Category Archives: About life

The Thing Bringing You Back to God

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It is easy to drift, wander, or day dream, when given the chance.  Even when I am focused, I might think to myself “Wow, look how focused I am right now!”  I might even think, depending on where I am, “Can everyone see how hard I am working? I must look so busy to everyone else.  Is my boss watching?? How much could I get done if I was like this more? If I played less video games? I haven’t played video games in awhile, will I remember how to play?  Should I play when I get home? For how long? I’ll set a timer. Which timer? The one on my phone? Or the one on Alexa?”

 

Yes, this is what I think at times.  No, my boss isn’t watching, so no brownie points were scored.

 

Eventually, at some time during my day dream I wander back to reality, to what I was supposed to be doing.  Eventually, I complete what I was doing, but not without a few distractions of checking Twitter first, then Instagram, then maybe Facebook if I’m really bored or not wanting to do whatever I am supposed to do.  But something always brings me back.

 

For better or worse, this happens to me and my relationship with God.  I will say, for better, because I cannot imagine my life would be better without God.  But there is always something that pulls me back to Him no matter how far I have drifted, and I am glad it happens.  Fortunately, also, I do not wander away from God for very long. At least not anymore.

 

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul recounts conversations He has with God, asking for a thorn to be removed.  But God says to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made in weakness.”

 

There are times I feel I am pretty proud of myself or confident in how things are going.  Then my kids start acting crazy, and I lose all my sanity. Then I need to try and take a breath, say a prayer, and ask God for His power to help me be a loving, peaceful father.

 

Paul had a thorn in his side to remember God’s grace by.

 

I have my own thorn.

 

My wife seems to have hers.  Separately, we both came to the real possibility she may deal with what she has been struggling with for the last year for a long time, if not the rest of her life.  She has noticed when she has had her thorn, she has had to give work over to God and her coworkers to handle instead of taking it all on herself.

 

Both of our thorns don’t seem to be going away, but neither is God.

 

The thorn keeps us closer to God, keeps reminding us that He is what we need to live free.  

 

The thorn leads me to surrender because I cannot do life without His power.  I keep falling and failing, trapped in my own sin if I don’t continually surrender and ask Him for relief from my thorn, to have it removed.

 

He doesn’t take it away, though. That would be too easy, but it also doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear me, or isn’t a good God, or that He doesn’t care, or that He is trying to torture me.  He just reminds me that His grace is sufficient. His power is what I need all the time, not just when I need Him because I am in trouble.

 

I always need His power and grace.

 

I have heard some sermons lately with one of the main points being God’s timing is not ours, and we may ask for an answer for “a long time”, but He’ll answer when it is His time.  And once I get an answer, looking back, I’ll be able to see all the steps along the way where God was there even when I didn’t think He was.

 

That is not always easy to do in the moment, in the moment when all you want is relief from the pain, the shame, and the guilt of the sin.  It can be difficult to choose to turn to God and admit you need help, but that is when He steps in with His power – in your weakness. And it is enough.

 

His power is always enough.

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How Did We Get Here?!?

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How to go from asking your wife for a new car to deciding when to quit your job in 10 hours – from suits to scrubs to activewear

 

This could have so many titles.

 

Do things just happen?  Or is there a plan? Does God have a plan?  Or are we just floating along and random circumstances lead us here or there?

 

I believe in God, so I believe He has a master plan for everyone’s life, not just mine.  The catch, if you want to call it that, is He won’t tell you His plan. You have to have faith in Him, trust He wants good things in your life, and listen for Him to speak to you.  I will admit that can be hard to do, even in the best circumstances.

 

I am lucky I come from a good family, a good school with good friends, and great opportunities, some that I have squandered.  So I can’t really complain about what I don’t have, but I’m human and I want more. When it came to my career I would do the best I could in the position I was in, but I was looking ahead all the time.

 

My education choices led me to the scientific/biotechnology industry.  Out of college, I found a job working in a lab, felt like I had room to advance, but seemed to stagnate.  I transferred departments after a couple of years, did well, but was stuck. After a few years, I went back to school, left the lab and tried my hand at a completely different role in sales, where I had to wear suits.  I didn’t do well, because it wasn’t a good personality fit, and I ended up back in the science field.

 

Same kind of thing happened as before where I was doing lab work, doing a fair job, but not going super above and beyond to catch the eye of the boss.  There were also some internal, political forces working against me, but nothing I could not have overcome if I wanted to. I just never wanted to, because I felt like I was just kissing butt, which is not my personality.  One perk, though, was the dress code: I could wear scrubs, which was like wearing pajamas to work.

 

After a few years went by, and a friend referred me to another lab that paid better.  For a year or so, I was just happy to be treated like a valuable human. Eventually, I started feeling like trying, so I did.

 

I tried to do better at my job, but I still didn’t do extra, as the managers would have liked to see.  I ended up bumping along in that space for awhile.

 

For a long enough time of coming home venting to my wife about my gripes and frustrations about nearly the same thing everyday, I wondered what I was doing, wondering how God’s plan was working out.  I felt like I was meant for more but wasn’t getting the opportunity (even though I wasn’t trying extra hard). I felt stuck, like I was not going anywhere in my career.

 

In the meantime, my wife had started a company that fulfilled her passion, work experience, and had a mission:  to work with her friends and change the world. In three years, she started on her own, has helped over 4000 students, and hired 10 other employees.  It has been awesome to see what she has been able to do following God’s will, being in continual prayer, and trusting in His call in her life. And to work from home wearing warm up pants or workout shorts every day was an added bonus (and sometimes owl slippers).

 

There have been some roadblocks though.  She has had a relapse of some health problems.  Doctors have provided few solutions and remedies, but she has powered through.

 

Also, I work Saturdays, so if the kids have hockey games, karate tournaments, or birthday parties, she is on her own.  I get to relax at work, and have been for the past 9 years.

