To Rock

"Ok Fury, control the iPod."

I take the iPod out of its cradle on my dashboard and hand it gingerly to Fury in the backseat, careful not to disconnect the cable keeping it plugged into the car stereo.

"Yessss!"

We both know that Dad and Fury car time means one thing: Fury plays DJ. And we crank it to eleven. Mom stayed home today and we've got an hour's drive back home from his lacrosse game. Let's rock.

The drone of that single descending note, accentuated by the steady metallic clang of a hammer on anvil is my cue.

"I AM IIIIIIRON MAAAAAN"

As Fury plays his Nintendo DS in the back, I'm perfectly happy sitting in slow but steady Sunday traffic working some killer air guitar. Black Sabbath hath charms to soothe the savage road raging beast, or so the saying goes.

The song ends. Then starts over again. The kid's got good taste.

I resume air guitaring.

The song ends. Then starts over again. Wow, he really likes this song.

I resume air guitaring once again. But this time I notice movement out of the corner of my eye. I turn to look. He's no longer playing Nintendo. He's decided to help me keep time.

Rock Band. The wii and game disc are optional. They always were.

Birthday. Boy...

"Uhh. huh-huh."

That was all I could muster. Eight years ago today.

Before I become your dad, I envisioned the day in so many different ways. Sprinting down the hospital corridors, high fiving strangers and passing out cigars; clutching you close to my chest (in black and white, of course) while doing the "I must have allergies" man-weep; hoisting you proudly above my head for the throngs of well wishers to behold, a la Lion King.

But the Beavis and Butthead brain fart? Never. I gotta be real with you, kiddo. I didn't know what the hell I was doing.

But somehow, some way...

Elmo turned into Power Rangers turned into Mythbusters.

SesameStreet.org turned turned into CartoonNetwork.com turned into YouTube (supervised, mind you).

Baby Einstein turned into Wiggles turned into Blink 182 (bypassing Mylie, Justin Beiber and the gang entirely, for which I will gladly buy you ice cream).

Legos sets turned into... more Lego sets... turned into "oh my god expensive!" Lego sets.

Crying turned into whining turned into employing the Socratic method to make dad's argument implode before his very eyes (qualdruple negatives should be outlawed in parent-child discourse).

Diapers turned into "All done... wipe!" turned into "Can you get me a comic book, this is going to take a while."

My baby turned into a toddler turned into the beginnings of a young man who will never cease to amaze me.

But you know what? You will also never cease to be this little guy in the video below. No amount of Axe body spray will ever mask that fresh baby smell when I kiss the top of your head, little Simba. Happy Birthday, son.

Nature Pwns Nurture.

Hi! I'm Asian. While most people can think of at least one mainstream Asian professional athlete, we're still pretty much on the trailing edge of statistical significance in the arena of "cool sports." Of course, that's not to say Asians don't dominate some sports.

Sigh.

And again. Sigh.

I didn't always think this way. My dad and his boyz never met a ping pong table they couldn't run. And badminton? That was the stuff blood feuds were made of. I couldn't dribble a basketball or throw a football (still can't), but if you gave me a racket, you'd better be prepared to bend over. Because you'd be picking birdies off the grass all afternoon. And in my world, that was alpha male.

Unfortunately in the real world, that didn't even prevent me from being picked dead last in gym class.

It took me until college to muster up the courage to redeem myself, but I did it. And chose the one thing I feared most but knew could validate me as a true man's man: fighting. I've written about it already so I won't go into details.

Then Fury was born.

As is natural for any parent, all I wanted was for Fury to have it better than I did. And since my childhood social anxiety centered around my incompetence in cool sports, Fury was ringside at kickboxing matches before he could walk. And when I changed his diaper, I would psych him up by chanting "Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!" (UFC referee John McCarthy's signature way to begin each round). If geektasticness was in his genes, I was sure as hell going to nurture the nature clean out of him.

For his own good, of course.

And while I was careful never to push him to participate in Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing or jiu jitsu, for fear of him feeling pressured and rejecting it, I made damn sure he was always exposed to it.

Major. FAIL.

It became too commonplace. Watching two guys kick and punch each other to a bloody pulp in a ring was "soooo boring, dad!" And when I say that those words broke my heart, I'm not kidding. But the kid knew that, and would watch the important matches with me to humor his old man. He'd offer intelligent commentary on ring strategy, great KOs and such, but I could always tell his heart wasn't in it. So I stopped hoping.

But I never stopped trying. Last year, we enrolled Fury in lacrosse. While not a fight sport, it incorporates speed, contact, precision, conditioning and is generally an all-around bad ass athletic endeavor (i.e. all the cool kids in high school played it).

While Fury contends that he enjoys it, any parent can tell when their child doesn't possess true fire for something. I won't fool myself into thinking otherwise. While other kids fight for the ball like it's the last cupcake at the birthday party, Fury will take a few whacks at it. If it passes by his nose. And occassionally, he'll give half a chase. If he knows I'm watching. At least it makes for nice highlight pictures.

I also let him try Crossfit, something I do and love. I figured the "Crossfit Kids" class would make him bigger, faster and stronger.

It did. For a few minutes. Until he got winded from box jumps, at which point he deemed it "no fun, dad."

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that my kid simply doesn't like to exert himself. That the heat of competition generates a mere lukewarm simmer in my boy's veins. That Science Camp was his destiny.

