I can’t imagine

Tonight I let Toby stay up late. No school, no work, why not? He watched his shows on the kindle. I watched mine on the tv. He would randomly come up and jump on my lap and kiss my face all over and then run away. I would leave the room and he would find an excuse to follow. When I put him to bed he was whinny and wanted someone “big” to lay down with him, so I laid in his bed for a few minutes. Later I went in and put an extra blanket on him because he feels the need to sleep with a fan blowing on him. Throughout tonight the same thought pulsated through my head: I couldn’t imagine whipping him with a switch and leaving cuts and bruises on his legs.

Tonight it came out that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is being accused of child abuse. He admitted taking a switch from a tree and hitting his 4 yr old son with it repeatedly. Full disclosure, I’ve smacked Toby’s butt on a few occasions and popped him in the mouth when he has yelled and talked back. However, I could not imagine beating him with a belt or a switch. I couldn’t imagine hitting hard enough to leave cuts, welts and bruises. It’s just simply something I wouldn’t do.

One of the phrases I always tell my kids at work is “just because something always was doesn’t mean it has to continue.” I use segregation as an example. About how blacks, “colored” couldn’t drink from the same water fountains as white. Things have changed and progressed. The response from my friends have varied about the Adrian Peterson incident. Some have said “well if that’s the case my parents should be in jail” or “he (Adrian Peterson) should be shot” and “that’s what happened to me as a kid, I don’t see a big deal.” To those who accept the fact that this isn’t a big deal because it happened to them, I say that just because you went through it doesn’t make it right. Just because that’s how things were, doesn’t mean it has to be continue.

I fully admit that this world would be a better place if parents were stricter with their kids. That kids seem to get away with everything. That with things like smart phones and all the evils that come with it, that kids are exposed to more now than ever before. I understand that as kids we remembered those “whoopings” our parents gave us. At the same time, I look at Toby and can’t imagine at the age of 4, him doing anything that would want me to beat him until he bled, was bruised and battered. For those that simply accept what happened as a part of growing up, I ask what can a 4 yr old really do to deserve bruises on his butt, legs, back, hands, and scrotum? I can’t imagine.



Squeezing in…

One of the line I say to my kids at work is that “many times as an adult things are not right or wrong but each choice has a set of consequences and many of the decisions you make are based on which set of consequences can you live with.” As many times I as I say this there are many more times that there are times in which you simply have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Too often I think we look for a rock and hard place to squeeze between so we don’t have to make the right choice and we can avoid making the choice altogether.

As people my belief is that honestly, we are inherently lazy. We simply do the least amount of work for the most gain. However if we can avoid doing any work and seemingly lose out a minimal amount, we’ll do that too. We look to avoid situations in which we’ll be put on the spot or have to potentially step up and do the right thing. I see time and time again where the right thing to do is blaring a horn, waving a sign and wearing face paint and yet the a person will find excuses so that they don’t have to do it.

One way I see people do this is intentionally try and find a rock and a hard place to squeeze into. Take a week and observe friends, family, coworkers and bosses and see if you think this is true. What this will look like is the person making excuses on both sides. Building up barriers as to why they shouldn’t do this or that. Becoming paralyzed when called upon to step up. When confronted with it not stepping up they’ll argue both sides and seemly boxing themselves in and will then look at you and ask this “what was I suppose to do?” Oh and the hands are always raised as to signify they are helpless to do anything about it.

I know I am cynical. I know that I don’t trust 99.99% of all humanity and that it takes moving mountains to get me to react emotionally to anything. However, look around and tell me you don’t see this. That you haven’t experienced this. That you haven’t been frustrated with this. Chances are, if you haven’t then you’re the one doing it.

Dear Toby (8/27/14)

Dear Toby,

Hey little man. Well I guess if you are reading this you probably aren’t so little. As always, I hope you are doing well. I hope things are good for you. I can only imagine what you are doing now. If you have a job, a wife, your own child. Maybe you are traveling around with friends. Maybe you are in school and hopefully studying. Who know?! I do know that no matter what I love you and I’m proud of you.