 

So we had talked casually and passively about me quitting my job to stay home with the kids later this year, maybe early next year.  With my working in Corporate America and working Saturdays, when I need to ask for time off, I also need to find someone to cover my shift most times (then there were the times I was asked to find coverage for no reason but whatever).  So that was tedious and annoying.

 

Then looking forward in her business she may need me home more to be Dad for the kids (well, their dad, not just any dad), so working corporate doesn’t lend to that so much.  Then related but somewhat tangential was the new car factor.

 

I have been joking with her about getting my dream car, a BMW M5.  She said, “No way,” but I have been harassing her, jokingly, for a year.  I have a hatchback right now, and our oldest daughter is tall for her age and needs some more leg room.  She asked if I could get a new car. I told her to ask her mom, but when she does, just say “M5”.

 

That didn’t help.

 

So we sit down for a relaxing Sunday earlier this year, and I remind her we should talk about a new car.  The M5 was out of the question, but she would settle for a nice care as long as she picks the color. No problem.  But there’s still the question of which car.

 

This is because I have a car problem:  I want them all. I love sports cars, but I also like trucks and SUVs.  If we buy a car, we figure it is a 7-10 year commitment. We don’t want to lease because it isn’t financially wise, but if it gets the new-car feeling out of my system, it is worth it.  So we considered something practical for a couple of years to lease until we get something we really want.

 

However, the issue of mileage comes up on a lease if I’m driving to work every day, which led to the game-changing question:  “Why are you even working there?”

 

Hmm…good question.

 

I thought it was the desire to get promoted and follow my career path in the science industry, but it kind of wasn’t after talking about it.  It was maybe pride, but if I was going to quit within a year anyway to be home more, working just to get a title change then leave anyway wasn’t worth it.  It wasn’t worth it for me to work Saturdays, get up at 4 A.M. (yes, that was my shift) and be cranky and yell at the kids by dinnertime, and to be exhausted at the end of the week.

 

So why do it?

 

As my wife and I talked, she remembered she had a big project coming up in the spring and few people on her team were excited about heading it up.  

 

So what if I did it?

 

She went to consult her brain trust:  her operations manager, her business coach, and her sales manager.  Also, during these past months, my wife and I had separately been praying for my mission and purpose in life, to find what that was.  I was having trouble getting a clear picture; she had a vision of me working in a soup kitchen, or volunteering somewhere behind the scenes since me being people-facing was a bad idea based on my Strengths Finder profile.

 

It seemed the brain trust and God approved this move, so I was hired, thanks to nepotism, and God’s plan.  Now I’ll get to work from home. I went from wearing suits to scrubs to workout clothes (I still wear jeans some days).

 

It has been somewhat of a rough time wondering what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  I never doubted God has a plan. I was just wondering what and when He would reveal it to me.  And we both wondered where He would direct us as a family. Well, we have an answer now, until the next adventure.

 

The decision has been made.  Now I just need to tell my boss…

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Pillars

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This weekend was bittersweet.  A lot of long-time friends and I were in the same place at the same time.  However, the reason was for a memorial service for my friend’s dad, who was a teacher and administrator at the school I went to, and who was an elder and fellow congregant of the church I attended most of my life.  During the service, as due praise was being spoken, his legacy was being remembered, and it was significant because he was a servant.

 

He was a servant of Jesus Christ, and that led him to serve others around him, namely the students he taught in the classroom, the players he coached, and his own family at home.  He dedicated his life to service, and his impact was felt by those in the auditorium.

 

He was a pillar in the community.

 

As I sat there listening to memories and stories being told of this great man, I looked around the room and saw a number of my former teachers and coaches there to pay their respects.  None of them “took me under their wing,” or were full-blown mentors to me. They were just there in some way in my life as a positive influence, even when I may not have been the model student, player, or kid.  I just know and still know that if I run into them when I am in my old stomping grounds, or see them at mutual gatherings, I will receive a hug and a smile, and give them one in return.

 

This is about the pillars in my life, or some of them.  The men and women that said something to me once, that stuck, or spoke to me through years of action.  Whether it was once, whether it was a steady stream, it was significant to me, and I thank you all.

 

Thank you for taking the time.  Thank you for your life of service to role of being a teacher, or coach, or youth pastor.  Thank you for your life of love for a greater purpose. Thank you that I could be a result of your legacy (or I’m sorry because…you never know).

 

In no particular order, I’ll start with Dean Lagasse.  I met Mr. Lagasse when I was, maybe, in fourth grade. He was a summertime day camp counselor at my school, who later was my P.E. teacher, who later was my football coach, who later is just a great man I would call a friend.  I am happy to see him when I am in town and attend my home church. Mr. Lagasse, whether he meant to or not, showed me how to love by being a parent to his step kids, and, later, heaping adoration on his own daughter. He praised my athletic abilities, encouraging me to excel, and showed me that I have to work for my spot.  He did that by cutting me from the baseball team in seventh grade. There was no easy way in. You gotta work for it.

 

Mr. Lagasse, Dean, thank you for your love and service to the King.  Thank you for your sacrifice to teach students like me. Whether you knew it or not, your example made a great impact in my life.

 

Before I was in Tom Nare’s class, all of my teachers were women, which was noteworthy only because I had to wait until fifth grade to be have a male teacher.  I finally was able to be a student in his class, and he was legendary. Right now, I can’t even remember what was so noteworthy about looking forward to being in his class, but I know we all wondered and hoped to be a student in his classroom.

 

I was lucky enough to be in his math class that year.  He just had an aura of cool for a teacher. Relaxed but not a pushover.  Maybe he was cool because randomly every couple of weeks I would have random work in my folder, bring it up to him, and he would take it and give me credit.  I was supposed to turn it in, but didn’t for no particular reason. Or he would tell me to trash it. Maybe I thought he was cool because he let me get away with that.  Let’s not ask him.

 

One time, a few days after the first earthquake most of us kids had ever been in had happened, I was in class, and a fellow student was standing up against the window in the room with his back to the outside walkway.  Mr. Nare was walking the hallways and pounded on the glass as he passed by scaring the living daylights out of my classmate and most of the rest of us in class. I don’t think anyone stood up against the glass again.