Then I got a phone call the other day.

"Dad! Mom bought me a badminton set!"

"Badminton? How did you find out about badminton??"

"We play at school. And I can play me vs. five 8th graders and I beat all of them!!"

I don't remember the exact conversation I had with d wife right afterwards, but it covered such topics and phrases as: "oh great" and "I've worked too hard for him to do this to me" and "damn these Asian genes!" and "you can't fight the power of the dark side."

But I love my son. And he was too jazzed about this for me to spoil it for him with my childish insecurities. So I took some deep breaths when I got home and commenced with the trash talk.

"Fear me. I can beat anyone at this game. I beat all my dad's friends when I was in 4th grade. Prepare to go down in flames, boy."

"You can't beat me, dad."

Cold as ice, he was.

I served. He returned. I missed. He snickered.

I served. He returned. I returned. He dove.

"Dad, I was born for this!!"

Oh, Irony. How you taunt me.

Then I noticed it. Barely visible at first, but noticeable if you walked up right to him felt his head in disbelief. He was sweating. And panting. And smiling.

I think Confucius said it well:

"Only when set free against the fiery sunset sky will a Phoenix mirror its striking brilliance. Locked in an octagon, he'll only pretend to care about the UFC to make you feel better."

But I think Fury nailed it:

"Hey, Dad."

"Yeah?"

"Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!"

I ask for just one thing. A 2020 Olympics jacket, size M. 

That Burning Sensation

I fear churches.

Don't get me wrong. I don't harbor any disdain for those who are devout in their beliefs. In fact, I quite admire someone who can devote themselves to their faith, in the same way I admire that French spiderman guy who free-climbs skyscrapers. Church just simply scares the crap out of me. I'm talking about cold sweats, vertigo. I'm talking about my blood pressure rising when I set foot in a church. My face flushing. Feeling light headed.

As most people have the complete opposite reaction to churches, I have often been asked why of all things a spiritual sanctuary like this can frighten me so. The simple answer is I am spiritually inept. I suck at all things church. I grew up Catholic. And while I have always been good with anything that you need to study out of a book, I was always bad at Sunday School. Failed every quiz. Asked the wrong questions. Couldn't tell my apostles from my saints from my disciples. And the teachers and other kids made it known that I sucked. Being the only Asian kid in a working class Irish neighborhood might have contributed a teensy bit to the post Sunday-school teasing and beat downs that I suffered while waiting for my mom to pick me up, but since I was on church grounds, I considered it church jurisdiction.

And when it came time to re-register for Sunday School one spring day (I think they called it CCD back then?). I simply said no. I was in fourth grade then, so I knew I was facing one hell heck of a maelstrom by saying no, but I stuck to my guns. I had never, nor have I since, openly defied my mother. Self preservation is a strong instinct.

And for close to two decades, I admired churches from afar, or on postcards.

Then I got married. To a Filipino woman. And they'll give the Boston Irish a run for their money on the Catholic devotion front any day. I love Lisa's family and they don't beat me down when I skip church when we visit on the holidays (it helps that I'm usually cooking them a vat of my Killa Clam Chowda while they're worshipping), so the whole Catholicism thing in general isn't as scary anymore. But on the few occasions where I have gone to church in my adult life (weddings, funerals, etc), I suffer that entire list of symptoms they read at the end of designer pharmaceutical ads. Including oily discharge.

Seeing as we have a kid together, the inevitable question of Fury's religious upbringing was one challenge that Lisa and I had to face early on. I respect her religious views. And while I'm of the opinion that Fury should pick whatever religion HE feels will fulfill him spiritually, I am willing to give Catholisicm a head start, since his mom is Catholic. And he's really too young to make that decision for himself now anyway. Hell, I'M too young to make that decision. Heck, I mean heck. Sorry.

So we got him baptized when he was a baby. Part of that required his parents (yes, me) to attend baptism classes. And for the love of my wife and son, I sucked it up and did it. And I attended the baptism too. And did not pass out. Or go up in flames.

Now we've got another little one on the way.

And Lisa made arrangements for soon-to-be baby Alessia's baptism. I figured, "ok, one afternoon in church. Just hold your breath, smile and it'll all be over quickly." But no. I have to take the class again. This time, they're requiring two classes.

So last night, parked outside the church, I took several slow deep breaths to get my heart rate down.

"Seriously?" she asked.

"Seriously." I responded.

I joked that once I set foot in that church, lightning would strike me down. Lisa said "I know. Sinner." In her deadpan I'm-joking-but-you-are-still-going-to-hell manner.

As I took a seat at the table, I could feel my face beginning to flush, my fingertips going numb. But as class went on, I have to admit that the modern Catholic church is a lot kinder and gentler than I remember from the 70s. I was going to make it. I mumbled through the prayers (like when I used to lip synch in chorus) and sat through the baptism powerpoint presentation. But I had to chuckle then this slide came up:

"I renounce the Prince of Darkness"

Whoa. whoa. whoa. What's Ozzy got to do with it? No way. He rocks. And even if the Dalai Lama himself told me to stop playing "Crazy Train" to my son, I'd tell him to go pick on Nirvana or something.

Mumble mumble prince of mumble mumble...

I was doing OK. This class wasn't that bad. God is not going to call me out. I see the finish line...

"WWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAA  WAAAAAAAAAAAAA"

Yup. The fire alarm.

When judgment day arrives, you'll find me at the back of the southbound bus playing sudoku with Ozzy Osbourne.

A Shaman, I Am Not

I awoke from my last dream of 2009 late for work and thoroughly perplexed. Whereas I could easily make up the commute time thanks to the fact that no one else was working on New Year's Eve day, there's no way I could make up a dream like this:

I was sitting at round table with the living cast members of Monty Python, Captain Kirk, Dr. Spock and 'Bones' McCoy. This table was spinning in front of us (picture the table as one big lazy susan), and there were lyrics printed on it. And the table itself? Well, it was the round part of the Starship Enterprise of course. And we were all singing the national anthem. Because that's what the rotating lyrics were.

This dream was obviously rife with symbolism, and perhaps a portent of the future. And way over my head. All I could think was "Cool table. I wonder if I could do that with the Millennium Falcon?"

But the ether was trying to tell me something. So when I got to work, I grabbed my tin of green tea leaves and spilled them on my desk. I had heard that Chinese fortune tellers can interpret messages from the spirits by doing this:

No luck there. Just looks like a bunch of leaves spilled onto a desk.

What about palm reading? On my drive home, I pass at least 3 palm reading places so there's something to be said about that, right? I opened my palm and looked intently for a roadmap to the future.

Good luck there, champ.

Come on! I've only got a few hours left to make sense of the year ahead. There are too many what-if's, too much to look forward to, so many open questions.

This is the first year where I realized that this parenting stuff is hard. Before this, Fury was malleable, and truth be told, he likely wouldn't remember my stumbles and starts as the guy who is supposed to be his moral compass and role model. But now? Not only has he formed a personality that is noticeably more than simply a reflection of me, but it is markedly different, and painfully independent. From this point on, everything I do will be firmly etched into his memory. I remember everything about second grade, and he will too. It's think twice before I speak. It's think once more before I act. It's showtime.

This is the last year I will be a parent of one. Everyone says that I will just fall into it with the new baby, but I am apprehensive. When Fury was on the way, I freelanced. I didn't have the paycheck, but I had time. I had time to go with Lisa to every pre-natal appointment (I haven't been to a single one yet!), time to wake up and walk him around the block at 5 in the morning to calm him down, time to take pictures of every milestone, time to be there for his first bite of solid food, his first words, his first steps. As it stands now, I spend 1 hour a day with Fury on the weekdays, right before work and right before bed. How does one split 60 minutes of parenting between a 7 year old and a baby?

Luckily and unluckily, Lisa got laid off this year. It at least ensures that one of us keeps this new baby from going feral. But it also means that this bill paying on time thing? It all rides on me. And not in the fun way.

So I'm looking for answers, for inspiration, for something that says 2010 is going to kick some ass.

In Gene We Trust.

I wish all of you a rockin' 2010. With pyrotechnics.

Cyborg. Now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time...

That’s what they used to call me. But nowadays, Fury just pats me on the belly and shakes his head whenever I flex my biceps in front of him. Cyborgs aren’t supposed to jiggle, apparently. And cyborgs don’t find an upside-down imprint of their belt buckle on their belly after prolonged stretches of sitting (you have to stop and think about how that happens, but it has something to do with gut overflow).

I ain’t as good as I once was.

Back then, I believed the measure of a man was his ability to vanquish his opponents in hand-to-hand combat. Or at least hold his own, win or lose.

And I loved it. I’ve made the best friends I’ve ever had training, punching, kicking, choking, bleeding and sweating alongside them.

And then this guy came along.

And for a while, the father lion instinct kicked in. I have to protect my boy against all the bad people out there who want to physically harm him, and hell if I’m going to let that happen to my Simba, right?

He was my motivation, my inspiration.

And it was the shot of encouragement I needed. For a while, I was better than I ever was – and I was in my mid-thirties. My Muay Thai coach coined the nickname Cyborg and I was damn proud of it. At least it was better than his first choice, “Tony Roma” because of my tender ribs.

Cyborg was relentless. Tearing through endurance drills, running, calisthenics, sparring, competitions, seminars, and even watermelon (2nd place, eating contest, 2007 team picnic, yo).  Cyborg did come in dead last in the 3-legged race, but that’s because the judges didn’t allow him to just sprint and drag his partner along.

But other than that, no one ever questioned his ability to simply power through without hesitation anything thrown at him.

 

 

However...

No roving band of ninjas ever came to kidnap Fury... but he did want to tell me about his day at school.

No crazy escaped convict ever broke into my house... but Fury loved the homemade pesto pizza I would make him for dinner.

No agent approached me to star in the remake of Enter the Dragon, catapulting me to fame, fortune and Fury’s college tuition... but Fury did want me to videotape his latest homemade Hotwheels catapult.

That 2 hours that I could spend being a man in the gym was 2 hours that I couldn’t spend being a dad at home. Something didn’t measure up. So Cyborg picked up a cold beer, sat next to Fury and they laughed and snorted at Spongebob getting his face ripped off.

But old personas die hard. And although I’ve had a great time playing the puffier, jollier, 20 pounds heavier BusyDad who gets winded taking out the trash, I miss Cyborg. And when Fury patted my belly the other day, Cyborg didn’t like that.