It’s been an interesting couple of months since my last letter to you. You had to be taken to the hospital because you had a severe asthma attack. It was pretty insane. You coughed and coughed. To the point in which you couldn’t keep food or drink down. You had a fever and you kept saying your stomach hurt. After a sleepless night for the both of us things finally calmed down. The aftermath consisted of a definite diagnosis of asthma and a host of allergies, including and especially horses.

The hardest part of all is that as a parent you do everything you can to keep you child safe. When you were in the hospital and I had too much time to think, doubts crept into my mind. Thoughts like “did I miss something?” “Should I have acted sooner?” “Could I have prevented this?” In the end though, the realization is that I can’t always protect you. I can’t always be around and watching over. It’s a tough realization to come to as a parent.

The realization is that I can do everything in my power and you could still be at risk of something. That I can keep a car from hitting you and watch you like hawk but a small particle of grass can mess up your breathing. It’s a humbling experience to realize that you can’t do it all. That a little pill that you chew up and swallow protects you better than I can.

I also realize this, that as of now I’m your provider. I pay the insurance so that we can afford the little pill that can protect you. That you still need me to open the little bottle and give you the pill and most importantly need me to remember to give it to you. I also realize that one day, probably like the day you are reading this, that you won’t need me for those things either. That you’ll be doing it by yourself. It will sadden me a little bit but I’ll also be proud of you.

Friend Dad

Dear Toby, (6/21/14)

Dear Toby, (6/21/14)

Hey son. Right now you are with Nanna. I miss you. I can’t help but think about you as I mill around the house. Pick up your toys, clean your room, push past your milk in the fridge. I can help but think of your smile as I look around the house. Your little smile is truly so contagious. I love it. I hope it will never change

Crazy word, change. It’s scary. It’s exciting. It’s mysterious. It’s inspiring. We’ve been through an incredible amount of changes in the past year. You have had to adjust to so much. I am amazed how you have handled yourself. I am so very proud.

The crazier thing is that there are more changes to come. Changes we don’t see coming and changes we can plan for. It’s tough. Some of the changes are small, so small you don’t really notice it. Like you growing up. Your shoes not fitting or your ever expanding vocabulary. It’s incredible. Then there are changes that will hit us like a ton of bricks. Ones that come out of nowhere and we have to simply adjust on the fly. Those can be the hardest. The life changing changes.

So far my awesome little guy you have done an amazing job adjusting to the changes. The small ones that come with growing up and the bricks that have come your way. When you are reading this know that you will still have changes coming your way. They’ll be scary, exciting, mysterious, inspiring, painful and wonderful. In the end though, we can’t escape the changes. Do what you have been doing, simply adjust and keep smiling.

Friend Dad

Dear Toby, (5/27/14)

Dear Toby, (5/27/14)

First and always, I hope you are doing well. I hope that when you are reading this you are happy. However, if you’re not that’s ok too. As terrible as times can look it’s not the end of the world. You have an amazing spirit of determination.

I’m privy to that determination on regular basis. Tonight was an excellent example. I had softball practice and you came with me. You played with your best friend, Caden. Of course you got dirty and loved every minute of it. Then it was timed to go home. I politely informed you that when we get home you were getting a bath. For whatever reason, at this age you hate getting a bath. You cry, yell and argue just about every time it’s time for a bath.

We finally get home after you arguing with me the entire way home. I pull you into the bathroom. Still you cried and argued. I stripped off your clothes and still you argued. I plopped you into the tub and still you cried and argued. I pretty much held you up and bathed you while you cried and protested the whole time. You stopped crying and arguing when I pulled you out of the tub and dried you off.

In this little moment I think there are a couple of lessons. The first is that when you, my crazy little man, have your mind made up you don’t give in. I honestly blame myself because I’m the same way. Your stubbornness is both a blessing and a curse. There are times in which you have to be stubborn and not give in. There are other times in which if you don’t give in, well then you’ll end up being the stinky kid at school. The other lesson is pretty simple, I won’t let you be the stinky kid at school.

