assuming that she has taken off and is almost there, I send the message that her chauffeuring service may not be required. Who is Simeon? Again, pulled that name from thin air.
Now, some of you iPhone users may recognize my next message as a standard text message available for you to send when someone tries to call you. That's right M is calling me. The game is up. She will hear my outgoing message, and she will instantly know that I am not who she thinks I am. Which is sad. It's only been a little over a half an hour. Well, I guess all good things come to an end. I will think back on this time fondly as...
WE'RE STILL IN THE GAME! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are not finished yet!
Now, I'd like to take a minute here to point out a few things. She thinks I'm C! Now, if she knows this person she would probably have their number in her phone, which would ultimately show up in her chat session. So, she's having a conversation with C, but it's only showing up as a phone number and not as a contact. She calls that number and hears a stranger's outgoing message (which at that point was for a small handyman business I had) and is put back into play by a simple series of questions to put her on the defensive. And in just 5 words she's back in.
I also know that she is almost to the second location, so I have to have boogied by now. So I say we're gone.
For those of you keeping score at home that is 5 & 6 lols.
Now, I add a little intrigue and bring in John Law. What follows has to be one of my favorite parts. M 'sees' a green Scion in the parking lot at Walmart. I can't make this up. I can't explain it. It's the classic snype hunt where the unwitting victim believes that a complete lie is true. Behold, the power of the mind. If you believe it, you can achieve it!
I let some time roll by. I talk to my wife. Play with my kids some more. And now, with a brief hiccup courtesy of autocorrect, we proceed.
I tell her I'm getting a ticket and then let another 15 minutes roll by. I can't explain or take credit for what I think of next. I'm not really sure where it came from, but:
I swear I've only ever done that, like, twice in real life. And I was stone sober.
Now, I'm coming pretty rapid fire with my texts. And she is with the lol's. We're at 8. At this point I'm giggling uncontrollably because I picture her in her black Mercedes in the empty parking lot of a wildlife refuge having just spent the last hour driving around Springfield, Illinois, hoping to get some weed that she left a party to get from some exibitionist in a green Scion. I'm the one actually laughing out loud, but I don't feel the need to share that just yet.
We're both typing fast enough that our responses are overlapping our questions. I tell her to get out of her car and wave at me. I LOL, and she says she does. Also, "at the park with swings and slides and sh**," has quickly worked its way into my vernacular as the only way to describe a park.
Also, she levels up to text maven with her double digit lol count.
It has now been an hour and 9 minutes. I can't keep this going any longer. I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. I drop the bomb. With a photo to prove that I'm not C.
This is not received well. Like, at all.
This is the part where I have to remind you that the whole point of this post has been to prove that marijuana is not good for you. Sure, M may be an outlying data point, but in combination with the rest of the reading I've done on the topic I stand by my stance. And M stands right there with me...
Because what happens next is so fantastic that I think even she would have to come out against the "benefits" of marijuana use. Again, we are overlapping our texts somewhat, so her first one back was written as mine was sending. Then she responds:
This more than makes up for 10 lol's. Not once, but twice she commits malapropism in such an egregious manner as to evoke my inner snark. I can't help it. If you can't spot it then your write their with her.
Now, it almost goes too far.
Once the legal term is dropped, I'm out.
So, that's one amazing way to spend nearly 1 1/4 hours of your life. Is it edifying? No, of course not. But it is a much more creative and memorable way to spend that time than, say, watching TV or smoking weed.
I hope M has thought about her life, and I really hope C has been told this story. I wish the best for jojo and Simeon, and I can't thank Google enough for making moments like this possible. I promise you that with just a little effort you too can make better use of your life. One very easy first step is to just lay down that pipe.
My first-born son is in Kindergarten. This has been a bit of a tough transition for us as a family is some respects. For starters, he only has 20-25 minutes to eat his breakfast. Do you have any idea how hard that is for a kid who spends 85% of his meal time talking? I do. Just sayin'.