“Should I return to Muay Thai?” I thought. No. I cannot possibly go back into Muay Thai. I have an ego problem. It took me years to get to the level I was, and to walk back into my old gym in the decrepit shape I’m in now would kill me inside. Also, I cannot realistically put in the time or effort to fight competitively. And to see the young lions training for fights when all I could realistically do at this point in my life is just train to get in shape? That would kill me a lot. A LOT.

Then just the other day d Wife got back from a shopping trip to her favorite store in the world next to Nordstrom: Lululemon. “Hey I saw a flyer that they opened a Crossfit in Monrovia.”

Crossfit.

Open any thesaurus and you will find this word as the 5th synonym for “Are you frickin insane? Do you actually enjoy collapsing in a pile of sweat and puke at 6 in the morning 5 days a week?”

Yes. Yes I do. But then again, Cyborgs weren’t programmed for logic.

 

Time to Rant

I've been spending the past two days reading BlogHer conference recaps. And it feels like that movie Memento, where I'm discovering bits and pieces and making sense of them within the context of my own reality from that weekend. Eh, I can't fool you guys - it's more like that movie The Hangover. I still don't know how that rooster got into my room. Any help would be appreciated.

Anyway, I've decided not to do one, mostly because mine would be boring. I had a great time, met new friends, connected with old ones and reveled in the fact that amongst 1,500 people, I could at any given time run into someone I knew and simply chill with them. I loved that my biggest, most impactful decision of each day was "should I go hang out by the river, or sit in the lobby?" I wasn't busy. For once.

While I was there, I was also on a panel. As the title suggested ("Vaginally challenged bloggers - the men of BlogHer"), it was a lighthearted, fun discussion on the role and impact of male personal bloggers in a predominantly female space. Along with my co-panelists Avitable and Childsplayx2 and moderator Miss Britt, we discussed a whole mess of interesting topics. At one point, as we touched upon the topic of crossing lines, I said something like "I don't cross any lines - I don't rant, I don't talk shit, I just keep it lighthearted on my blog." I don't ever cuss on this blog either, but if it's in quotes it's ok, right?

But you know what? Sometimes you've got to let it out and I need to break some new ground here. However, would it be hypocritical of me to do this less than a week after I declared that I don't rant in front of pretty much anyone who would ever read this blog? Yes. Yes it would be. So I'm going to get off on a technicality. Fury is going to do it. I need the traffic that a good controversial rant would bring, and my son has something that he has to say. I came across it going through a stack of his schoolwork the other day, and it's the stuff budding bloggers are made of. Take it away son...

Original text scanned below. Transcript follows.

I hate to eat Asparagus. It tastes like a leaf and like a rotten squash. The Asparagus looks like it has hair and is green. It sounds crunchy. The Asparagus feels smooth and bumpy on top. It smells like its been in a garden and like a leaf. Asparagus is only good with ranch.

- Fury

How's that for an FU post? Should I hyperlink the word asparagus to the US Asparagus Council like a good linkbaiter? Nah, one step at a time.

Bye Bye, Dada Truck

The Dada Truck came into our lives by accident -- a nice metal crunching, oh-boy-I'm-better-off-donating-this-wreck kind of accident. One minute I was driving a BMW with too many miles and problems to get a click-through on Craigslist, the next minute I was waving good-bye as the flatbed from Cars For Causes hauled its carcass off in exchange for a tax write-off (which does NOT happen - don't believe the hype).

Since I had been driving alone and no one was hurt, I saw the accident as a good thing. As a new dad I simply felt too guilty spending perfectly good diaper money on a new car. But now, a world of possibilities lay ahead of me. Well, let's be honest: one very real, very desirable possibility lay ahead of me: T-R-U-C-K.

That evening, d Wife, our then 7-month old Fury and I set out to kick the tires of my dream ride, the Chevy Silverado. But as quickly as my pulse raced as our sales consultant Brian guided us through the herd of shiny new trucks, my spirits fell as I realized that even the lowest models were priced a tad above what I was willing to spend on transportation to work. I have never used the term crestfallen before, but thinking back to that moment, I can say I was utterly crestfallen. None of us said anything as we made our way back to d wife's car, not even Brian. But then...

"Hey, Jim. What about this one?"

I glanced over to what Brian was pointing at, then chuckled at his well-intentioned joke to lighten my mood.

"Yeah sure. If I could afford it!" (when crestfallen, I lack the skill to produce witty comebacks on the spot).

I had no reason to believe Brian was serious. I had just seen the lowest end Silverados they had on the lot to no avail. The behemoth I was staring at was a Silverado 3500. The biggest meanest truck in Chevy's non-commercial fleet.

"Well maybe you can. It's last year's model. Plus, I've had this bad boy sitting in the lot for two years. No one in this area wants to buy a dually."

(What? You mean you aren't often called upon to tow horse trailers on a moment's notice in Los Angeles? Get out!)

"Well... does it have a roomy back seat?" I asked in a feeble attempt to let practicality steer my purchasing decision.

"See for yourself!" replied Brian, as he opened the suicide doors (it's just a catchy term! ignore, ignore, ignore).

I placed Fury in the surprisingly roomy back seat and a single image flashed through my head: a pea in a Sherman Tank. Nothing on the road could hurt my baby boy as long as he was sitting in this vehicle. So that night I pulled the "it's safer for the baby" card and rationalized my way to 7,000 lbs of rumbling big boy toy. Plus, I actually did get it for less than the Silverado 1500. Can you blame me for passing up a great sale?

