A stark reminder

It’s hot. Really hot. Pretty sure this is the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced. I have on a cheap pair of sunglasses and a faded green safari hat I picked up just for this trip. I move quickly to my left. I kick the shiny new soccer ball and watch as it goes flying towards a 7yr old Mexican boy. Gracefully, he cradles the ball with his foot, taps the ball left, then right and left again. By the time I realized it he has gotten pasted me and is poised to score.

I’ve done three mission trips to Mexico. Twice I went to help build “houses”. By “houses” I mean one room buildings that are the size of a common shed. As much as these are sheds to you and I, they were mansions compared to the tin roof, stick supported lean-tos that the majority of the families were living in. The other trip I took was a medical based trip. The group I went with helped to provide basic medical treatment that you or I take for granted at a med express.

Earlier today I was feeling down. Sad. Liz had taken Toby to a friends house and I was at home alone. The woe-is-me statements began to filter through my thought process. I got a text from a friend asking me how my day was going. It was enough to break the snowball of negative thoughts rolling downhill in my mind. I evaluated my day, my situation, the moment. I got to sleep in while Liz watched Toby. I made an awesome brunch for Toby and I. Now here I was sitting in a comfy house, watching a TV show on my TV.  In that moment I realized how fortunate I really was.  How amazing life really is.  I thought back on those mission trips and how hard life is for so many people.  Not just internationally, but here in the states as well.  I am ashamed and amazed by how selfish we can be as humans.  This summer for me is pretty much booked.  Right now in my mind I am rolling around the idea of doing another mission trip in the summer of 2014.  My hope is not to satisfy my own moral compass by saying I “gave back” by doing a mission trip, but to give myself a stark reminder of what I have so that I can hopefully give back, even when I’m not doing a mission trip.

Playing "futbol" in Mexico

Playing “futbol” in Mexico

Advertisements

Just had to be there

One day I found myself in a stadium full of people.  There were people all around me going crazy.  We were all standing in freezing temperatures yelling, cheering, and some were swearing.  There was an insane passion that swept through the crowd as the song Renegade by Styx blasts through loud speakers.  I looked around and I saw a swarm of yellow towels being spun furiously.  This is a scene that I’ve had the privilege of taking in at least five times in my life.  This is a scene from a Steelers game.

I spent about four years living in Nashville.  For those of you who don’t know because you are either to young to know or you lived under a rock, Nashville didn’t always have a NFL team.  While I lived down there I met an astounding amount of Steeler fan.  There are enough Steelers fans down there that they have a Steelers bar called Piranhas Bar & Grill.  It was common place to walk down town Nashville and see people wearing Steelers jerseys.  I got to go to a Steelers vs Titans game in Nashville with my buddy Jeremy and I promise you that there were more Steelers fans there than Titans fans.  I remember one fan that I met while at work.  Sadly enough I don’t remember his name.  He pulled in with a huge black truck covered in Steelers decals.  He was rocking a nice leather Steelers coat, had the newest sideline hat on, and was styling a shiny gold plated Steelers watch.  Of course we get to talking.  I asked him if he had ever been to a Steelers game before.  He replied no, he always wanted to go, even heard stories about how crazy the stadium gets.  I made a feeble attempt to describe to him what my experiences were like.  Attempting to explain how you can suddenly be hugging a complete stranger after just one play.  How the terrible towels being waved created a yellow hue across the stadium.  As always though, it turned out to be one of those things where you “just had to be there”.

I find myself increasingly “wanting to be there” but falling short.  I’m not talking about Steelers games but moments in life.  One of my last posts I ranted about how I plan things out too much and I miss those “moments” because I am too busy planning.  This issue of “wanting to be there” or being “in the moment” continues to plague me.  It seems the harder I push sometimes the further I feel away.  I had an interesting conversation with a friend today about being an extrovert and introvert; outgoing vs not outgoing.  I find myself in what maybe the worst combination of the two.  An extrovert that isn’t outgoing.  I enjoy being around people and seeing what’s going on but I can’t push through my own brain and be outgoing to the point of meeting new people and trying new things.  So the default is to almost become an isolate that just watches.  And that’s the problem.  I feel like I am just watching everyone else at times.  I’m the Steelers fan that lives in Nashville and has never been to the game and can only watch the other fans.  I think I simply need to push myself or maybe be pushed? Step outside of my brain and find a way of turning it off, which is easier said than done.  How does one turn off their brain?  Once again I find myself without any answers.  Also, I’ll be updating my “Who am I?” page.  As a teaser I’m gonna give some insight as to a contributor of my cynicism.  As always comments are always welcome!