 

Whatever it was about Mr. Nare, it was significant to me.  So much so that when I see him when I am in the old neighborhood and see him at church, I have to call him “Mr. Nare.”  I can’t call him “Tom”. To me, he was a pillar of cool.

 

I had mild reservations when this new guy from Minnesota showed up to lead youth ministries at my church (MY church) when I was in high school.  But I gave him a chance since he came from the church some of my friends had come from a year before when their dad was called by God to become the lead pastor of “my” church.  He seemed pretty funny, fun and knew how to connect with the kids. Tim Bolin was cool enough that I stuck around church and his mission to grow God’s kingdom until I was twenty-three.

 

Tim was fun, funny, and he made loving Jesus fun as well.  He didn’t make a joke out of church, but he wanted to rid the stereotype or idea that church was just another day at school, except God was the subject.

 

One thing he wanted to change was to kick the old people out of the front rows of service.  Our church started in the 1930’s, and, no offense, but a proportion of the congregation looked like they were there from the time they broke ground.  So Tim wanted us young kids to take over the front rows. Eventually, we did take over, and I think some of my friends still sit there now some 25 years later.  

 

Sadly, we are becoming the old people the kids will need to kick out soon.

 

I hated going to church, even though I had liked going to “Sunday School” for junior high service, because my friends were there.  In “Big Church” you had to sit, be quiet, listen – all the things junior high kids “love”. There was a short period of time when my friend Steve and I would ditch church to walk down to KFC and sneak back in until we got caught (Dad, the statute of limitations is up.  This was 30+ years ago. Please don’t get mad). When Tim showed up, he changed church into a place to be. I wanted to be there.

 

It’s a little funny now being a dad:  I am so in love with Jesus and want my kids to be too, but they don’t always want to go.  I’ll just keep praying for them and asking God to speak to them.

 

Before Tim was Randy Strickland, and he was a crack up.  I think if I didn’t know him, or know he loved God from head to toe, I would be really worried that he was actually nuts.  I can’t say I have a specific memory that makes a significant impact in my mind, but he was steady and consistent. I knew he loved God.  I knew he wanted me to love God, too, and that was his mission: to share the gospel.

 

As I am writing about Randy, there is one memory I do remember.  It was junior high winter retreat, and he was driving us in a van to a cabin in the local mountains.  There was a street that had a tree as a lane divider. He wasn’t going fast, but the streets had some snow dust so there was some risk, and he was heading right for the tree.  He got closer and closer saying, “Decisions…decisions…” until he eventually got to one side of the road.

 

I never told my parents about that, and I doubt my kids are going to tell me about their adventures when they’re in junior high, but I hope my kids have servants like Tim and Randy in their lives to help guide them through the mystery of Jesus.

 

When you’re in school, there are situations you just dread.  Getting called on to answer a question in class, to write on the board, act in a skit.  The usual kind of thing. Up until recently as an adult with a career, I was a scientist, and in school that was my focus.  So English class was not my jam. Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Crucible.  Kill me now.  

 

Then there are the days you walk into class and your teacher (in my case, Mrs. Fickett) says, “Hi class, it’s creative writing day!  We’re going to write a poem about your feelings.” Not exactly but the poem part was true. I had forty five minutes to write the perfect poem to avoid getting an F for the day.

 

It didn’t happen.  No poem under pressure.  I wrote a paragraph to Mrs. Fickett explaining that writing under pressure like that, to flip the switch and be creative, was not in my wheelhouse.  From what I could gather, she bought it and accepted what I submitted, because I didn’t fail 11th grade English.

 

Then, out of nowhere while I was in college, I started writing.  I started writing poems. None of them rhymed because that is too hard on my brain.  I don’t know if Mrs. Fickett would care, but I have always thought of sharing with her some of my work.  Not in a, “In your face!” kind of way. More of a, “Thanks for understanding” kind of way. Thanks for recognizing, very simply by saying, “Okay,” to what I turned in, that different people work differently in different environments.

 

But if you don’t like my writing, blame her. 🙂

 

Another legend that I had heard of before I was a student of his was Mr. Endacott.  The stories were that he was laid back, fun, and his class was cool. He lived up to the hype.  He even managed to keep his cool when he had a class full of seniors, made up mostly the “cool” kids who did not care about Human Anatomy – until the reproductive system was covered, of course.  And he maintained his cool even when he found out a friend and I were passing notes after, AFTER, we completed our AP Bio exam.

 

Endo was a big reason I became a scientist.  Science was fun, science was easy in Endo’s class.  He had an easy way to explain and help students understand biology.  He did his best to explain mitosis and meiosis, and I still can’t get the steps straight.  Endo had a picture of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics and doppleganger of Sting, up on the wall, one time mumble-sang a song by The Police, and said he listened to the same morning radio show a lot of us did.  That helped with his “cool cred” in my mind, not that he needed more or my acknowledgement. I just was glad to be a student in his class.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in the church, have a positive experience, and have positive Christian influences around me to help mold my thinking and idea of God.  A family that helped do that when I was in college, and even now to this day were the Swansons. Bob and Marilyn opened up their home to our college group Bible study to meet on Thursday nights for years.  Some weeks they would provide dinner for up to 40 of us, other weeks, it was potluck. Either way, “starving students” would come, eat, talk about God, His relationship with us, and our relationships with each other.  It was a chance to meet with friends, and gave me a midweek God-calibration.

 

Even though I grew up in the church, my relationship with Jesus was still superficial, or just on my terms if I needed Him.  Recently, it has grown, and I love Jesus more than ever, but if I didn’t have that foundation, I don’t think it would be as strong as it is now.  And I have Bob and Marilyn to thank for that, for helping build a pillar in my life.

