A hole in dad’s bucket list

I miss my dad.

I miss him more (he passed on nearly three years ago) when I think of the things that I could have done to make his final days more memorable for the both of us.

Regrets are never easy to bear.

That’s why what this son did for his elderly father is inspiring and amazing. Love your parents. Life is fragile and short. Strengthen your bond and create memories because when they are gone it is all we have left of them.

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We fight – a letter to a son with a broken heart

My dear son,

broken_heartThe lucky ones have never experienced what you are feeling right now.

The lucky ones are those who lie to us about the pain because the truth is hard to admit when it is the most painful thing that you have ever experienced in your young life.

In your carefree days you scraped your knees, you pricked your fingers you fell from trees and felt the puncture of bee and wasp stings. But this pain grates against your spirit. This pain stabs something tender and vulnerable inside you. This pain makes you feel like you’ve fallen into an abyss. This pain hurts every fabric and fiber of your being.

Heartache is the one pain that your mother and I cannot protect you from. It is the one ailment that we cannot mitigate or purge no matter how much we try. It is a broken part of you that cannot be healed with a simple co-pay and an indifferent practitioner who will tell you things like, ‘drink more water and eat more fruits’ because this pain is incendiary even when it feels cold. It is fatal and altogether invigorating because you know for the first time that it is possible to have a piece of you that can exist inside someone else and vice versa. You now know that there is a part of you that dies every time that special someone goes away and is resurrected in you every time they are near you.

A word you shared. A scent you both smelled. A song that was sung at the exact moment when you realized that this person means something to you and you to them. These and every experience you have felt together was fuel on the pyre of love that is hard to extinguish.

But old people have forgotten. Instead of love we call it teenage angst or puppy love. We dismiss it because we think you don’t know what you’re talking about; you’re too young to know what love is when the truth is succinct in intertwined hearts no matter how many years they have been beating – love is love and love hurts even when it feels right or goes wrong.

As older, erudite travelers on the road of life we have experienced enough heartache to write, produce and release our own CD of country ballads. But it also means that we can be jaded, our emotions bored and cynical when we witness teenage love. It’s as unfair today as it was when we were experiencing the same emotions at your age and being dismissed by our own parents. There is little if any sympathy for what you are experiencing because we think that our own battles, our own grown up stuff that we need to properly promptly address trumps what we perceive to be the naiveté of teenage heartache and therefore discount the raw and unintelligible feelings that you’re obviously feeling for the very first time!

It’s selfish of me to confuse your feelings as juvenile because what you’re feeling is as grown up an emotion as anyone will ever feel in life – love.

I’m here to tell you that your heartache matters. As your parents we validate that what you are feeling is hard. It sucks, it’s real, it’s upsetting and it bites because that’s what love does to us – it twists us, jerks us, manipulates, warms, befuddles, scares, enlightens and depresses us.

But that is the beauty of it all, if in fact a silver lining can be found in the dark and foreboding clouds of heartache: You’re now learning to love. It is a powerful, intoxicating emotion that is by far the most complex of any that you will feel in your life. And even though your mom and I cannot take away the pain of heartache, we will always be available to love you and support you through this, one of life’s most difficult trials.

We may not always have the right advice about romance because to be honest we’re still learning this love thing ourselves all these years later. But by overcoming these trials of the heart we are finding deeper meaning and understanding in our love for each other.

In love and in heartache we become stronger. We become more resilient. We become more careful. Sometimes we may find ourselves being careless, other times less trusting; sometimes more open and other times less discriminatory but all the while it is love that is making us whole and then tearing us apart until finally we find that one person that we put up with and yet we cannot live without.

There are those who will tell us that time heals all wounds. I believe that time will heal the pain but there will always be a scar to remind us of how it felt no matter how much time has passed. And this is why I consider myself an expert as have many who have come before you – I know your pain!