Steelers game

Embracing the moment…

As I have talked about before in one of my posts, I am sports nerd. This week all I have done is watch NCAA March Madness. I’ve filled out a bracket and watched with agony as my bracket gets blown up like Toby blows up his room after I just cleaned it. My bracket is a complete and utter mess. In one region I literally only have 2 teams left. It seems like this year more than any other year, any one team can beat another. It doesn’t matter if you have been a powerhouse for the past 30 years in college basketball and you are playing a school that has only existed for 11 years (i.e. Georgetown vs FGCU). Florida Gulf Coast University. Yeah, how about those guys? Sure you have heard by now, about 10 years ago they didn’t even have a basketball program! Yet here they are embracing the moment.

One of the things that I have struggled with over the years is simply being in the moment. Embracing it. I’ve always been a planner and thinker. I had my college and my major picked out by 10th grade. When I drop into a city I want a map, a list of things to do and see, and then a timetable for the whole experience. It seems like I have a running clock in my head. When I start something I have an idea of how long it should take and then I begin to think about what’s the next task or event. Even now, as I am typing this blog out, I am thinking about when will Toby come home from Nanna’s, then I’ll feed him lunch at 12:30, let him watch “shows”, take him outside for a few, nap time, update brackets…. You get the idea. I suppose the problem is that I sometimes miss “those moments”. I miss opportunities to connect with people because I am always planning past that person or event.

It would be easy to blame my childhood and the stuff that I have gone through, but I think it simply runs deeper than even that. I think it’s just the way I’m wired. I have to know what I am doing next. The crazy part of it all is that the whole reason why I plan things out is because I HAVE NO IDEA what I’m doing. I feel like if I don’t plan then somehow I’ll just get lost. Lost I this shuffle called life. Just another card in the deck. Anyways, once again… I don’t have the answers. If ya have any suggestion… Let me know (aka comment).

Bear Grylls and Keanu Reeves teach me a lesson

So if you don’t know me, I’m a huge sports nut. Almost could be categorized as a sports nerd. I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, Duke Blue Devils and UGA football. I am constantly impressed with athletes like LeBron, Tiger, Williams Sisters and Messi. As much as I love sports, I generally dislike many of the crappy sports movies that have come out. The remake of The Longest Yard… Blah. Thunderstruck (Staring Kevin Durant) … Really???

One movie I have found to be underrated, stars not a popular sports athlete but one air headed and absent minded actor know for his distant distracted gaze and saying “whoa”. Yes, I’m talking about Keanu Reeves. He stars in a movie called the Replacements. It’s of course a ragtag bunch that comes in and plays in a pro football league when the “real” players go on strike. Reeves plays a quarterback by the name Shane Falco. He’s loser QB that squandered his chance at being legit and now lives in a houseboat.

Ok, I know at this point I am losing a few readers so I’ll move things along. So, the coach of the replacement players asks the team what are their biggest fears. Falco aka Reeves, answers quicksand. He goes on to explain that he fears things going wrong and the more he struggles the more things just go wrong. So wrong to the point in which you can’t breathe. The pressure of the sand is too much. Ever have one of those days? Weeks? Months? Years? I think we can all relate.

The craziest part about quicksand that most quicksand pits are only a few feet deep. So if you sink to the bottom you probably won’t die but you will be stuck pretty good. Just don’t go falling face first and unconscious into a pit. Now, here’s the twisted part, if you get pulled out too fast, you can actually get ripped in half. Yeah, messed up. Bear Grylls said during of his shows to get out of quick sand you have to move slowly. Don’t panic and move too fast or you will simply sink faster. Move at a nice steady pace and eventually you can work yourself free by trying you pull your legs to the surface and crawling across to safety.