 

I have been in a Men’s LIfe Group for a year and a half now.  We have met at my house a handful of times. I have to scramble to sweep, pick up the kids’ toys, and make the house mildly presentable for 4-8 middle-aged men (meaning they wouldn’t care).  The Swanson’s did that routine every week for at least 5 years. AND they got food for people without asking for anything in return. I will always remember the sacrifice they made to help plant seeds and grow the kingdom in a group of college-aged kids.

 

But their son is still a jerk, amirite?!  😉 Just kidding, he’s one of my friends I have known the longest and always can call on.

 

There are many more people that have impacted my life.  Gary Correll led my high school Life Group. He spoke on James once about faith and works, and I will never forget his words, “It’s faithworks.  Not faith AND works, or works AND faith. They go together.” Also in high school, Dan Wonser took time to meet with me and a couple of guys for breakfast once a week.  We would talk about high school life, and what’s more important in life. Kenny Murphy lead high school before Tim Bolin did, and he shared, among other things, how God used football and life to speak to him.  He also was an example of sacrifice running the high school ministry while managing and balancing his family and, I believe, a full-time job.

 

Talking about the pillars in my past makes me wonder what kind of pillar am I?  Who am I a pillar to? Do my kids see me as a pillar? A strong, positive pillar?  Or a crumbling one without a solid base?

 

In listening to sermons and podcasts, or watching the way NBC brings out the emotional stories of Olympic athletes, kids just need an influencer.  In hearing horror stories, there are negative influences that can lead to tragedy. But with an open heart and a positive role model, there is a way towards renewal and redemption.

 

I’ll make mistakes, but I hope to be a strong pillar as part of s solid foundation in Christ for my kids.

 

What kind of influence are you on your kids?  On your community? At work? What kind of foundation are you helping build in your kids?

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Freedom Act

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People are constantly looking for freedom.  Freedom from money. Freedom from routine. Freedom from boredom.  Freedom from a 9-to-5 job, or micro-managing boss. Freedom from shame, guilt, sin, fear, ridicule.  Freedom from the limits we put on ourselves.

 

I live in the United States.  By law, I am free. I am free to express myself within a certain set of parameters.  

 

But I don’t.  

 

I fit in so not to stand out.  I try to not draw attention to myself a vast majority of the time, because I am generally insecure.  I step out some when I am comfortable around family or friends. I mostly stay in a bubble of comfort, though.  

 

I don’t arrive too early to a place or event so not to be first and waiting for others to show up.  I wouldn’t want to look out of place. I limit the political articles I share to Facebook in an effort to not annoy my friends too much (even though some of you may argue otherwise).  I even have a secret social media profile that I sometimes use to post either “too extreme” ideas, or jokes some of my Christian friends might be offended by.

 

The place I should have the most freedom, though, but feel the most restricted by:  church.

 

It isn’t the church’s fault, though, or it isn’t all church’s fault.  It is me. It’s in my head. I cannot, or I have trouble, raising my hands to God in praise during worship.  I am too worried about what people behind me might be thinking about having my hands up. MIGHT think. Chances are they are not thinking anything about what I am doing and just wondering what to have for lunch after service.  Or that the music is too loud.

 

I also worry about sounding terrible since I am tone deaf, but that is less of a concern because the church I attend is relatively large and worship is like a rock concert so no one can hear me anyway.  But my arms and hands raised! People can see that, so keep those things down!

 

I wouldn’t want someone to think I am one of those Jesus Freaks.  In church. Full of other Jesus Freaks.

 

I am not free, even though I could be or should be.  I have never been the guy randomly at work say to his coworkers “Hey, let me tell you about Jesus!” type.  I have stayed in my comfort zone. I still do. Even writing posts like this sometimes scare me that I might offend non-Christian friends of mine.  It’s what the devil wants. But I still want and ask for God’s blessing. He died for me-I can’t lift my hands in praise in His house.

 

I will get stronger, better, and more confident.

 

Do you know what true freedom is?  True freedom is throwing every ounce of everything you have at God’s feet and shouting all your love and praise and pain at knowing He hears a joyous noise, a sweet sound.  Freedom is also knowing that when you do that, when you throw all your crap, and all your good, which is crap to God, He takes you in. All of it. He accepts you and loves you as a perfectly imperfect being.

 

True freedom can be seen and heard in the faces and voices of members of a church’s Disabilities Choir leading in worship.  I witnessed this, and I cried.

 

I cried as these men and women with  various disabilities sang the song “Good, good Father.”  I cried as I remembered the verse that Jesus died for all.  I cried as I thought about that verse, because I have been trying to think of it in the frame of labels culture or society put on people, but Jesus meant it in a human-for-human frame.  A mindset of “we are ALL created in the image of God” way. I cried as the chorus was sung, “You are perfect in all of your ways,” filled the auditorium.

 

God is perfect?  Even to people with disabilities?

 

Yes.  Yes He is.

 

God can bring perfect freedom.  He can bring freedom to me. He can bring freedom to you.  Surrender of control is an ongoing activity. I pray to do it every day.  I have to make a conscious effort to remind God I want to surrender and let Him have control of my life.  Freedom is an active act that can also be yours.

 

Here is a version of the song the choir was singing:

https://youtu.be/CqybaIesbuA

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Memories Trapped In A $5 Bill

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When my grandmother passed away a little over 10 years ago, all the grandkids received a classic, Chinese red envelope with a $5 bill in it.  Since then, I have just kept it in the center console of my car, and I had changed cars a couple times since then.  It just transferred from car-to-car.  Untouched.

 

I don’t always remember that the envelope is there, but I stumble across it every now and again when I am rooting through my center console looking for change to buy a Snickers bar from the vending machine at work.  Or when I am looking for hand sanitizer that fell to the bottom of the console.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have thought about breaking that $5 bill, but I couldn’t do it.  If it was going to be spent, it had to be worth it, because it came from my grandma.

 

I was never very close to my grandma only because there was a language barrier.  I never learned how to speak Chinese, and she had a limited English vocabulary, but she definitely loved me dearly.  I remember living with her for a summer during college.  I wasn’t and never have been a party kid or adult, so I was there most nights during the week, went to my parents’ on the weekends, and stayed in my room most evenings when I was there.  I remember she would make fried rice, especially for me, with Chinese sausage.  Definitely better than restaurant fried rice.

