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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The increasingly common invisible coat

My lovely wife and I have purchased ten coats this winter season for two kids.

I understand that a coat or two would go missing due to taste differences between us. It's easy to lose a coat you don't like. But ten coats? How off can my taste really be?

And since when did kids get to freely express their opinion? What do "likes" and "dislikes" have to do with coat wearing? It's cold outside for pete's sake - wear a coat!  

In a moment of weakness and stupidity, I broke down and asked both kids what happened to their tasteful outerwear. 
I think I recognize that poncho

Question: “Where is that lovely hounds tooth jacket your mother and I bought you with the money I should have spent, in retrospect, on sending you to Canada for boarding school?”

How I lost my coat- Explanation Number One: I left it at school. 

Sorry. Can't happen. I got a good gander at their lockers when I attended “Berate Your Kid Night" at parent teacher conference last month. It is the size of my old Brady Bunch lunchbox and takes about the same effort to close. They couldn't fit a coat, their I-Stuff and their books at the same time.

I am, of course, assuming that there are books. In my parenting years I have seen nary a one at home. I did find a copy of an anatomy manual once in Ihoma's book bag, but he fell all over himself explaining that he was just keeping it for a friend who got in-trouble at home for reading. Other than that, not one book!

"Because they never have Homework" they say.

'"Because they did it at school" they say.

Or "Because their teacher doesn't like them and gives everybody else in the 6th grade a handout excepting my poor, poor child

Or, lastly, "Because the teacher erases the assignment board too fast! - which is close to my personal favorite: "I can't see the blackboard because you make me get ready for school so quickly and I forget my glasses".

Wait. His friend got in trouble for reading? How does that happen?

You go to your room for a month young man! I won't have that blankity-blank reading stuff in my house! We are an X-box playing, plaid wearing, rifle & slingshot toting, big hair kinda family, and no son of mine is gonna screw it up by reading! You listening to me, BOY!

I like it.

I Lost My Coat - Explanation Number Two: I lost it at church. Okay, this is sort of feasible. Those church going folk will save a penny where ever they can. But I would have seen the lost coat on a munchkin running around the neighborhood.  And believe me, I have been keeping an eye out.

Explanation Number Three: It's dirty. 

Sorry, doesn't fly with me. Have you seen the things these kids are wearing? It doesn't matter if its been in the laundry pile for weeks under smelly socks, if Myelda wants to wear the pink fur-lined “I'm a Brat” tee shirt, them “I'm a Brat” it is – regardless of smell or wrinkles.

Final Explanation: I gave it to a street urchin who didn't have a coat

OK, this makes me tear up a little just like the mother needs Christmas shoes song. To think that my child would give up something of his, that he would actually go cold rather than have some poor thing go without a Hawaiian luau themed parachute jacket I picked out for them myself! This trumps all. God bless my sweet children.

Unless they're lying and then I am going to kill them a slow and painful death – like boarding school in Moose 'n Mouse Pass, Canada. A quiet place where in their spare time they can scavenge for coats and read 
anatomy manuals.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Yes, my lights are still up

My Christmas light display never turns out to be the holiday masterpiece I have in my head throughout the year. Still, every night in December on my way home from work I drive down our road slowly and pretend that I am new to the area to gauge my reaction.  Most of the time I am shocked -- shocked I tell you -- at the simplicity of design, the brilliant use of color, the negative space and the innovative holiday residential magnificence!

It's not just new years and Christmas that I am slightly off kilter. Off kilter is part of my DNA -- and that is the reason that I don't want to take my Christmas lights down. Well, 12% of the reason.

9% of my not wanting to de-light my house is due to cold. I am too old for cold.

The grand kids are still in town and I want them to remember the beautiful twinkling lights and associate them -- and other wonderful feelings -- with grandpa's house. This accounts for 39%.

But a full 60% off my not wanting to take down the lights is because we are in the darkest and coldest time of the year and I just don't want to give into the dark. Christmas lights aren't the cure to what ails me at this time of year, but it's a pill I can swallow. but they represent the cure.  

And suddenly I remember something. I am an adult -- or, at least I pay the bills. I can choose to leave my lights on for as long as I can afford it.

A neighbor of mine and I are on the same page, so I won't be the only house with lights still up until the 15th or so.