Right now I feel like I am in quicksand at times. I feel stuck. I feel like I am sinking. Sometimes I sink faster and other days I sink slower. The days where the shit hits the fan I definitely feel myself sinking, struggling harder to stay afloat, which cause me to sink even faster and deeper. Other days I push myself slowly through the muck and inch ever closer to safety. The issue is I always find myself sinking again the next day.

I am beginning to realize that sometimes I just need to slow down. Don’t quit, but don’t make things worse by fighting, struggling, flailing about causing the quicksand to pull me in deeper. It’s incredible how quickly things can go from bad to worse and from worse to suffocating. I see myself grasping at people around and almost pulling them into my quicksand. That’s another danger of quicksand, because it so thick if someone tries to pull you out, chances are you are gonna pull them in. It’s crazy, but this quicksand I find myself in, I need to get out of it. I’m not risking pulling others in. So if I don’t reach out and grab your hand or I even limit my contact with you, it’s cuz I don’t want to pull you in. I will say, feel free to shout from the sidelines and keep cheering me on. One day, I’ll crawl out of this pit.

Bear Grylls – Quicksand

Steubenville

I’m sitting here struggling.  Struggling on how to react to what I just read.  Struggling on what to write.  The easiest thing to do is vilify the two boys who were just convicted of rape.  Call them “monsters”.  Say things like “They should go to “big boy” prison, that’ll teach’em!”  The only thing is, I disagree. 

Most people will read the headlines.  They’ll see the words “rape”, “nudity”, “guilty”, “teens” and “drunk”.  Eventually, this story will fade.  You’ll move on with your lives and this will be a distant memory.  The problem is the story doesn’t end there.  The story continues.  It continues with the boys going to juvenile detention. From there, hopefully they will participate in sex offender treatment.  This is where the real story is.  The work the case managers, therapist, counselors, mentors, and staff put in.  The work to try and help change these two teens.  Helping the two boys find out where things went wrong.  How to change their thinking, their behaviors, and their situation.  What it means to have victim empathy and how their offense has far reach effects on not just their victim but throughout their families, and their community.  What you won’t read on cnn, foxnews, or yahoo are the one on one sessions that will take place attempting to help these boys change their lives or the countless hours designing an effective treatment plans.  If you don’t know, I’m a case manager.  I work with juvenile male sex offenders.  I read the same news articles you did but I saw different words.  I saw “victim of abuse”, “broken homes”, “boys”, “treatment”, and “help”. I’ve read too many court documents, psychological evaluations and family histories to believe that there isn’t more to the back stories of these two boys.  These two boys need help.  If they don’t get the help they need, they will eventually get out and either re-offend or as difficult as it is to imagine, do worse things.  What will the boys learn if they go to “big boy” prison? They won’t learn is accountability, responsibility, or respect for females.  What they’ll learn is how to do anything and everything to survive being a boy in a prison full of adults. 

Know this, I am in no way condoning what these two boys did.  Should they be punished? Should they be held accountable? Yes and yes.  Should they get the help they need? Yes. Are these boys still human beings? Yes.

 

“You and me”

So ever since things really started to get a little chaotic in my life, I began writing Toby letters. The letters aren’t on a weekly basis but instead when there are just moments in which I feel like I need to tell him something. Some of the letters are to teach him something or maybe explain something. I posted on Facebook that this blog would be an insight into the “real” me. This letter isn’t to show what a great dad I am, but a reflection of the “hope” part in the title of this blog. I don’t imagine that I will post many of these letters but I felt the need to share the “hope” that keeps me from going over the edge.

Dear Toby, (3/14/13)

It’s the night before your 3rd birthday! How amazing is that? I just put you to bed. Just about every night I let you watch some random video like “Sheep on the island” or “Chip and Dale”. Just like every other night I laid down with you for a few minutes. Usually we sing songs. Tonight was different. You saw my phone and it had a picture of you and me on it! You were able to say “Hey that’s me!” And “That’s Dadda.” Tonight though I took the time to teach you how to say “you and me.” First you kinda messed it up by pointing to yourself and saying “you” then pointing to me and saying “me”. I put your hand on my chest and said “you” and then put your hand on your chest and said “me”. You’re pretty smart because you picked up on it instantly! Then the most incredible thing happened. You strung together sentences that went “You and me. Friend Dadda. I love you dadda.” (You got the hand motions down and you gave me a big hug at the end). I believe only when you have a child of your own and something similar happens will you truly understand what this means to me. I love you little man.