Friend Dad

Russian Roulette

I was watching a movie the other night and honestly couldn’t tell you who was in it or what the title of the movie was. There was however a classic scene that played out, it’s a scene that has been in countless movies. It’s the Russian Roulette scene. In typical fashion one person wants information, believes the other person has the information and decides that sticking a single bullet into a revolver, spinning the chambers, pointing it at the individual and then pulling the trigger until the person gives them the information or they die. It’s a classic scene. It’s a scene that plays out in gangster movies, cop movies, dramas, comedies and western. It plays out in real life too, it’s called dating. In my short stint into dating I have learned two things. One, there are no rules in dating and two, it’s like a big game of Russian Roulette.

The fact is that there are no rules. Single people save your money and don’t buy these books that say things like “10 simples rules for dating” or “today’s dating guide”. Honestly, there are no rules. Each date, person, relationship is different. The first date with a person could be completely different from the second date. By the time you get to the 5th date, you aren’t even dating the same person you were on the 1st date! Each person is different too. Everyone has their own issues and baggage. Own wants and needs. You might think you are compatible because a website tells you you are, but when you meet face to face the person is nothing like what their profile says. The classic is meeting someone who has a profile picture of them all sleek and fit, then you meet them and they are over weight and smell weird. Oh, that pic was a few years ago when you were really into working out? What you just wanted to show me your potential? Give me something to look forward too? The fact is that there are no rules because you don’t know what you’ll get.

Which brings me to the point that dating is a big game of Russian Roulette. It’s like taking a huge gun chamber with say 100 chambers. You fill 10 of those chambers with legit crazy people. You fill 70 of those chambers with duds that are harmless but a waste of time. Then you fill 10 of the chambers with $100. Nice if you get that chamber but not life changing. The other 9 you fill with weirdos that flake out on you or never show up. Then in one chamber is the one person that could change your life. You take that chamber and have Drew Carey spin the wheel a dozen times. Now it’s game on. You risk getting shot with a crazy person, or a dud, time waster, no show or weirdos. You play because maybe, just maybe the next time you pull the trigger it will be the one! You don’t want to not pull the trigger because you might miss out on the one but you don’t want to pull the trigger because you the chances of one of the others is highly probably. You simply don’t know what you are going to get. You really don’t know. You can be cautious and try and be careful, but let’s face it, people lie and manipulate.

This whole dating thing has been interesting. I’ve met some really awesome people and some not so awesome people. I’ve been surprised and let down. I’ve laughed and been pissed. Sometimes it has been a great time and other times i swore the earth rotated backwards so that time stood still. In the end you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the thrill and the excitement and it’s hugely frustrating. The thing is we all keep playing because the next one could be the one.

Foster: Superman Suitcase

Foster looked around Caleb’s office. The files were stacked high on Caleb’s desk with an old computer taking up way too much space. The desk looked heavy and by the indentations in the floor you could tell the desk had not been moved since it was put in place.

Caleb was trying to clear off his desk, but every time he moved one set of files another set of files would begin to fall. Foster smirked at him.

“Can I go to the bathroom please?” Foster asked. Foster did the classic knees shake and hands between his legs.

“Oh yeah of course. Um.. It’s” Caleb realized that in fact he had no idea where the bathroom was.

Foster rolled his eyes “I got it bro, I’ve been here plenty of times.” Before Caleb could protest, Foster bolted out of the office.

Foster rounded the corner of a long dingy hallway. The part of the building that Foster was in use to be the old courthouse. At one point the building probably was beautiful and full of life, now it was dusty and dingy. The new caseworkers were assigned offices in the basement of the courthouse. The offices were full of files and old computer. Of course when you are getting interviewed, they give you a tour of the new court house with new offices and new computers. What they wait and to tell you until you agree to take the job is that all new caseworkers are assigned to the “Dungeon” as the basement is described.