 

I could use a bowl now.

 

She always said I was a handsome boy.  She would say at times my hair was “very pitty” (very pretty).  Then the times I had shaved my head, she would say, “Charlie’s BALD!”  At least that’s what she would say to my parents before I was able to see them.  Then when my parents did see me, they would say, “Oh, grandma said you were bald.  You’re not bald! Whew!”  Then the time my cousin, Jessica, cut her hair before moving to Spain I heard, “Oh she cut her hair like Charlie.”  I don’t know if I have a picture of that, like a “Who Wore It Best?”  Maybe I’ll find one.

 

Besides cooking for me and complimenting me, my grandma, from what I did know of her, was pretty cool.  She loved to gamble.  If the dinner party didn’t have any gambling-cards or Mahjong-it was a boring party.  When I was a kid, she would go to Chinatown in Downtown and play Mahjong with her friends.  One of my aunts would drive her to her friend’s in this shady, rundown townhouse in downtown, then some time in the afternoon or evening my mom and I would go pick her up and take her home.  A couple of times, I would be the runner to ring the doorbell and get her.  Being a shy little Asian kid walking up to the front door and having some weird old man answer the door was, clearly, something to remember.

 

Whenever Hustler casino opened, which was in the general area of her house, some of the family gossip was that she wanted to go.  I was thinking, “Ummm, grandma might…not…like…it…there.”  I don’t think that deterred her.  The only thing that did was the location – I don’t think anyone wanted to drive her there.

 

Today, I had to break my $5 because I was a dumb-dumb-dad and forgot my wallet at home.  My youngest wanted to get something from the store with her own money, but I forgot to include tax.  Luckily, I did have my $5.  I really only needed some, so I put the rest back into the envelope.  Then put it right back into my center console.  Hopefully, saving the day for my daughter is a justifiable reason.

 

It would have been cool if my kids could have met their great-grandma, my grandma.  They have a great-grandma in my wife’s grandma, and I am thankful that they have the opportunity for that relationship.  They are also very close to their grandparents, both my parents and my wife’s.  But I would have loved to see her be a great-grandmother.  I’ll always have this to remember her by.

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Blood, Swag, and Tears

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Remember that episode of Friends where Joey pretends a Porsche parked on the street as his own?  Then to try and play it up he covers himself, head-to-toe, in Porsche merch.  Ross passes by him on the street and asks him, “Did a Porsche throw up on you?!”  Our house is getting to be like that, kind of, with swag from my wife’s company.  She was gone on a week-long trip, I opened up her suitcase to put stuff away, and all the leftover swag that didn’t get into the hands of potential clients fell out.  It was like like her luggage was spitting up her swag a little in the hallway.

 

Everyone has their dreams they dream.  Some people work harder than others to achieve their dreams than others.  Then there are some who dream, don’t do any work, and wonder what is wrong with them.  Or they wonder how the people who are seeing the rewards of their hard work got so lucky.  I can be that way temporarily at times.  I hear of cool things people acquire for whatever reason, and I think they are so lucky.  Then I remember whatever the reason they are getting whatever cool thing they get is because of the work they put in, possibly for years and likely for very little reward for a long time.  I’ll tell you what I am talking about.

 

There are a couple of podcasts that I listen to that are not part of larger media outlets like NPR, or The New York Times.  A couple of the shows started as a couple of people in their garages or living rooms, turned on microphones and a computer, and pressed record.  These shows have created a following of loyal listeners.  Their show didn’t start off as a hit, or immediately go viral like NPR’s Serial or S-Town.  It was a slow build.

 

As well as podcasts, I have heard other stories of authors or public speakers and how long they had been doing their work before they were an “overnight success”.  One way I saw it was in a “Successories” type of quote that said “Overnight Success Takes Years.”

 

One particular podcast that I listen to was started by two guys literally in one of their living rooms.  It is a hockey podcast, and they have listeners across the world, with a very loyal following in Australia of all places.  Loyal listeners in the the country often send the show hosts a local dessert from Australia.  Other listeners around the world send them hockey jerseys of their local teams, or just jerseys of teams with cool logos.  When they are opening packages they receive and describe it, I get a little jealous sometimes.  I ask myself, “Why don’t I get free stuff?”  These guys don’t get paid to do their show, though.  Sometimes they have sponsors, but for a long time they paid to produce the show and give it out for free.  It is a weekly show, each episode is often two hours or more, and they have not missed a week in ten years.  THAT is why they get free stuff.  Listeners are grateful to have the podcast and want to show their appreciation and thanks.  There was a period of time they were recording the show during a graveyard shift because that was the time they had access to recording equipment.

 

I also listen to a local morning radio show and follow their Instagram account where they post pictures of free food local places will send over for promotion or just for fun.  What did they do to deserve all those cupcakes?  Or those yummy looking sandwiches?  Or all that pizza?  Oh nothing.  They just spent 20 years making people laugh in the morning on their way to work, put on concerts with some of the most popular bands in the world, and just generally entertain people.  That’s all.  Just that for 20 years.

 

For us normal folk, the rewards and spoils of life take hard work.  It might take a more time for some compared to others, but hopefully there were a few lessons learned along the way.  As kids, most of us can’t understand how other people get so lucky.  Recently, my youngest wasn’t advancing having a hard time getting motivated to go to karate class.  She was frustrated that it had been sooo loooong since she earned her last stripe (the dojo we go to has a 3-stripe process to advance to the next belt).  She forgot, however, that she had taken a couple of months away from karate class and was only going once a week to play hockey instead.  Hockey ended, she picked up karate again, and after three weeks she got her next two stripes on back-to-back days.  She remembered the benefits of hard work.

 

It is hard to remember in the moment, for all of us of all ages at different stages of life, that things take time, sometimes the road takes longer than expected, and the process is just as important as the destination.  Two things to remember:  Work takes work and it’s worth the work; and kids are looking to you as role models.  They love copying you, so copy some hard work and they might follow in your footsteps.