A broken heart is not a trifling thing. Love is as problematic as it is blissful. I want to lie to you like the lucky ones who have never experienced heartache before and tell you that it doesn’t hurt and that this stuff is easy. But that would only be helping me, not you because as a parent it is hard for us to watch our children experience the pain that we so intimately know.

I know it may not help you much right now while you’re hurting and while you’re trying to sort out these emotions in your head and in your heart I want you know this one thing that will never change – your mother and I love you and always will and we will help you get through this.

Be strong.

Chin up.

Gather yourself together and fight on.

That’s what we do.

We fight.

I love you

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Now that’s a “Gipper” moment

I know how hard it is to coach little league sports because I’ve been doing for two decades now. It is a difficult and mostly thankless job but it is rewarding because when you do it the right way you know that you’re making a difference in the lives of young people, not just in athletics but also in their character.

Let me clarify – there’s a good way and a bad way to coach and I’ve seen a lot of both but the bad ones stick out in my mind mostly because it is the bad ones that leave a lasting impression on young minds.

Rhode Island Little League coach Dave Belisle provides us with a stellar example of how good coaches, good mentors, good ambassadors for their sport should behave in moments of adversity and defeat: You keep on leading and you keep on encouraging because it is in those moments when emotions are raw when we are provided with our greatest teaching opportunities.

We can blame our opponent, we can blame the refs we can even blame teammates and coaches. But Belisle taught a greater lesson to his players – you fought hard, you made everyone proud so let’s celebrate what we achieved.

I can learn a lot from this example of humility.

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I just want you – Song of the week

This song has a powerful message and the delivery by @vedothesinger is amazing and inspiring. Vicki Yohe captures the human need to reach for a higher, divine power in our moments of need. I wish I had the skill to capture both the emotion and the raw power evoked by this song but we can’t have it all, right? So this time I will rely solely on Vicki Yohe’s prose and Vedo’s soulful interpretation.

What song has inspired you this week?


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You look lost

always help

You can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone ~ Ronald Reagan

I was in Moab last week with the young men in our local church group for a few days of fun in the sun. We had set up camp and the boys were organizing our living space for the next two and a half days so I took the opportunity to briefly scout out our camp ground. It’s a simple place on the outskirts of town with RV hook-up’s and tent spaces. It’s a steal if you want running water and a warm shower to wash off the red dirt at the end of a long, hot summer day of outdoor activities.

After a short, brisk walk around the entire perimeter of the camp, I was heading back to our designated camp ground when I noticed a woman walking towards me with that ‘deer in the headlights’ look that screamed ‘help me I’m lost.’

“Do you need help?” I asked as she drew near enough for me to ask the question without having to shout and alarm her. But my attempt to be helpful seemed to fall on deaf ears so I repeated my question. A little bit louder this time but again making sure to seem courteous.

This time the woman stopped, looked straight at me and said, “If I needed help I would have asked you.”

Stunned by her rude response, I stood rooted to the spot somewhere between annoyed and sad, the scales tipping more in the direction of anger. I just wanted to be helpful and my attempt at being neighborly was met with a coarseness that frankly I’m unaccustomed to.

It took every ounce of patience that I could muster to prevent me from making a bad situation worse – that is a bad habit of mine. My initial response was to give that woman a good ‘ol Samoan tongue lashing. But I persevered and found the strength to walk away and let the steam roll off my scalding, freshly shaven pate. Understand that it is against my nature to withdraw when someone is confrontational, especially when I have a strong opinion or conviction about something or someone. So to walk away without offering even a slight comical retort was a major, albeit a painful win for me.

And yet here is the agonizing truth about that haphazard encounter and what I suppose to be a fundamental flaw in my character – I will do it again. I will ask a random stranger if they need help if they look like they are struggling. I will ask my friends, my family, my co-workers, anyone I come upon whom I discern might need some assistance because that is what I believe in. I have no desire to spearhead a movement to change the world I just want to help people because that’s what I was taught to do.