Foster had been in the Dungeon so many times that he knew the hallways better than most caseworkers. He knew where every pillar, side hallway and rusted water fountain was. Foster did have to go to the bathroom but it was not the reason why he bolted from the office. Foster knew that he was going to get moved, again. It wasn’t the moving that Foster cared about, he had done that over a dozen times, no there was something else, something irreplaceable, his Superman suitcase.

Everyone loves Superman because he’s fast, strong, he can fly and he can shoot lasers out of his eyes. Superman is arguably the greatest super hero of all time. Foster loved Superman for an entirely different reason. Superman was the ultimate orphan and found the greatest adoptive family. Superman represented what every kid in foster care hoped for, a loving family that takes you in and make you their own. To Foster, that was Superman. All the extra stuff was just a bonus.

When Foster was 7 years old he found himself in what he thought was a perfect foster home. The parents were named Bill and Callie. They had two kids of their own, a boy and a girl, 10 and 13 respectively. Bill Jr. was short and pudgy like his mom. His sister, Eve, was tall and graceful, taking after her father. Foster instantly gravitated toward Bill Sr. Foster was scrawny but he was quick and athletic for a 7yr old. Bill Sr. looked at Foster like he was the son that he was suppose to have, not like the stout pudgy son Bill Jr. was. It wasn’t that Bill Sr. did not love little Bill but little Bill just had no interest in sports and would rather play video games.

One Saturday night it was family movie night. Bill Sr. popped in an old movie that he called a classic. It was the original Superman movie starring Christopher Reeves. Bill Sr. and Callie sat on the couch. Bill Jr. was on a lazy boy playing his DS and paying little to no attention to the movie. Eve plopped down in front of the couch munching on popcorn. That was Eve’s superpowers, she could eat and eat and not gain a single pound. Foster was laying on the carpet just a few feet away from the television. As he watch Superman get rescued by the Kents he wanted nothing more than to become Superman, find a family and do good in the world.

Everyday for a month Foster begged and pleaded with Callie to watch Superman after school. Bill Sr. would come home and beam with pride knowing he had introduced such a classic to the boy. Bill Jr. became acutely aware of the favor that Foster was gaining from his father. As the month dragged on Bill Jr. started his own campaign to keep Foster from watching Superman. Junior would cry and yell that he wanted to watch anything but Superman. His mother would put on another show, as soon as she left the room, Bill Jr. would pull out his DS and zone out. If Foster tried to put on Superman, Bill Jr. would toss down his DS and let out a wail, causing his mom to rush into the room. Bill Jr. would point and accuse Foster of being mean and putting on the movie without permission.

The first few times Foster got into trouble. Then Callie started to get wise and notice the pattern. One time she stepped around the corner and watch the scene unfold. Seeing her son zone out on his DS and seeing Foster being forced to watch a show that he had no interest in. Then when Foster would even turn the channel, her son would let out a wail. After that Callie put a stop to the whole thing. She made a schedule and Foster could watch Superman once on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday’s.

This infuriated Bill Jr., not only did his dad show Foster so much favor but now his mom was siding with this kid. The whole thing came to a head one evening when Eve was suppose to be watching the boys. Bill Sr. and Callie had a dinner party to attend and had left Eve to get the boys to bed and make sure “the house didn’t burn down” as Bill Sr. put it.

Bill Jr. and Foster shared a room and were playing with action figures as Eve was talking on the phone with a friend in her room. Of course none of action figures were Foster’s but he was allowed to play with them anyways. Bill Jr. always made Foster play with the broken ones or ones that he didn’t want.

As Bill Jr. crashed his Lizard man into the broken Spider-Man that Foster was holding he yell “Take that you evil doer!”

“He’s not evil! Your guy is the evil one!” Foster retorted back.

“Shut-up Foster. My toys, my rules.” said Bill Jr. as he glared at Foster.

“Miss Callie said it’s not nice to say shut up” Foster said matter of factly.

“You leave my mom out of this” Bill Jr. yelled as he stood up and pushed Foster down. Foster got up pushed Bill Jr. back. As Bill Jr. stumbled backwards he tripped on a pair of shoes his mother had told him to pick up earlier. Bill Jr. fell back loosing his balance, as Foster tried to catch him, Bill Jr. turned and landed on his hand and wrist. The crack was audible as Bill Jr. landed with a thud.