 

A good reminder is you reap what you sow.  It may sound cliche, I know, but you can’t deny that it’s true, can you?  Sure, some kids are going to grow up trying to avoid hard work no matter what you do.  Or if you are a lazy parent, your kids might do the opposite of you.  Who knows, but I know my girls are watching me so it’s up to me to set the best example I can.

 

When my daughter earned her stripes, she was so proud of herself, and I was so proud of her as well.  She was a little disappointed that she has to wait a month before she can officially get promoted and get her next belt, but in the meantime she is more motivated to go to class compared to the beginning of the month.

 

Also, since Christianity and faith in God rule our house, my wife and I encourage our kids to do their best because we serve God in what we do.  What we do matters also because as we serve God in our actions, people are watching and seeing how we react and walk in the world.  This is important to me, because that means I need to clean up my act too.

 

Whatever you do, put in the work.  Yeah, most days it sucks to work hard.  I certainly wish I didn’t have to, but I know there is a greater reward down the line for me.  The reward may not even be for me, but if my kids are rewarded by my hard work and learn how to build on it, that would be worth it.

 

Now go bust your ass!

 

After you watch this video:  https://youtu.be/ZqWa1c4sf9Q

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Seven Day Journey On The Bandwagon

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I did grow up in LA and at some point of my life I was a baseball fan.  I recorded baseball games on VHS tapes (another “Google it” moment) but never watched them again.  I collected baseball cards.  I went to Dodgers games w my friends and had fun hanging out.

 

But at some point I found it too boring to watch.  I would rail on it.  I would wish for it’s overall demise and collapse, like the entire sport to become extinct.  I would be irate if a playoff baseball game preempted a regular-season hockey or football game.  I would have moderately playful arguments on social media with friends over which sport was better, baseball or hockey, and which athletes were tougher (playful in quotes).

 

But then the LA dodgers made it to the World Series this year, and I couldn’t get a ticket onto the bandwagon fast enough.  I rushed out and got an LA hat just in time for Game 1.  I referred to the team as “We”.  I posted on social media joking about how I didn’t know how to keep score.  I was very obnoxious mostly because it made my wife roll her eyes at me.  She would ask me insider types of things like, “You don’t know why 4th in the rotation is important?  What kind of fan are you?!”  But I was genuinely interested and excited about the games.

 

Game 6 was on Halloween, which meant trick or treating.  Luckily about every 5th house or so had a Man Cave in the garage with the game on, and it was tense as we would get an update.  But the cool thing was, after Game 6 and they won to push Game 7, I went on Facebook and “Liked” a bunch of my friends’ celebratory posts.  It was cool to be a part of it.  It was cool to support “MY” local team.

 

I joined the LA Kings bandwagon for their Stanley Cup runs for similar reasons.  Hockey is the main sport I follow, and I am a huge fan of hockey in general, so I was going to watch anyway.  So I might as well root for a team.  I didn’t run out and get a hat or other merch, but I was tempted to.  It felt good to support a team with a mission.

 

You might think this is a stretch, but this could apply to people too.  Like regular people.  Like your kids.  Like your family.  Like your friends.  Like your co-workers.  Now, wait for it, even the coworkers you don’t like, especially those coworkers.  That one makes me cringe.  That is the one I need to work on, along with my overall positive attitude.  A lot of work.  Lots.

 

Have you done something nice for someone?  Sure you have.  Or have you gone on a missions trip?  Or a did volunteer work for a charity?  Or maybe even simply donated to a charity?  It felt good didn’t it?  Depending on what you were doing it felt good to be a part of something or to help make a difference.  Or just picking up that thing a stranger dropped can bring a rush of positive vibes (sorry for the scientific terminology).

 

It feels good to be a part of something that is making a difference or contributing in a positive way.  It can feel good to help people along with their mission in life, to help them find their purpose.  It can feel good to come alongside someone for their journey.

 

We live in troubling times with troubling events happening every day with very few solutions.  I hear that love is an answer, the answer, but is it?  Is that something I believe?  Is that how I live?  You wouldn’t think so if you read my complaints about work.  You might think twice about partnering with me on my mission, if that were the case.  You also wouldn’t think so if you heard how I respond to the news.

 

As fun as the Dodgers bandwagon has been the last couple of days, I doubt I have a permanent seat.  I know when next season comes around, my interest in 182,000 games will not be as high as it has been for the last seven, which is understandable, I think.  The playoffs are always more exciting than game number 65,887 on a Wednesday in the middle of July.  But I will do my best to decrease the vitriol I have had before this series.

 

The same goes for my life outside of baseball.  I am sure I’ve mentioned it in other posts (that’s the hint to go read my other posts after this) that I am a work in progress.  Progress may be slow, but hopefully there is progress.  Loving and being a part of people’s missions for a better life and world for everyone is something I hope to do more of, even if it’s in small ways like a more positive attitude or donating to people or causes that are making an impact in the world.  Showing love to the people around me that may not be my favorite people could make all the difference in their world.  Maybe just start with a smile.  There is always the being-a-good-example part of parenthood that is good for me and good for my kids as well.

 

From the Dodgers bandwagon to the bandwagon of love, I will make continue the journey myself and with others.  There’s plenty of room for you to hop on!

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I Made It Home Safely

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I wrote this after events in Charlottesville.  The ideas still apply.  Please pray this world heals.  Please do something every day to love your neighbor, who is everyone.  Please pray for me, because I am praying for you.

 

There wasn’t much of a chance that I wouldn’t make it home safely.  It just isn’t promised to me.  I live in a good neighborhood; I seem to have good neighbors, even though I do not know many of them or know them well.  It is nice.

 

But I take it for granted.  It makes me comfortable, which is good and bad.  My wife and kids are safe-that is good.

 

There are people not as lucky as I am, though.  There are people that didn’t make it home safely this weekend.  There are many people who risked something of themselves to save others.  There are some who were victims of violence centered around particular beliefs.  They didn’t make it home safely.