We have to pack lunches, go to parent meetings, sign up for committees, and figure out how to handle birthday party treats. When it's a kid's birthday in his class, their parents will bring some kind of a treat for the class at the end of the day. Well, when your kid can't have wheat or dairy without getting seriously bound up and suffer some pretty intense gas pains, it puts a whole new spin on a simple cupcake. We (and by this I basically mean Ginny) have to be at his school by 7:25 am and 3:45 pm...like, EVERY day! As if it wasn't hard enough to have kids and socialize. It's always been, "Sure, we'd love to come over! We just have to leave by 6:30 to get home to start the bedtime process, which takes longer because he spends 85% of his time talking." Now it has become, "We can be there for 15 minutes at 4:45."
He's also started what I'm sure will be a life-long tradition of not giving us any information about his day. Even when I know what he's done that day and ask leading questions?
"What'd you do in school today?"
"I don't know."
"Well, what did you study?"
"I don't know."
"Did you learn any letters?"
"I don't remember."
"Did you learn the letter A?"
"Oh, yea! We did."
"Did you sing a song about it?"
"I don't know."
"Did it go like this?" [I sing the song]
"I don't remember."
I'm not vocationally an academic achievement assessor, but I will say that I'm not sure that counts as learning.
The biggest thing we're dealing with is that our education system was developed during the industrial revolution, and the conveyor belt style of universal and uniform information dissemination into quiet and seated children is heralded as the only way to teach. Now, if any of you have boys that have any kind of personality at all you will know, as I do, that they are basically puppies. They have feet that are too big for their bodies, they have two speeds: the speed of sound and off, they need to be hosed off fairly frequently, and if you don't take them out for a walk/run every single day they will eat your newspaper and throw up in your shoes. And while this may only be a slight exaggeration it stands to reason that little boys are not meant to sit for 8 hours a day in a large group and get told what to do. I know of only a handful of adult males who can handle that, and I am certainly not one of them. So the notion that they will be able to keep their hands to themselves, keep quiet, and never talk out of turn for an entire day is on the outskirts of ludicrous. Then to punish these boys by moving their peg down on the behavior board for simply being boys is maddening. Also, I've never been so emotionally swayed by a clothespin on construction paper in my life.
Since he started school nearly a month ago, I can count on two fingers the number of days that he hasn't had a net loss on the behavior chart for the day. He's wrestled with the, "I'm a bad kid," feeling--a notion which we have brutally murdered immediately. This is a label that any kid can quickly grow into, and I'm not about to have the kind of self-fulfilling-prophecy bull-roar take over my kid. We've had a teacher conference and my wife's observing tomorrow to see what the deal is. To his teacher's credit, she has over 20 kids and no aide and no parents allowed in the classroom to help. I've heard from a credible source that kids learn best in a group the size of their age plus one, so for kindergarteners 6-7 kids per group would be optimal. So we can say that at least some of their conditions are sub-optimal. But she also seems to want to stick to this whole notion that they are 6 now and should be ready to follow all the rules, all the time all day long. Also, they should get jobs, pay taxes, and make their own meals. We're going to continue to work with his teacher and the school for now, but we are also keeping an open mind. Maybe we'll homeschool him for a few years. Maybe we'll apprentice him to a cobbler and he can learn to make shoes and then open up his own shop when he turns 14. Just spitballin' here. There are no bad ideas.
Here's where I'm heading with this, though. Through all this, my son still really like his teacher. He still loves his school and to see the fervor with which he puts on his own uniform in the morning is unmatched in our home. He's learning new words, new songs, and all kinds of cool stuff. Just the other day in Target he turned to me and said in the most sincere and earnest voice I've ever heard from him, "Dad, it'd be my honor to check out the Lego aisle."
I'll bet it would. I love you.
He is punished for behavior that is outside what could be reasonably expected of him. He's made to feel inferior to other kids just because of his approach, when he's finished doing worksheets before the teacher is even done explaining them to the other docile idiots in the class. How unfair is that! But his joie de vivre perseveres in the face of injustice! He still loves school, and happily showed us his handiwork at his open house. He says good thing about his teacher and his, "best silly dude, Jude." He doesn't like to talk about moving his peg down, but he isn't depressed. He doesn't drown his own self-disappointment in Ben and Jerry's. It'd just bind him up anyway! By the end of each day he's taken his lumps and disappointments, but has moved forward with the same passion for life that he started his day with. I hope Kindergarten doesn't beat that out of him. I wish I had learned that. Every day he teaches me something new. I'm still smarter and possess a slightly greater command of my bowels, but I can take notes about how amazing it is to find just the right Lego, or to eat a pancake, or to even be able to dress myself. LOTS of people can't do that.
