For Mama’s Boys everywhere

My mom has been gone now for 21 years. She’s in the heavens somewhere. A personal guardian angel for me, my siblings and now our children. I miss her dearly, and songs like these remind me how special the bond between a mother and her child are – it is truly a match made in heaven.

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Your life and a leaking roof

leaky roofI drew comparisons to life from a leaky roof yesterday when I asked one of the young men at church what he’s up to, now that he’s graduated from high school and living what would appear to be an ‘adult life’.

“I work for a roofing company,” he said through gritted teeth, his weary eyes trying to focus on mine.

“Do you like it?”

“It’s tough work and I’m always tired but I got money now,” was his tired response.

My attention was drawn away to another subject being discussed in our Sunday School class of twenty or so young men and women ranging from ages 14 to 18-years but my mind kept coming back to roofing. My attention wasn’t rapt by the process and materials of putting a roof on a house, but rather by the necessity of a roof on a structure.

I was transported back to my days as a youth in Samoa and the simplicity of village life where simple Samoan huts were and are still constructed with native materials to protect its inhabitants from the elements. In Samoa there are only two seasons – rainy season and really rainy season, otherwise known as the monsoon season which begins around November and extends through March. Though the sun beats down on most days it’s not abnormal to get a downpour in the middle of what is traditionally known as the summer months in Samoa where the humidity often makes locals and visitors long for a much needed respite and a tropical downpour.

Samoan ingenuity allows the residents there to stay relatively dry when it starts to rain. I say relatively because oftentimes, families who neglect their roof will find that their lack of preparation and forethought will be in for a long, miserable rainy season when water begins to leak and drip down on their belongings. Even those who have transitioned to the more popular corrugated tin or the increasingly popular asphalt shingles in Samoa know that if you do not stay on top of the repairs, the damage that can be done by a faulty or a shoddy and neglected roof is substantial and troublesome.

My fascination with roofs led me to this life comparison – how often do we neglect a spiritual leak in our lives knowing the damage that it may cause us in the long run? What are we allowing into our lives that have lasting consequences on our minds and souls as well as those we love? What destructive forces are we permitting to have access to our lives, our families?

Sometimes we are better prepared for the major events, the cataclysmic things that could happen because those are a more obvious threat that we and the rest of the world are advised to prepare for. But what about the things that seem less invasive; things that at first seem harmless but grow steadily over time until our only recourse is to completely carve it out, tear it down and rebuild in order to stave off its destruction?

My wife and I were discussing this in relation to television programming. We took shows that we had watched just ten years ago and compared them to chart topping shows that are popular today and realized that what we considered provocative back then hardly compares to the obscene and immoral things that are now available on network television channels. Some of the images and language that is now used in today’s television shows are downright pornographic and salacious. We chalk it up to free speech and freedom of expression but I have to ask myself, ‘Am I paying money to provide my sons with pornography and messages that I do not support?’

Talk shows, sitcoms, reality television even live sports beam images, conversation, language and ideas that are in direct opposition and conflict to the values that I try to teach my boys.

In my younger days I had this notion that in order to battle the depravity that plagues our world I should know what it is in order to object to it and speak intelligently and with experience when forming an opposing opinion. But though I agree it is important to do your research, I’m not going to go on an alcohol binge to know that it can destroy my health and my life. I don’t have to have an affair to know that it can destroy my marriage. I don’t have to sleep with the devil to know that he has bad intentions. But if I allow these things to seep into my life, slowly and certainly it will destroy me and my family, bit by bit until we inevitably find ourselves in a far more difficult situation that requires a major overhaul in thought and action, in order to make things right.

A roof can be repaired. Things can be replaced. But if you allow your emotional, spiritual and mental state to be subverted by deliberate, damaging external forces, some things, such as relationships and your conscious, are much harder to repair and replace.

Is your life leaking?

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You hate, I love

i hate youDo you ever get that feeling that someone really hates you?

Have you ever had the impression that when you look a person square in the eyes and there is an undeniable feeling of contempt and revulsion towards you?

Have you ever been with a person who is completely oblivious to the fact that a third party is giving off the ‘You are scum under my shoe,’ vibe but they don’t know it?

I consider myself a fairly likeable guy. I rarely ever get the vibe that people hate me. I may be naïve and I may be misinterpreting non-verbal cues to the fact that someone dislikes me but I think I’ve developed a pretty good idea of when someone hates me.

I don’t get it often (at least not at the level I felt at that moment when I felt it so intensely the other day) but when I see that much animosity towards me there are a few things that pop into my mind. Some of them are introspective but a lot of them are inciting.

Do these sound familiar?

  • Uh, what the hell did I do to you? This perplexes me most when I rarely speak to someone or they hardly know me and yet they find that the only emotion that they feel towards me is hate. If I don’t know what I did to offend you then chances are I didn’t mean to offend you in the first place.
  • Do I care? I’d like to say that I don’t but the reality is I do care because I don’t like it when people are hostile towards me or my family. I suppose the real question should be, ‘Do I care enough to make you a priority?’ to which I would answer, ‘Hello no!’ I have other things to worry about and the fact that I care doesn’t mean that I care enough to figure out why you hate me.
  • If you hate me, than tell me you hate me and why. I’m old and I’m impatient with frivolous things so the sooner you tell me that you hate me the sooner and the easier it will be for me to ignore you and spend my time on relationships that are worth the effort. Don’t shake my hand if you don’t want to. Let’s just agree that we won’t inhabit the same breathing space and call it good.
  • Why are you wasting so much energy on an emotion that makes you look like an @$$40l3 when you can expend the same energy on something more positive? In the grand scheme of things, your hatred towards me only hurts one person – you. You can key my car, I’ll paint over it. You can spread chicken blood and guts on my doorway, I’ll pressure wash it. I’ll still be getting a good workout cleaning up your messes but you’re still the one whose insides are being ravaged by your hate, not me.
  • Get over yourself. You’re not that important to me. Something inside you makes you think that you’re more important than you think you are and that’s your problem. Spend your time thinking about others, not about yourself and you’ll feel a lot better.
  • I will never hate you and you will never make me hate you. Your hatred will never win.