Friend dad.

I can’t be the only one!

So I know I’m not the only one to ever run into someone and recognize their face but literally have no idea who they are! I was at the park the other day with Toby and I saw someone I “knew” and by “knew” I mean I know I went to high school with them, saw them probably everyday at school, knew their name but in that exact moment at the park I have NO IDEA WHO THE HECK THEY ARE!! Then there is the awkward glances. The small talk of “oh how old is your kid..” “Oh he’s almost three…yours?” Neither of us saying others name because we both know… Neither of us KNOWS! Yet, we are too chicken to ask! Why??!!

For some cosmic reason we are afraid! Of what? Looking foolish. Even though we both know that other doesn’t know our names. There is still a chance, a chance that they know and they are waiting to see if you know their name. (I may have confused myself there). Seriously though! Isn’t that what’s holding us back? We don’t want to be the person who doesn’t remember.

So what happens? The small talk continues. It ends. Awkward goodbyes. And then… Oh then… It’s like a treasure hunt! You are texting, Facebook messaging, face timing, whatever you can to figure out who that person was. The worst though, is thinking you know the name. Thinking that you are about 99% sure their name is…. Then finding out you were TOTALLY WRONG! Man. Come on people! I can’t be the only one! A couple of comments of support would be nice! Oh and thanks to Candi for helping me figure out who the other person was! Kudos!

So the thing about church…

So imagine this if you will.  You have just been hired at a new job and you need to go get a physical done.  You are at the doctors office in one of those rooms that have one “rolly” stool, a chair and a thing that looks like the love child of the futon your roommate slept on and your grandmothers plastic covered couch.  You wait patiently and in comes a nurse.  What would you expect her first words to be? “How are you feeling today?” “Do you have any allergies?” I would even expect the classic “What are you here for?” What you wouldn’t expect is “Oh aren’t you Cheri’s (my mom) son?” If that wasn’t awkward enough the follow-up statement goes something like “oh well I worked with your mom, well not with her she was in the ER and I was…….” (Those dots are me tuning out whatever she said).

Now I must stop here and note, for my mother’s sake, that this blog is in no way critical of her as a person, a mother, or her work.  This is the simple case of living in a small town, not to mention being a minority, an Asian minority in a 90-95% white town.  Needless to say, I stick out like Clark Griswold’s house on Christmas Eve.  Currently, this is also one of the major issues that I currently have with church.  Not THE CHURCH but church in Grove City, PA.  I know walking into just about every church I will run into someone who either knows my mom, my dad, my two brothers, or myself.  Probably right about now you thinking “Nate? Really? That’s your issue?? COME ON MAN!”

Here is my critical and cynical mind working.  When someone comes up to me and says they know one of my family members really well, and goes on and on about how this happened, and then that happened and then well you know so and so, well then happen…. (again tuning out) this is where anxiety comes in.  Well, at least I think it’s anxiety.  I feel like I have to be friends with this person.  That in some cosmic way now I am obligated to be friends, to interact, to smile at them every time we make eye contact, attempt to answer questions about my family, ask questions about their family. All of these things go through my mind.  Unfortunately, I am guessing many of my readers are not minorities but for the few that are out there, I feel like it becomes that scenario where you introduce yourself and instantly the other person says “Oh I know someone who is Asian!” or “My cousin is married to a black guy and has some beautiful mixed kids.”  And by saying this they have some how endeared themselves to you and now you are on a level playing field because the “know someone who is..” Again, this is my twisted cynical mind working so please work with me.