I loved that truck. And so did Fury. In fact, "truck" was one of the first words he could say. And soon after that, my truck became "Dada Truck."

Dada Truck gave me purpose...

One day, d wife asked "what are you gonna do with a truck that big anyway?"

"Haul dirt."

"Uh, excuse me?"

"Haul dirt. That's what you do with a truck. I'm gonna find some dirt and haul it."

And so I did.

Along with my future backyard...

And some other cool things like granite countertops, demolition debris, IKEA sale items, Xmas trees, office furniture (for 3 bosses at 3 jobs - never let your boss know you have a truck), spinner bikes, boxes of live fish and ludicrously large fishtanks:

That's a 125-gallon tank we drove 500 miles to give to d Wife's cousin

Dada Truck had personality...

A man wears his heart on his truck. Dada Truck was a billboard of all the things that were important to me. Back then, my passion in life was Muay Thai. Big ass trucks and fight teams go hand-in-hand. Probably because there's a huge window where you can display your team pride (cool, I just checked their website and I'm still on their homepage if you wanna play "Where's BD?"):

For the love of Team, Dog and CountryI also quite liked this bumper sticker I picked up in Nashville, though it was never an effective deterrent:

And my favorite accessory? The antenna ball Fury made me one Father's Day years ago:

 

Dada Truck had a bright future...

Before long, Dada Truck was paid off. Which meant it had pretty much earned tenure in our driveway. True, I've since bought a more practical daily driver and I don't really need it, but do you keep something around solely because you need it? Seven years have gone by since the day I drove off the lot thinking "Jim, you are crazy for buying this," and despite $120 fill-ups during the worst of the gas crisis and inability to park in urban areas, I still sigh when we pull into the driveway in our other cars, turn to d wife and say "if I had all the money in the world and could get any car on the planet, I'd still pick that one." 

This truck was my excuse to ask for a Bass Boat every year for Christmas. This truck was going to take Fury and me into the wilderness on camping adventures involving mud. This truck was going to make me feel better about Fury being on the road as a newly licensed driver at 16. This truck was about good things to come.

Dada Truck is worth $12,000 in the Kelley Blue Book...

But parenthood isn't all about fun and games. It's about giving your child everything in your power to give. And this year, it was about accepting the fact that Fury is not going to blossom in the public school system. Although we missed the application deadline to get him into a local private school for September, we tried anyway. And he got the tour, loved it, took the test, got accepted, got waitlisted for the next available spot, crossed his fingers, got the OK and got very, very ecstatic. What did I get? A bill. For $927. Payable every month. Starting right now.

We never really did think about that part.

And I can't really go to my boss and ask for a $11,124 raise.

I guess in the big picture of Fury's life, the Dada Truck is still about good things to come. But I'm still gonna miss the hell out of it.

 

 

A Y Chromosome Runs Through It

Me and balls have never gotten along.

In little league, I made contact with the bat once. And what a beautiful foul ball it was! In youth soccer, I scored one goal. In practice. In middle school, my illustrious basketball career was cut short when a rebound hit my pinky at juuust the right angle to break it. Into a perfect right angle. And football? I must seem like the biggest jerk because I never pick up an errant football that has rolled my way at the park. But really it's because I don't want the 11 year-olds to laugh at me when I try to throw it back. 

Luckily for me, I can throw a lightning jab-cross-hook combo and swing a shin through your neck. I found martial arts close to 20 years ago, and knowing how to throw down has saved me from the embarrassment of not knowing how to throw spirals. I thought the whole ball thing was behind me.

But I have a kid.

My dad told me long ago that the one responsibility of every parent is to make sure the next generation does better than its predecessor. Being a connoisseur of low-hanging fruit, the first mission I set for myself when Fury was born was to make sure that he embraced his balls, in every sense of the word. Especially the sports one.

So ever since Fury could pick up an object and run with it, we enrolled him in a mixed sports program. And because I never fancied myself one of those "sports dads" who gets into brawls at their kids' hockey games, I kind of prided myself in my humanistic approach to children's sports. Let them be kids, let them have fun.

And over the years he did have fun. However, we recently felt it was time to take it one step further. It was time to introduce him to organized team sports. To help him make the transition into something a little more structured than he was used to, I helped him choose a sport that seemed the most fun. We settled on lacrosse. You've got the constant hustle of soccer, the hand-eye coordination of baseball, the rough-and-tumble aspect of hockey or football, and you look like a Bionicle in full battle gear. A no brainer.

Two weekends ago we took him to his first practice. And it went well. He picked up the basics fairly easily and seemed engrossed in the game. Awesome. Visions of high school lacrosse team captain danced in my head (hey, I did bike racing in high school, before Lance Armstrong made it un-dorky. Let a guy dream.).

Last weekend, I went with Fury to his second practice. When they issued his pads and uniform, and he got all suited up, I was welling with pride. That's my boy right there! In his badass uniform, ready to kick ass and dominate the field.

They started by lining up for drills. Well, all of them except for Fury, who was busy playing Rock Band on his lacrosse stick. Then they did passing drills, which Fury could have easily picked up on -- had he not been wandering off to chase a flying bug.

"I'm not that dad."

He missed a pass that his coach tossed his way. He meandered his way like a Family Circus cartoon to fetch the ball.