It is not easy. I am uncomfortable asking people if they need help because that is what our society teaches us today – self-preservation. But I would rather be uncomfortable and rejected knowing that I tried to do something good, than wonder for the rest of my life if I could have done some good for someone but was too caught up in my own head to notice, acknowledge and take action. I will cry over spilt milk, literally and figuratively because missed opportunities are a waste.

I’m trying to be a better person in every aspect of my life. I don’t always succeed but it motivates me to try harder. I try to serve someone every single day, even if my offer to serve is rejected. I encourage you to find some time to do something good – a random or intended act of service. We’re all lost sometimes or know someone who is lost spiritually or physically and needs help. We just all need to ask better questions even when it is uncomfortable – ‘Are you lost?’ ‘What can I do to help?’

Every day is a good day to serve others.

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All we need is love

We are suffering.

Not just we as in me and my family and the people in my circle of family and friends but everyone in the world is suffering. Some of us suffer in silence. Others suffer and share their suffering privately. Others endure their afflictions in a very public way because of the nature of their professions or just because the media thinks they are a story worth clicks and views.

Our trials may be trifling to the casual observer but to us the issues we face in our lives are very real and unmistakable. So when someone deems them trivial we feel invalidated, mocked and inadequate. In extreme cases we might feel inept, despondent and worthless.

compassion dalai lamaHow often do we recognize people who are grasping for something but fall short and need a little help? Have you ever been in a situation where a little act of kindness could have made the difference in someone’s day or life but we stopped short of giving our encouragement for one reason or another?

Yesterday I had the chance to have a little fun with colleagues from work. We were in a happy place. No it was not Disneyland but it was one of those places where smiles and laughter are the norm and there’s very rarely a forlorn soul.

I was enjoying the afternoon in a go-cart when I noticed a young girl, probably fifteen or sixteen in the car next to me sitting quietly in the car next to me. I never would have noticed her from the rest of the teenagers in the park except for one obvious exception that stood out the moment she reached for the steering wheel and the sleeves of her shirt slid down from her wrists to rest at her elbows and I immediately felt compassion for her.

The small scars were about an inch in length and extended the length of her forearms like the notches a shipwreck survivor would place on a tree to tell them how many days they had survived. Before she caught me staring I looked away, my mind drifting away despite the roar of two dozen go-carts revving up for a few fun-filled laps around the track.

I found myself asking, ‘What would cause a beautiful young woman to do that to herself?’

I sensed someone staring at me and realized that the girl was looking directly at me. Had she noticed that I had been staring at her? Did she know that I had seen the damage she had done to herself?

I was surprised when she asked, “Are you okay?”

I recovered quickly and shot back, “I’ll be better once I beat you in this race.” I smiled, wondering if it looked as awkward as it felt.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” she beamed as she sped off and left me inhaling exhaust.

Round and round I went. My colleagues and I coaxing each other to get kicked out of the small amusement park as the teenager running the joint blew his whistle furiously to keep us in check. The elation of the moment helped me forget life if only for a moment. But as we rounded the corner I felt a nudge from my right and nearly spun out as a car pushed me into the metal running boards that helped keep the cars on the track as the teenage girl sped past and coasted back into the pit.

“Good luck next time,” she said as we all exited the go-cart raceway.

“Yeah, you got lucky,” was the only retort I could muster but this time my smile was indisputable and her smile made my day because for that moment she was not sad. I wondered how long the happiness would last. I wondered how long it would be before the survivor in her would put another notch in her skin.

“You know that girl?” someone asked.

“Nah, just a kid who likes to put an old guy in his place.”

“You’re one friendly guy.”

“I wish that were true,” I said as we walked back indoors.

The truth is, I do need to be friendlier. I need to be more approachable, kinder and more thoughtful. I may not have made a difference in that young girl’s life but I truly believe that if we as a society showed more compassion towards others and were more genuine in our expressions of love towards all people this world would be a better place.

And if those of us who are recipients of love were more accepting and showed more gratitude for the service rendered by others it might make it easier for others to be more accommodating.