For those of you that don’t know, I lived in Nashville for almost four years.  Full disclosure, the first six months were hell.  I literally did nothing.  I worked and then I watched the show “24”, the ENTIRE series (great show if you want to waste your life away).  It wasn’t until I got involved in the church down there did things really change for me.  (Jeremy if you are reading this, please comment and vouch for me.)  I came out of my hermitville and got involved in life.  The difference was that I was pretty much a nobody down there.  There were no expectations when I walked into that church.  I didn’t feel a cosmic obligations to instantly be friends with everyone who came up to me and asked me about so and so, because no one was going to.  No, this was a chance to start fresh and carve my own path.  I was attempting to explain this to a friend the other day.  I used the terrible analogy of a wood carving.  (HEY! I said it was terrible!) I explained that walking into a church in Grove City for me is like someone starting a wood carving project and then handing it to me expecting me to know what to do with it.  I don’t know about you but I hate finishing work that other people started.  You feel awkward, it’s never the way you want it to be, and not to mention the entire time you are thinking you should scrap the whole thing and start over.  Walking into a church in Nashville was like starting with a fresh piece of wood and making it into whatever.

So back to my first post “Now What?” Honestly, I have no idea.  Please Comment.

woodworking

So the thing about love…

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but it just happened to me.  You hear a song over and over but you never really listen to it.  You simply hear the words, maybe even sing the chorus line a few times.  Then you stop. Then you really listen to the words. Chances are I’m not the only one.  I was laying down and put on The Black Keys Pandora, if you know me at all you know that this is pretty much all I listen to.  The song “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright came on.  Sadly enough the only reason why I know this song at all is because of the movie Shrek.  I stopped.  I listened to the lyrics.  The line that simply killed me was “Love is not a victory march, It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah.”

Maybe its the chaos of my life right now.  Maybe its the deep roots that I have in The Church.  Maybe its just my inner soul craving more than just the same old crap.  I don’t rightfully know how to explain it.  I think of weddings and how the happy couple walks down the isle like they have accomplished something.  Like they just won a championship.  Like a victory march. When in reality, the preseason and the practice is over and the real season has just begun.  The victory march down the church isle is all for naught if the marriage doesn’t survive the “regular” season.  If anyone deserves a victory march its my grandparents who have been married literally forever… They deserve a parade. A party. People lining up along main street throwing them flowers and celebrating with them.  Its curious to me that marriage is one of the few things we celebrate the beginning of.  The “cold and broken Hallelujah” is a that cry when no one is looking. Thanking God for what you have. The same cry I whisper when I kiss Toby goodnight. The one that no on sees or hears, except God. That’s the celebration.  The celebration of love.  It isn’t wedding, the party, the dancing, or the gifts. Its years down the road and still saying Hallelujah.

Yeah, I’m not done yet. Sorry.  So the next song that popped on my Black Keys Pandora was Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More”. I know I’m late to the party on them.  Again, I stopped and listened.  They sang “Love that will not betray you, Dismay or enslave you, It will set you free”. In my mind I put both lines together:

Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah. It will not betray you, dismay or enslave you. It will set you free.

If an alien ship landed and they asked me to explain what love was.  This would be the definition for me.  It wouldn’t make sense to them. Hell, it barely makes sense to me. So as I begin my search for this thing that everyone wants. This will be my standard. My definition. Back to the first post…”Now what?” I have no idea…but at least now I have a definition.

House keeping stuff…I added a widget (thanks to Jeremy) so you can get email updates on my blog. Feel free to comment.

First Blog

“Now what?” Toby asks me as I pin him down with my hands. Toby and I have been wrestling for about 10minutes now. I’ve picked him up and slammed him down countless times. No, Toby is not some drunk I got into a bar fight with. He’s my almost 3yr old son. He and I wrestle on a nightly basis. He calls it “Get dad.” I grab him and toss him on the couch, power bomb him from my shoulders and chase him down. The entire time he laughs his head off.
This time I have him pinned. He cannot move. He smiles and looks at me and asks “now what?” The question resonates in my mind. In the midst of some major personal changes and pressure from work, I feel myself being pinned down and asking the same question “now what?” The issue I suppose is that I have no idea. No idea what’s next. I’m pinned with seemingly no way out.
I’m hoping that this blog can help me wade through my issues. This blog can help me vent. A place where I can get out the thoughts that are rolling around upstairs. This isn’t a place for right or wrong, this is just my perspective. If you agree then awesome, if you don’t agree then awesome. Feel free to post responses, as long as you’re respectful. Hopefully we can figure out “now what?” Together.