 

I believe in God.  I am a Christian, which means I am an alien to this world.  I am called to be a light in the world while I am here.  There are good ways to do that.  There are bad ways to do that.

 

A bad way to do that, which would not make me a positive light in the world for God, is to rage.  I am so tempted to scream at people-friends, family, acquaintances.  I want to call them names.  I want to point fingers and place blame.  But I know that won’t help.  I know that will not change their minds.  More importantly, that is not what God would want me to do.

 

A good way is to stand in the gap for someone, someone without a voice.  Someone who needs help and needs to be shown God’s love.  

 

That is everyone.

 

God’s love is for everyone.  God’s love isn’t for me just because I’m an American.  God’s love isn’t just for people of a certain skin color.  God’s love isn’t just for the rich.  God’s love isn’t just for the poor.  God’s love isn’t just for the sick.  God’s love isn’t just for the healthy.

 

If you’re breathing, you need God’s love.  And He wants to give it to you.  All you have to do is ask.  And if you’re breathing, you’re to be giving love to others.  You’re to be loving your neighbors, who is everyone.

 

I need God’s love, because I need healing from anger.  I need God’s love, because I need to be reminded that we are all made in God’s image.  He loves everyone as much as He loves you and me.

 

My pastor believes we are nearing the end times.  He recently pointed out that one prophesy is nations will fight against nations.  A better translation of that is ethnic groups against ethnic groups.  I am not an expert, so I will defer to him, but, even without studying prophecy, I can’t deny the times we live in.  I don’t think anyone can deny the hatred seen on the news or social media.

 

Before writing this, I spent some time in my knees in prayer, asking that Jesus’ love rise above it all.  Trying times need thoughtful prayer as a place to start.  I hope you may spend some time in prayer, whether you pray for the state of our country, the state of our world, or simply the state of your heart.  Please pray.

 

God bless you, and get home safely.

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The Grass Is Dead

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Phiippians 4:11-12 NIV

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

 

Maybe it is part of being an adult.  Or maybe it is just part of being a human.  I have a tendency, when I go to someone’s house for the first time, to check out the stuff they have.  Also, I’m curious, in some instances nosy, about things people have.  Like, just recently we went to the house of my daughter’s friend.  The parents invited us in to chat a little, and when we first walked in, I was scoping it out:  nice T.V., sound system, nice couches with no kid blankets on them, no toys all over the floor, at least in that room of the house.  I was getting jealous.  For a minute I wanted their house.  Then we got a peek into their backyard that was neatly landscaped.  Jealousy rising.  Kitchen was nice and clean, relatively modern.  Jealousy rising.  No pool.  Jealousy subsiding.

 

There are other people-friends, neighbors, co-workers-I feel envy towards at times.  Whether it be the nice car or truck they have, the job they have, the TV setup, or even the kid-free lifestyle they have.  Some, even the single life they have I sometimes wish I had.

 

But there is a catch:  I hated being single.  I don’t want to be single, I love my kids, right now, I don’t need a TV bigger than my neighbor’s, and I don’t need a perfectly manicured lawn (hence the picture at the top; that is really my lawn).  I just want what I don’t have.

 

I was terrible at being single, for example.  At least being single and trying to get dates, that is.  I am painfully shy and was not be able to ask girls out, so I wished for a date but didn’t often do the work to get one.  I did get a few dates stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time, but it didn’t happen as often as I wished it did. I dreeeeamed about meeting my “soul mate,” having kids, and coming home from work to the pitter patter of my kids running to me screaming, “Daddy! You’re home!” and giving me a hug.  Now my kids barely look up from their homework or TV when I get home, but that’s beside the point.

 

The point is:  the grass is always appears greener on the other side.

 

Depending on my mood, if people ask me how things are going, or how my family is, I’ll answer, “Livin’ the dream,” which I’ll say in the most sarcastic and snarky tone I can.  But, if I think about it, I am living my dream.

 

I don’t make as much money as I dreamed I would be making when I was in college or earlier times of my career, but I am making a good living.  I definitely don’t have my dream job, but I do have a good job where I know I am helping people and making a positive contribution to the world.  

 

Regarding my career, I’m finding out through some personal development and general conversations with my wife that the CEO job I had dreamed of, or thought would be my ticket to happiness, or that the world tells me I should strive for, would be terrible for me.  Mostly, it would require a lot of decision-making.  Considering I can’t even decide dinner some nights, CEO might not be great for me.  And by “dinner” I mean eating dinner.  There are enough instances of me skipping a meal, my wife asking me if I am ok, and then I realize I never ate lunch or drank any water yet for the day.

 

Regarding my kids, parenthood is a grind, for sure.  I’ve talked about the challenge of keeping your head above water as a parent.  Between work, karate class, hockey games, playdates, and birthday parties, life is busy.  I am really just the homework facilitator or foreman and shuttle driver during the week.  My wife gets the playdates and birthday parties on the weekend, and somewhere in there we sneak in a date-night from time to time.  However, some weeks, we’re both so exhausted come Friday, date night is a glass of wine or a beer, a couple of tacos, or a slice of pizza, and a little binge watching and we’re done.  Not that either of us are fiends for the dance floor on a Friday or Saturday night, but not many people ask me what I did over the weekend are in awe of the answer or are hit with FOMO.  I wasn’t that way before marriage or kids, so why start now?  Stay in your lane, right?

 

There is always something in this world to entice us.  The fancy {new-insert product here}.  I don’t neeeeed the new iPhone that uses my face to unlock, but I wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered to me.  I don’t neeeeeed Playstation VR, but I played it once and it sent me on a shallow dive with hemming and hawing for a week of what to put on my Christmas wish list.  Part of the struggle is working through what Paul said to the Philippians.  I bounce back and forth between wanting everything for myself, or deciding I need to give everything away to the poor.  Sometimes I want to give all my money away to rescue all the kids in the world, or have all the water wells in Africa built.  And other days I want a BMW M5, a lifted Ford Raptor, and a Prius (I need a car to commute to work!).