Bill Jr. let out a scream that Foster was pretty certain could be heard across the street and next door. Eve ran into the room looking borderline translucent. With tears streaming down the his face, Bill Jr. crafted a lie that involved Foster bullying him for his toys and then shoving him onto the floor. Foster stood there stunned into silence. The next few hours were a whirlwind.

Bill Sr. and Callie came home after receiving a frantic phone call from Eve. Callie gathered up Bill Jr. and drove him to the hospital. Foster was closed in his room. He heard the house phone ring. Muffled voice seeped under the door. Bill Sr. somberly walked through the door a few minutes later. Sitting on his son’s bed he rubbed his face as he stalled the talk that was impending. Foster knew. He knew in the pit of his stomach what was about to happen.

“Foster” Bill Sr. struggled to begin “Foster, we umm need to talk.” Bill Sr. looked down knowing that if he looked at Foster he would fall apart. “I’m going to have to call your case worker. I just don’t think that it’s best if you stay here. Bill Jr. is getting bigger and he’ll need his own space soon.”

“I’m sorry” were the only words that Foster could manage.

That night Foster slept on the couch downstairs. Bill Sr. and Callie let him watch Superman that night. Bill left the next morning really early and returned with a big bag. Foster was still asleep when Bill Sr. came home. Foster was woken up as Callie quickly made him some toast and gave him grapes for breakfast. Later, Callie took Eve and Bill Jr. to get brunch. Callie gave Foster a hug and Eve hugged him as well. Bill Jr. stood at the door and simply waved with his free hand.

After the rest of the family left, Bill Sr. appeared with a small Superman suitcase.

“Here Foster. This is yours. Something to keep your stuff in.” Bill Sr. said as he helped put some of Foster’s clothes in the suitcase.

Foster stood in silence.

The caseworker showed up to pick him up. Foster gave Bill Sr. a hug and said thank you. Bill Sr. struggled to keep back some tears. Then Foster walked out the door. At the last minute Bill Sr. ran to the living room and came back with the Superman DVD. He slipped it into Foster’s bag right before Foster got into the car.

Racism “I’m not dead yet” (in a Monty Python voice)

One of my favorite movies is Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you haven’t seen it then to be honest you’ll probably not get many of the references in the rest of this post. Regardless, keep reading. Ha. The thing about the movie is that I heard quotes from it long before I had actually seen the movie. Quotes like “Summon the Holy Hand Grenade” and “we are the knights that say Ni!” Classics lines from the movie. Since I hadn’t seen the movie I didn’t get the quotes and I didn’t think, at the time, they were funny. I had to experience the movie for myself. Finally I sat down and watched it. My eyes were opened! It was like I was watching a comedy for the first time, my world was forever altered by a bunch of Brits acting foolishly. You if you don’t get it, you just have to experience it.

Something that some people simply don’t get is racism. I think you can watch all the old 60’s news footage of marching, watch movies like American History X, walk through the the Martin Luther King Jr Museum a thousand times, but until you have actually faced it, experienced it, and have been personally a victim of it, I don’t think you can get it. One can describe the feelings and the situations but it’s far different than catching that look in someone’s eye as you pass by and knowing full well the only reason it’s there is because of the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes. You can watch movies and documentaries on it but it’s different when the name calling is directed toward you, your brother, and to your face. It’s just different.

Recently, Donald Sterling (owner of the NBA franchise LA Clippers) was caught spewing racist remarks in an audio recording. The news coverage is so wide spread that even President Obama commented on the issue and he was in another country at the time.

In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail there is a scene where a man is in charge of collecting the dead bodies around the city. Another man approaches him with an old man slung on his shoulder. The man tells the collector that he has a dead one for him. The old man quips “I’m not dead yet!”