"I'm not that dad."

When it was his turn to do a shooting drill, he was swordfighting.

"Fury!! Hustle!! What did your coach just tell you?"

Oh no I di'nt. I did not just say that out loud, did I?

I started pacing the sidelines, watching his every giggle, every misstep, every unfocused, fooling around, wasting-my-exorbitant-registration-fee moment. I was turning into every crazy sports dad who micro manages his kid's athletic life, and I hated it. I hated it even more that every other parent watching me seethe was a mom. Way to promote a stereotype, Jim. And how painfully ironic. Me, of all people.

Scariest thing? I saw what I was doing. And I could not stop. Once practice was over, I pulled Fury aside and said "I did not sign you up for lacrosse so you could fool around. If I don't see you listening to the coach when he's talking and focusing on what you're supposed to be doing, I'm pulling you out and returning all this stuff, you hear me?"

I seldom have moments where I really dislike myself. Call it arrogance, call it ignorance, call it confidence, call it what you will. But it hardly ever happens. I despised myself. But part of me felt justified in doing it. The kid is a couple months from turning 7. He can focus. He can pay attention. I know it. But sports is fun. And wielding a stick does lend itself to pretending it's a guitar...

When we got home, I was still feeling way unsettled. Lisa has a knack for pulling it together when I lose it. We sat down and had a talk with Fury. We made beyond a shadow of a doubt clear to him that this was not about performance. This was about focus. This was about effort. We want Fury to have heart. To give it his all. And then Lisa drove it all home with a Rocky-esque male heartstring-tugging example, bringing up my last kickboxing match (yay wife!) where I lost (ok, I see where you're going with this), and was completely dominated (um, I think Fury gets it), and owned (*sigh*) by a kid who was 16 years younger than I was (please get to the heart part before I run and hide) yet I kept moving forward (probably stupidity and punch-drunkenness, but for the sake of the example let's call it heart), and never gave up (coach would have killed me himself if I gave up, but no one has to know). Then we did our hugs and both of us felt a lot better.

I wish I had a conclusion to this post. I don't. We have practice tomorrow morning and I'm going to jog around the track while Fury practices so I don't watch him. I'm going to trust him, trust myself, trust the coach and let fate do its thing.

Damn balls.

(You know I can't leave anything on a serious note, so I present you a lighthearted highlight reel from Fury's first 2 practices.)

Sometimes Busy and Dad Just Don’t Mix

Hey there. I’m still on hiatus. I, um, just forgot to turn the iron off. Oh, there it is. I guess I never turned it on. Silly me. Bye... What’s that? You want a post? Oh fine, twist my arm.

A two-working parent household can be a logistical nightmare. Flipping a coin to decide who uses a personal day when the kid gets sick, putting off any household chores or errands until Saturday (and having to complete them by the end of Sunday), leaving the dogs to their own devices during the day, missing The People’s Court. Granted, you gain the financial benefit and stability that come with a dual income stream, but it really sucks sometimes.

Like today.

Fury asked us last week if we would be going to his first grade “Turkey Tango Thanksgiving Feast.” I assumed this was some kind of song and dance routine where our adorable little ones would be decked out in construction paper headdresses, pilgrim belts and turkey feathers, painstakingly artisaned with safety scissors and assembled over four art classes. I also assumed that this would take place at night. Wrong. It would take place smack dab in the middle of the workday.

“WTF!?” I thought. Don’t schools realize that parents work? I can’t take off what will amount to at least a half day just to indulge the public school system’s sorry excuse for parental involvement. And on top of that, they shut down the school cafeteria for this “feast.” I had to pack Fury a lunch that day. Really?

I was pissed that the school system put me in the position of bad guy when I had to break it to Fury that I had a meeting I couldn’t miss, and that mom had month-end reconciliations that she had to complete for her work. Fury took it totally in stride. Because he is used to it rocks.

So today was “Turkey Tango” day. I got up and tried my best to remember what I used to pack Fury for lunch before we entrusted him to the public school cafeteria system (don’t judge! I have no time.) Ok, let’s see... we have our protein item, fruit, whole wheat... ok, I got this.

As I sent him out the door, I apologized again that mom and I could not join him today, gave him a kiss and said goodbye. A few minutes later, as I was going through my leaving-the-house routine, I saw a pile of stuff Fury had brought home from school. d Wife had reminded me check it for any announcements or news that the teacher may have thrown in. So I sifted through it.

And found this:



He hadn’t even bothered to give it to us. I drove to work feeling queasy. And then I remembered that I forgot to pack him dessert. Somebody Ctrl+Alt+Delete me, please.

“I Went to School in Boston”

When someone tells you the above, it usually means one thing: Harvard grad.

It’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of thing. If you say “I went to Harvard,” you’d better be prepared with a “yeah, the admissions officer was definitely drunk that day, heh,” so as not to seem like you were just waiting to spring that fact on someone to flaunt your intelligence. If you go with the Boston thing and you are asked to elaborate, then you’re screwed even more because the person will undoubtedly think “oh, you think Harvard is so great that you had to hide that fact from me so I wouldn’t feel inferior?”

You can’t win.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that it took weeks, if not months, before they learned I graduated from Harvard. Even amongst you all (my blogging friends), only 5 or 6 of you know this, and I swore you all to secrecy under the threat of being removed from my blogroll (I’m ruthless like that). Hell, even d wife had to find out third-hand from her friend, who found it out through one of my friends.