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ― Malachy McCourt

  • Curiosity may have killed the cat but your animosity will kill you. If I offended you, forgive me. I will and am truly sorry if offense was taken.

I don’t know how to deal with people who hate me other than to take the sage advice of one who was perfect and above the ills of humankind:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:43-44)

I’ll take that advice willingly and with an open heart and mind. And to that guy who hates me for no obvious reason – I don’t hate you, because that’s not how I was raised.


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Being human…and other things to overcome

Headache of being humanWe humans are flawed.

We possess the capacity to be better than human. I truly believe that. But do we want it?

For all the evil that we see in the world there is good in us, it just isn’t extolled in the public eye as often as immorality, depravity and corruption. For every good story that casts a warm patina over our hearts and compels us to seek the good in people; infuses in us a desire to be better, there are three or four atrocious stories that destroys our faith in humanity and supplants any good that we struggled to find in the world. That’s the refuse that sells. Some of us, not all, find joy in the degradation and public humiliation of others.

We have forgotten.

We have forgotten common decency. When someone falls we step on them. Better them than me, right? We have forgotten our responsibility to one another as neighbors in a global neighborhood – because fences, tinted windows, keyboards and computer screens have all taken the place of face-to-face interactions, a handshake and a genuine concern for what ails you.

We have forgotten what it’s like to say something and truly mean it because our status, our Likes and our selfies hold more weight and sway than the honest, heartfelt words spoken through human lips. But I can’t fault you there because there are so many people now who love to contend and to be controversial and say shocking things that make a small number applaud us for being radical and scandalous and outrageous, secretly hoping that it makes the masses cringe.

We loathe opposing opinions because the only opinion that matters is our own. We say we’re grassroots but we’re out of touch with our community. We refuse to conform but we insist that others adapt to us. We hiss in the face of regulation and government but we want to tell others how to live their lives and stand over their shoulders to make sure they’re doing it right. No one can concede that another person’s point of view can be right or at the very least worthy of respect.

We have forgotten what human life means to us. Parents are killing kids; kids are killing kids; wives are killing husbands before they can be killed and husbands are killing wives because they need another wife and a new life – all of them pleading insanity which in itself seems altogether insane.

There is no justice and there certainly is no peace because we are humans and humans are not satisfied with heaven and a dream unless it comes with a slice of hell, a budget for a renovation and a pre-nuptial agreement.

We do our best.

It’s about all we can do. Despite all the hate, negativity, suspicions, dishonesty, exploitation, perversion and every uncouth, vulgar, disrespectful and crude thing we do as humans I have to believe that there is still good in the darkest of human hearts because we can be good if we truly want to be.

There is proof.

We can be good. It’s in our DNA.

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Is your life being repossessed?

goldcoinsOn the way home from lunch with a friend, I saw a car being repossessed.  It was a beautiful car, certainly much nicer than the two lemons I have sitting in my driveway. I should have been oblivious to the fact that some strangers’ vehicle was being yanked out from right under them, but something struck a chord with me as I watched the repo guy hook the car up to his truck and drive away.

Surely the oblivious one-time owner will walk out of the door with a mystified look on their face, wondering if this was a cruel joke or if their car had been stolen. ‘Where is my car?’ is the first question that will pop into their head until finally, after going through an agonizing process of elimination they come to the realization that their inability to pay their creditor on time has put them in a very precarious situation.

But what if we made the same self-assessment of every aspect of our lives? What if, like this debtor who has lost their vehicle, we look at this same scenario playing out for us from a lifestyle perspective? Is my health abandoning me because I have unhealthy eating habits and rarely exercise? Am I on the verge of losing my job because of my lack of concentration and failure to fulfill my work responsibilities or I just decided not to show up for work? Has my relationship with my spouse or significant other soured because I am not paying attention to the little things that make them happy, content? Is my relationship with God out of whack because of my failure to show gratitude, show empathy for others, show compassion and other things that help to replenish my spiritual balance with God?

They say that nothing in life is guaranteed but I can guarantee you this because I have been emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally drained before and any of these things can suck the life out of you and leave you deflated and defeated – if you do not pay your dues daily, you can and you will lose the precious, intangible things in life.

If you’re having health problems – pay your dues

If your spouse is unhappy – pay your dues

If your family seems disjointed – pay your dues

If you’re out of sync with God – pay your dues

If your employer is displeased with your job performance – pay your dues

If you don’t care about any of these things or anything else that seems broken in your life right now, then keep doing what you’re doing because you’re going to lose it and you probably didn’t care anyway.

A car can be replaced. The things that matter most are irreplaceable.

While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions ~ Stephen R. Covey

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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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