In the audio you can hear Donald Sterling talking about him getting phone calls because his girlfriend took a picture with Magic Johnson. In the context of the conversation one can imagine that the phone calls that Donald Sterling had received were focused on why his girlfriend was taking pictures of herself with a black guy and posting them on Instagram. This tells me that Donald is surrounded by friends and probably family that share his same views. That their zealous racism extends to monitoring his girlfriend’s Instagram and then reporting back to Donald what’s going on. To me this just proves that racism extends far beyond Donald Sterling and most likely to other CEO’s, owners and powerful people continuing racism’s proclamation of “I’m not dead yet!”

I had a conversation with someone who asked if my parents were strict as far as who I dated. My response was “I’m 32 years old… So no”. I followed my statement by asking if their parents were. They said yeah their parents were pretty strict. Of course I could see how this was unfolding but I still pushed by asking “oh in what way?”. The response continued racism’s echo of “I’m not dead yet”. They responded in saying that they weren’t allowed to date “Blacks and Mexicans”. Needless to say I was surprised and not surprised. Their excuse was “that’s how they were raised.” My philosophy on excuses, pardon the language, are that they are like assholes; everyone has one and they all stink.

Much like the knight who simply won’t die and despite electing a black president, twice, racism is not dead. Word like “colored” is still accepted in many circles. Donald Sterling said that “minorities … Are the enemy.” He even called his girlfriend an enemy. Racism isn’t dead because we allow excuses like “well that’s how they were raised”. Even though we have cut off the arms of racism through the civil rights movement, it is still hopping around attempting to “Bite your legs off”.

Question game…

I like to play the question game when I meet new people or I am making friends with someone new. The rules are pretty simple:
1. Take turns asking questions
2. You can’t ask the same question back to the other person
3. You can always choose to decline to answer a question
Like I said the rules are pretty simple.

One question that is always asked is if I am from North Korea or South Korea. Honestly, I struggle with this question. The struggle isn’t coming up with an answer but answering the question altogether. This question creates more questions in my mind. Why? How is this important? What difference does it make? What if I am from North Korea? Will you stop talking to me? Why is everyone curious?

The more “upsetting” part is when I give my answer and the response I sometimes get:
Me “South Korea”
Them “oh good” and then they let out a sigh of relief.
What? How did this turn into a good or bad thing? As if I would have answered “North Korea” then your response would have been “oh bad”. What many of the people fail to recognize is that the majority of Koreans want a unified Korea. That they would prefer to just say “I’m Korean” and leave it at that.

Another aspect that gets lost on most people that respond by saying “oh good” is that I am at this point I’m an American and not a North Korean or South Korean. That I’ve been living in the United States for 29years now. That I don’t speak Korean, don’t eat Korean food and haven’t been to Korea since I was adopted. I guess I don’t really get why being from the north or the south really matters, or how being from the south is “good” and the “north” is bad. In the end it’s not good or bad because it doesn’t matter, not to me… and honestly it shouldn’t to you.

Dear Toby (4/1/14),

Dear Toby (4/1/14),

Hey little man. First off I hope that you are well when you are reading this. Every parent wants their child to be happy and free from strife but I know too well that’s almost impossible. I think that the very best one can hope for is that their child is well. By well I mean of a sound mind and body and that you have the capabilities to deal with whatever comes your way. It’s been pretty amazing to watch you grow up so far. As of right now for being a four year old, you my son are well.

I was thinking earlier today about the fact that I haven’t had to put you in time out in a very long time. No spankings or even the threat of one. It’s pretty amazing. I’m not so naive to think that I won’t ever have to put you in time out again or even give you quick smack to your butt but it’s pretty incredible to see how you have “matured”, as much of as a four year old can be mature. In essence, I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the fact that time outs in school have been less and less recently and proud of how you have handled all the “Toby shuffling” that happens between your mother, Nanna and I.

I know that hard times will come. That if you live long enough on this earth that life will have some very hard moments. That if you let these moments take control it can lead to a very hard life. You my son are well. You are capable of handling whatever comes your way, no matter how great the strife. When you eventually handle the strife that finds you, I know I’ll be just as proud then as I am now. Stay well my son.

Friend Dad.