So why am I telling you this now? I grew up a little bit this past week.

[Mid-post disclaimer: My blog posts are usually funny (or at least I try). This one won’t be. I had an epiphany. And for some whacked reason, I decided that the only way to make it real was to force myself to publish it. Blogger’s Syndrome. I promise I won’t do this often.]

A few months ago, I received an email. It asked if I would be interested in interviewing kids applying for next fall’s freshman class. Something possessed me to say yes. If you know me at all, you know that this makes no sense. Consider the facts:

  • Whenever someone finds out I went to Harvard, the first thing I temper it with is “oh, but I made NO friends there besides my roommates.”
  • Whenever someone asks if I liked going to Harvard I say “it wouldn’t have made any difference in my life had I gone to any other school.”
  • Whenever someone says “you must be smart,” I say “no, I just convinced the right people I was. That’s why I’m in marketing.”
  • Whenever someone says “No way. You?? You totally don’t seem like the type,” I smile proudly.
  • I have not donated any money to the school.
  • I missed my 5th and 10th reunion.
  • I joined the Harvard Club of Southern CA when I moved here in ‘95, went to one event and promptly quit.

With all those wonderful bullet points in my proverbial carry-on baggage, I put on my best marketing dude smile and drove across town to the home of a fellow alum to attend an interviewers orientation. As soon as I pulled up to the house, which really should have had its own zip code, or if not that then at least its own Starbucks, feelings of inadequacy filled my head. Is THIS par for my peers? What have I been doing with my life? I breathed in, I breathed out, I walked in.

The living room was set up with about 60 folding chairs arranged in rows. I promptly went to the far end and took a seat apart from the others, much like I did in so many lecture halls in years past. But unlike in years past, people started sitting around me. And they said hi. And I said hi. And we talked. Like normal people. Like friendly folks. Like people who were all like “what’s up with this crazy ass house? Are we all supposed to have one of these already? Dayum.”

Then the presentation started. As each minute passed, I felt progressively worse. But in a good way. The kind of worse that the Grinch experienced when he realized his evil deeds did nothing to dampen the spirit of Christmas in Whoville.

  • First the school. Ok, so Harvard has bazillions of dollars. But they use those dollars to give the brightest kids in the world the best education they can get, bar none. Only something like 250 (out of 6,000 or so) undergrads paid full tuition last year. Also starting this year, Harvard will foot 100% of the bill to send every single student abroad for one semester. It's like giving every student their own rich uncle.
  • Next, the interviewers. Some of these folks have been interviewing for 20 something years. And one interviewer has only had 2 students get into Harvard in all that time. You don’t do this for a batting average.
  • And the interview itself. Chances are, nine out of ten kids you interview will not be Harvard material. And you’ll know this within five minutes. But the admissions officers and veteran interviewers told us this: make that interview last, and have a real conversation. Why? Because you will likely be the only personal contact they will ever have with Harvard – make it a positive one. Whether they get in or not is irrelevant for you. What’s important is that these kids leave there with something real. With hope, with knowledge, with perspective. Not necessarily about Harvard, but about college or the vast opportunities that lie ahead of them as they pursue their academic careers.

While being thoroughly confused isn’t the best state of mind in which to be operating a motor vehicle on the California freeways, it is exactly what I needed in order to grow up that day. Call it an epiphany or a crazy guy talking to himself (thanks to Bluetooth headsets for helping us maintain a semblance of normalcy as we engage in soliloquies while driving), but it all became painfully clear.

“So what about all the pompous assholes in your dorm and in class who wouldn’t give you the time of day?”
When you’re so wrapped up spending all your time hanging out with your girlfriend (whom you don’t even like), people tend to not connect with you. Hell, you never even took the time to learn their names, even though you’d been in the dorm for 3 years.

“So what about the fact that everyone is just trying to flaunt their cool job when they ask you what you do for a living at alumni events?”
You’re just bitter that you went the easy route and majored in psych as they slaved away at something useful like econ and landed that cool job while you got nothing from campus recruiting and had to take a job you found out of the newspaper classifieds.

“Oh yeah? what’s up with the arrogant jerks who put Harvard window decals on their Mercedes to rub it in that they're doing so well?”
You’ve never seen a USC sticker on a Benz? A Cal State Fullerton sticker on a Benz? A Georgetown sticker? A BC sticker?

“Harvard didn’t have anything to do with my success as a person.”
Have you let it? Have you even tried to do anything with this golden ticket that you’re holding?

June 1994. With my roomate Allen.

I pulled into my driveway a wiser man.

I do have a golden ticket. And I’m damn lucky to have it. I didn’t rob, cheat or steal to get it. It didn’t fall into my lap. I worked damn hard to get it. And my parents worked damned harder to let me get it. And now that I’ve got it, it’ll get me places. Better yet, it can now help me help others get to where they want to be. I can sit here and feel guilty about having it, or I can use it to inspire others.

The admissions officer (also an alum) at the orientation put it best: I'm here not for the income, but the outcome.

I can’t wait to interview these kids. If my being from Harvard makes them listen more intently to what I have to say, then I will make damn sure not to squander this opportunity to get these kids excited about college, itching to challenge their comfort levels and pumped about their future. That’s the kind of pompous asshole I want to be. And I might even buy my first Harvard sweatshirt.