As you drive-by my home (drive-by doesn't mean the the same thing that it used to) forget about the negative space. Don't try to imagine my holiday decorating thought process or how I settled on the idea of having little blue icicle towers spread out around my home and the surrounding area.

Just enjoy the light.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Prodigal Dad -- The Mormon stuff of my beliefs

When I was young, growing up in what I would learn later was the Mormon corridor, I invited a friend to my house to play. This was not something I usually did because I was not one of the kids cool enough to have friends over.

I was young. My world was small. 

All the cool kids liked dinosaurs. My friend Glenn -- who I later found out had been sent over by his mom either for baby sitting or out of pity --  walked into the house and the first thing he wanted to do was to compare our dinosaur collections. This took less than two minutes. I was not interested in dinosaurs, but I was interested in having a friend, and the latter meant having the former in my book so I borrowed a few for the occasion. 

After a few minutes of dinosaur-ing, Glenn walked around the house “just to look,” he said. Once he had gone through most of the house and silently approved, he asked where all my Mormon stuff was.

As I recall didn't understand the question and asked Glenn to clarify. He said his dad was Catholic and his mother was Protestant and they had church stuff in their house -- a crucifix, a painting of sainted Mary, and a family bible. Glenn knew from people at school that my family was Mormon, so he wanted to know where my Mormon stuff was.

All I could think to show him was my second-place trophy for my pinewood derby car. It was something I had from Cub Scouts, which was sponsored by our church. He liked the car my dad carved for me (I had nothing to do with its creation except that I picked the color).  My derby car wasn't what Glenn was talking about.

I looked around my house. All I could find was a framed picture of my Aunt Jamar and her new husband posing in front of the Local LDS Temple entrance on the day of their marriage. Glenn studied the photo and nodded slowly.  He knew what the Mormon temple was.

I had a CTR ring somewhere in a drawer -- an emblem with initials for Choose The Right. That would have been perfect, but I forgot about it.

As a family, we went to church every Sunday morning, noon and evening (no combined three-hour block then), as well as some weekdays. We held family home evening and wore modest clothing as our church requires. But as far as Glenn was concerned without some Mormon stuff there was something missing.

I am not suggesting the answer to our life’s problems is to put our religion on display or to focus on things as representations of our beliefs. A lovely framed expression hung over the fireplace means exactly nothing if it is displayed for appearances only -- something I try to teach my children.

Such "stuff", however, can be an outward expression of one's inner belief or commitment -- as can a cross, an act of kindness, a star of David, compassionate words, a Young Women medallion, and so on.

What does being an active Mormon cause me to do that I may not choose to do if I were, say, Mennonite, Methodist, or Muslim? What would I believe in my heart, and what would be the outward manifestation of those beliefs? What would I teach my children?

Today my kids invite their friends over. One of my son’s friends is a Muslim and, even though she is in my house, I ask her the same thing (knowing full well she won’t be carrying around her religious objects de art). What I am really asking is, what does she believe, and is it important to her.

Where is her stuff?

I recently learned she was practicing a month of fasting called Ramadan -- something I had heard about but only slightly. We adjusted our eating/snacking schedule on the days she was visiting.

Every once in a while I ask someone to teach me something concerning their beliefs. I often see similarities between their religion and my own, as do my children.

Religious stuff is all around.

This little piggy went to market...
My good friend from college recently had her foot tattooed. “Hunger Sucks” is reads.  In her way she is carrying around her religious stuff -- the stuff of her beliefs. What she believes in is making sure people don’t go hungry, and she works toward that end every day.

My own stuff that I like to have around is a daily reminder of what I believe in and what I am committed to.

What would Glenn think if he saw my life today? Would he know what I professed to believe in by how I act, by what I consider my treasure, by my Mormon stuff?

Several weeks ago, as my son changed bedrooms, I saw a new plaque on his bedroom wall -- a churchy thing with a scripture and a semi-lofty saying on it.

I was proud that he was accruing some "stuff"  of his own-- something that reminded him of what he wanted to believe in.

I am even prouder when I see him act according to his beliefs.

This essay was published originally two years ago.  I felt it was relevant this new year and cleaned it up a bit. The tattoo is still there.