Thanks, Ben, for once again showing me how to do life better.
I can only speak to my own personal experiences, but I can say that they've been consistent for me. Maybe someone else will feel a little inspired or at least a little less alone.
My wife and I have led a life that has been predominantly characterized by challenge. We we got married, the preacher spoke of a Christian marriage as one where we are having to focus intently on Christ through our turmoil in the same way that a woman in labor focuses intently on those helping her. Little did that pastor know (because we have since met with him and accused him of foisting this on us) that he would be prophetically speaking of the way our lives would run together.
First of all, we are both first-borns. That means we are both right. Always. We are also polar opposites. That makes the always right thing substantially more difficult. Secondly, neither of us comes from families of great means. Finally--and others will corroborate this point--we have had some of the worst luck. In the last 11 years we've been together we have been stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night in sub-zero temperatures, had our vehicles broken into multiple times, had vehicles we've borrowed broken into, suffered from crazy and incredibly painful illness and injury, been falsely accused of wrongdoing, been falsely accused of idleness, been homeless, been unemployed, been on public assistance, lived with our parents because of joblessness, been financially responsible for things that have happened to us while at work, been abused by our employers, and suffered through infants with insane colic and food intolerances that left mucus and blood in their stool, suffered from postpartum depression, insomnia, and, you know, other stuff.
When I come home, it's not always so I can rest. In fact, when I come home it is usually to do the other work I have to do. I can say that--shy of an occasional Sunday afternoon nap--I haven't rested in 5.5 years. In a related story, I have a 5.5 year old son. I also have a 2 year old son. Now the less rest includes a free side dish of screaming and a whole buffet of crying.
So, what in the world do I go home for? Because it is my home. Many homes are broken up these days because they are hard. Some break because they are abusive, and I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the families that dissolve because life wasn't fun any more. Some people leave people that they once, "loved," but have since, "fallen out of love with." What a load of horse puckey. Life isn't some fairy tale. Fairy tales are fairy tales. They end happily every after--not life. Life is what life is; we get into trouble when we believe the things we are told to expect of it, which are usually not what it is. It'd be like everyone telling you that life is an airplane, when it's actually a bus. You climb on and expect to soar easily over the earth with non-allergen snacks in one hand and a very tiny, over-iced soda in the other. I've found that when I climb into life expecting it to be cramped, smelly, and full of people who are probably wanted in multiple states that I have a much more pleasant experience. Because that what I've hoped for out of life? No! Because that's what life actually is! I can continue to hope for something else while living in what is. I go home to my hard home where there is always crying, poop, chores, dishes, more poop, more crying and lots of broken things to fix, not because I love all the poop and the crying, but because that is actual, real life.
Now, is it all poop? Thankfully, no. 'Cuz that'd be gross. There is so much Love and Joy in my home that all the poop and crying are totally worth it. Now, mind you I didn't say 'in love' and 'happiness.' I said Love and Joy. Joy is a feeling that's not based in your circumstances. You can be miserable and still experience a Joy that is transcendent and providential. You can be so angry with someone that you don't dare speak for fear of what might come spewing out of your selfish mouth...and still Love them. All it takes is for you to set aside your self and serve the other people in your home. Realize that your circumstances don't determine your eternity. Realize that the foundation of your anger is a love of your self. When everyone commits to that, it works. It makes everyone else's sacrifice of self more meaningful when that is actually sacrificial. When it actually costs something. When it's hard.
So, home for me is where life is richest and fullest because the lowest lows are juxtaposed against the highest highs. The place I want to claim as mine--the beach in which I stick my flag and fight to the death for--is where my commitment to die to myself and serve those around me is matched by everyone I'm surrounded by. My hearth, my Love, and my existence is where actual hard, messy life happens. For me, home is where the hard is. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Jesse is a professor at Houston Baptist University. He also directs the school's theatre club, does handyman projects on the side, and produces features and short films. A Pastor's kid/missionary kid, his view of life is at the very least unique. And hopefully helpful.