The Beatles once taught us:

No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love
Love is all you need

And one of the greatest teachers taught us this:

“No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)

So here’s a challenge for you that I’ve tried to take upon myself – in every moment, in every day there is occasion to show love for someone you may not normally give. Don’t let that moment escape you. Cease it and do your absolute best to be a blessing to someone who needs it.

Love is all you need.

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Being a (pet) parent isn’t easy

I grew up with pets.

My wife did not.

She grew up at Sea World and dreamed of working with orcas.

To be fair we Samoans don’t really have pets that we dote over and dress up in frilly outfits or in a Batman cape at Halloween. No, the pets we have are merely for practical purposes like guarding the few belongings we own from burglars or for protecting the people we love from predators. We own cats simply to eradicate our homes from mice and other pests.

In America we buy dog food.

In Samoa the dog eats leftovers.

In America dogs are on a leash.

In Samoa dogs roam the earth like dinosaurs.

In our married life we have owned a few birds, lots of gold fish, a hamster, a turtle and a couple of dogs. All of our pets have escaped our home and sprinted off to freedom the moment they were able. If the gold fish could walk or somehow find their way to the ocean from our home ala Finding Nemo they would have gladly opted out like all the rest.

We are not good with pets.

But we are stubborn. We hate failure in our house so we persist in thinking that animals will eventually love us even though we are absolutely horrible at being pet owners. We haven’t the slightest clue at what it takes to be good at raising animals.

So about two months ago we bought a puppy. A husky-Australian Shepard mix that the boys and I were ecstatic about. Their mother on the other hand was less than enthusiastic and her interest in the puppy waned even more when he started leaving steaming piles of “forget me not’s” and little puddles of “I heart u’s” up and down the hard wood floors.

“This dog is driving me nuts!”

“It’s a puppy, give it time,” I lamented.

“Well you guys are taking care of it,” she stammered while trying to avoid yet another batch of puppy cakes from the little hairballs rear end cooker.

And of course when she says, ‘You Guys’ what she really means is ‘Me’ – The dad who brought the puppy home against her will.

We thought having a puppy would be easy. They’re cute, the snuggle up to you and make little whimpering noises and they cling to you. That’s pretty cool right?

Unfortunately that phase wears off pretty fast when the real task of raising a dog starts in earnest. My wife is rarely wrong and in this instance she was spot on. She had some very valid points that have become more compelling with time:

  1. We travel a lot so what do you do with a puppy when you’re on the road – There are no easy or cost effective solutions to this question
  2. The puppy eats – a fact that we overlooked in our eagerness to bring him home and something that she reminds us of daily
  3. The puppy has a lot of energy which means the owners should have at least a fraction of the same energy in order to keep up with his shenanigans
  4. A puppy likes to chew on things – everything! Door jambs, chairs, shoes, sofa cushions, ankles, books, stereo speakers, remote controls, fingers and visitors (sometimes that’s a plus)
  5. A dog stinks – a lot! So every week, sometimes every day baths are required but getting any of my sons to do this regularly is about as hard as getting them to take their own showers – almost impossible.

The cleaning up, the replacing, the training, the time, the energy, the feeding, the cleaning up again is all enough to drive a family full of clueless dog owners crazy. If raising a child was tough, this might be ten times harder.

Our puppy Suka the day we brought him home

Our puppy Suka the day we brought him home

There is a silver lining somewhere. One day, (if he doesn’t run away) we will look back on this moment when he’s full grown, chasing away intruders, obediently sitting at my old feet near my rocker on the porch retrieving cans of Diet Coke from the cooler for me or steering grandchildren away from swift rivers and rescuing neighborhood kids from wildfires – we will say, ‘Thanks for being a part of our lives Suka.’

Until then, there’s a lot more cleaning, repairing, feeding and training to do and I’m not sure I have enough energy to do it.

On the bright side – I’m learning a lot of patience. I think?

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