[Make sure to check out other posts about Education at my friend April's blog. Today is her second Blog Blast for Education blog carnival]

*Sniff*

I may have looked skyward and said "finally!!" when you opened the box, unfolded the instructions and did not ask me to "build this now please!"

BuildingLegoInstructions1.jpg 

And I may have sat next to you and opened my laptop to "blog" and reminded you nonchalantly to "ask me if you need help." And I may have even said 20 times "Fury, I am so proud of you! You are building that Lego set all by yourself!"

Because I was.

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And I was genuinely amused when you added your own twist to the final product.

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Cirque du Battle Droid?

But listen here, son. I still have a good 8 years before you can tell me to drop you off 3 blocks from school so you can make your solo entrance unaccompanied by your crazy old dad. Until then, you need me. I mean, I'm no Justin Quan (the youngest kid on team Lego who also happens to be the Bionicle speed-building champion)...

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Actually, I really could have used Justin's help around Xmas time.

But what your old man lacks in speed, he makes up in insanity dedication.  Oh, and I have a credit card. And not all sets say "ages 6 and up."

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Just sayin'...

 

The Little Things

It’s great to be sober home! I hope you all had a great two weeks while I was gone. I tried to update my sites more and visit your blogs, but it was a losing battle with my crazy schedule which consisted daily of work and conference activities during the day, official banquets with government folks at night (where much drinking ensued), followed by unofficial but essential business-building activities that lasted until early morning (that I for some reason can’t recall).

From what I can remember, China was beyond incredible. The experts can explain it better than I, so I won’t go into how and why China will soon represent the benchmark for virtually all metrics against which modern society is measured. But let me just say when you are there, you simply feel it.

But somebody get me a decent napkin already!

Click to read more about some things that you don’t realize you need until you are in China:

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You're Now Like... A Kid Or Something

I drove a little slower that day, 6 years and 8 months ago. Not because I was shell shocked (I was). Not because a cocktail of apprehension, bliss, excitement and confusion was coursing through every vessel in my body (it was).

It was because you needed me. I was no longer inconsequential. No longer a reckless Ronin. I mattered.

True, you were but a peapod in suspended in ... stuff. But soon you would grow fingers that would need someone to stick a Scooby Doo band-aid on (even though I can't see this "cut" that you're screaming about).  You would grow legs that were "too tired" to walk around Disneyland on (meaning my neck and shoulders will continue to keep chiropractors in business for years to come). You would develop a biting sense of humor that needed a comic foil (and would spawn a blog of epic proportions... ahem).

You sprung this fatherhood thing on me with no advanced warning. I wasn't even done playing Summer Fling Guy with your mama. Talk about now, now, now, now, Dad!

And just when I've begun to acclimate myself to the fact that I have a baby, you go and do what? You turn into a 6-year-old kid! Just yesterday, I was scratching my head over what to do with this:

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But back then, all I knew about survival was "keep your hands up," so I figured you were doing alright.

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Once we passed the "seven day guarantee" offered by most pet shops, mom and I were relieved that we were at least following the instructions properly. Then we started to have fun with it. Do you remember hearing me sing "Rocket Man" while cracking up and pointing at you? Here's why:

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When you weren't strapped to imaginary jetpacks, you were my little lion cub. In fact, I wanted to go to the bar where I met your mama and hoist you up Lion King style for all to see.  Instead, I got my Mufasa on by taking naps on the plains with you.

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Of course mom had her fun with you too. Her favorite things were your chubby cheeks and tiny feet. And we have so many pictures to prove it.

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Oh, I also have to thank you for indulging all my whims, as proven here:

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... and here.

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I know, you couldn't even stand up on your own yet and there I was getting you ready for your ring debut. But come on, let's be fair. You put us through a lot too--even when you couldn't "walk"--like that time I totally busted you messing with my office equipment!

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And then one day you actually learned to walk! As I caught it on film I thought "wow, a self-propelled being!" Despite my comparing you to a guided missile, it was a pretty moving moment.

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Now that you could walk, you were a certified bad ass. And training got underway in earnest. First, you had to get that grimace down:

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Then, of course, you had to dress the part:

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But underneath it all, you remained that cute kid that no one could get enough of.

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Considering you had such big shoes to fill, you did a kick ass job!

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... and along the way, you gave me a pretty big job as well: Chief Lego Engineer.

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Lucky for me, you also began picking up other hobbies. Like bike riding. Which to this day has been my most exhilarating moment with you yet. This also happened to be the day it dawned on me that you were no longer "the baby."

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I mean, would a baby have the balls to do this?

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You are becoming a true warrior, my son. And I am damn proud of you!

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But can you do me one favor? You may be a full fledged boy, and at times (like Sunday at Hooters) even one of "d Boys,"...

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... but now can you slow down?

HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY, FURY! 

- Love, Dad

No Post-Enhancing Drugs Were Used

… and I swear my BAC was .08 or less the whole way (if you don’t count the pesky decimal point). Yes, folks, I have made it to 100 posts. And let me tell you something. It was a lot easier coming up with 100 posts than trying to complete this “100 Things About Me” list that seems to be the obligatory self-initiation ritual for the Century Club. So please make the months of racking my brain for random stuff worthwhile by reading this.
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