 

Then I snap back:  what’s my priority?  What’s my goal?  What is the example I am setting for my kids?  Do I want them growing up struggling with just being consumers all their lives?  They already want every toy they see.  Or do I want them to learn stuff isn’t everything, the end-all-be-all of living?  That money doesn’t buy happiness.  I’m still trying to be consistent in remembering what brings me lasting joy.  I at least know I won’t find happiness on another patch of grass on the other side of the fence.

 

So I am letting the grass die.  The dream…the dream that keeps changing based on the latest and greatest.  The dream for something shiny and new..  The dream of wielding power, or proving my worth with a salary, or a position, or rank, or the corner office.  I’m letting that dream die.  My new dream is my old dream.  My new dream is the life I’m living now, the life I’ve always wanted.  The life God has been faithful to give and bless me with.

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To Youth, To The Dreamers

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Remember Time Cop with Jean Claude Van Damme?  Unfortunately, I do (look it up after you read this, but you’re probably better off not having watched it, unlike me).  That is a movie where time travel doesn’t have the happiest of outcomes at first, and not one of Jean Claude’s finest films, although that may not exist at all.  Maybe Back to the Future is a better example of the time travel.  Hijinx ensue, but at least it’s fun and not so dire.

 

As much as you would like to, you can’t go back.  I can’t either, just to be clear.  I don’t want you to think I’m trying to rub it in or something.  And I don’t think I would want to go back.  As much as I wish I did things differently the first time, I wouldn’t change anyth…much.

 

Here are a few things I wish I could change or would have done differently if I had the chance:

  • I wish I learned to play an instrument
  • I wish I worked more overtime when I had less responsibilities/people counting on me being around
  • I wish I was more disciplined in school
  • I wish I took more chances
  • I wish I held back more often
  • I would not have sent that mixtape

 

We don’t like making wrong choices, and sometimes it is hard just making any choice at all.  I used to go shopping, pick up a number of items I wanted, know I could only afford half of them, but I couldn’t decide what to keep and what to put back.  So I would end up just putting them all back and walking out of the store with nothing.  The few times I would only get the one or two things I could get, I felt like I was missing out and would go back a couple of days later to get the things I put back anyway.  I couldn’t live with the regret of buying the wrong whatever it was.  Then later would regret I bought any of it after getting the credit card bill.

 

Even though I wish I could change some things or would do or say something different in certain situations if I could, I am glad that I can’t.  I don’t live with regrets, necessarily, I just wonder how events would be different.  As annoying as the cliche “everything happens for a reason” is, I agree with it.  I know there are lessons and wisdom gained going through the experiences I have been through.  It has all shaped me in some way.  I wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

 

My past work experience, for example, helped me trick my wife into thinking that I was a good sales rep, or that I was a sales rep at all, even though I faked my way through that whole phase of my career.  We both worked for the same company but in different regions and slightly different time periods, so we knew the lingo, knew some of the same people, and had an understanding of the business; a foundation for our relationship to build on.  The facade came crumbling down when she would explain certain sales techniques, and I would look at her like I heard a dog whistle.  Occasionally when the topic comes up, she shakes her head and calls me an “imposter rep.”  It all worked out.  She still married me even with my imposter status, so she has no one to blame but herself.

 

Anyway, not only is that wisdom for me to use in the future, but it is knowledge and wisdom I can pass on to my kids.  Most of the time growing up, I thought my dad just had crazy stories of how the world worked.  However, there were a few nuggets in there that have always stuck with me and am thankful he was able to share them with me.  Hopefully, I can do the same for my kids (be the dad whose kids think he’s crazy, that is).  They already do, but why not add more fuel?

 

There is still time for me to do stuff I missed out on earlier in life.  I just need to focus and try not to be lured away by the seductress known as Playstation.  For some reason, I came up with the brilliant idea that I need to learn to play the drums.  Since my kids are taking karate, the dad of my daughter’s friend was encouraging (egging me on is more like it) to do something like go hiking, or camping, or shooting guns.  You know, all the stuff men would do.  I said no to all of it, but I thought I should join my kids doing karate (I’ve been watching for years, I could totally take some of those kids out and show them who the real sensei is).  So soon, there will be a blog post about me kicking out the jams on my drum set with the use of the Crane Kick made famous by Daniel-son.

 

No, I’m not entering a mid-life crisis.  What are you talking about?  Oh, and I’m trying to talk my wife into buying me a sports car.  But I’m fine.

 

A couple of the pearls of wisdom I hope my kids eventually appreciate are:

  • Enjoy your youth
  • Make the most of your time here
  • Do your best, always
  • Live free and take a chance
  • Be yourself, know yourself
  • Protect yourself
  • Let go of mistakes
  • Live in wisdom

 

These are all cliches, for sure, but there can still be value to them.  I certainly enjoyed some of my youth, but I also squandered portions of it.  It can be hard to know what is best in the moment.  You just do the best you can with the information you have available at the time, which is what I will tell my girls.

 

There are things of youth I cannot do much of anymore.  I can’t still play soccer.  I learned that after I could barely walk after playing in my first game in an old-man’s league.  I was never much for the nightlife, but I am definitely not in shape to stay up past 9 P.M. now.  There are plenty others things I can’t do in my mid-life crisis age.  It would be too sad to list them all here.

 

I can still be super silly with my kids, however, as well as be a source of knowledge and wisdom when the situations come up.  Having the mentality of a 13-year old sometimes is helpful when it comes to kids.  I still embrace adulthood and do my best to teach my kids responsibility, maybe a little too much.  They are a little young for me to get too in depth about hopes and dreams and goals and accomplishments and consequences.  All in due time.

 

In the meantime, just keep dreaming, just keep growing.  Be young, wild, and free.

 

Is there anything you would change?

 

What was painful but glad you went through?

 

What wisdom did you gain and hope to pass on to your kids?

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