Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Chinese Problem with Hugs

I am not a touchy sort of person.  Physical affection is most definitely NOT one of my languages of love.

As with so many things, I blame this all on being Chinese.

In my family, we didn't really hug, kiss or say "I love you."  That was the American way of showing love, like the Brady bunch or the Cosby family.  I didn't think there was anything strange because growing up in very Asian Hawaii, most of my friend's families seemed even less affectionate than mine.

I realized my experience was uniquely Chinese during a college Family Communication Behavior class.  Dr. Kathy Galvin noted that Chinese families shower their babies and kids with physical affection (and almost no discipline), but when their kids turn 6, they almost completely cease expressing any physical affection at all.

Immediately, several thoughts raced through my mind:  Wow!  That's why. . .

  • We don't all kill ourselves.
  • I can't resist pawing and kissing babies incessantly
  • I feel so uncomfortable with affection from non-Chinese friends, namely hugs and kisses 

As a human development major, I knew that the most important years of personality and identity formation were from birth to age 6.  It was fascinating that the Chinese had perfected a parenting style that eked out the most performance from their children--basically showering kids with love, affection and unconditional approval from birth to 6, providing a solid core of identity and love, then yanking it all away right when they're ready to go to school.

We hapless kids spend the rest of our lives trying to win back what we lost and barely remember. . .

And as a single (very single) young female, I realized I was starved for physical affection, and that I could get used to my non-Chinese friends greeting me with a hug and a kiss.

When I became a parent, armed with this knowledge, I was determined to not inflict this same Tiger Mom manipulation behavior over my kids.  It was easy when they were little and cute.  My Chinese instincts took over and I couldn't stop myself from hugging, kissing and squeezing their fat little thighs (usually accompanied with the words, "Squish, squish, squish").

But when they got bigger, that Chinese instinct of reserve took over and I couldn't help it.  I literally felt myself stiffen.   I had to force myself to hug older ones and invite them to sit in my lap.

Now that my 2 older girls are not only big, but bigger than me, with a son catching up quickly, it's even harder.  Frankly, I just want them to wave hi.  But as bi-racial kids showered with affection, they don't get that I, as a Chinese parent, get to stop giving it now that they're long past age 6.  Like the worst of ugly Americans, they demand it of me and take it.

They hug me as a form of torture.

I tell them, "Physical affection is NOT my language of love.  Give me a quick hug after you come home from school, but don't hang on me after that."

"Don't care!" they insist, "We want hugs!"  And then they drape their long heavy arms over my shoulders, or grab me around the waist.  Sometimes all 3 of them go for it at once--I get gang-hugged and feel like I'm going to suffocate.

I know, I know, I could have many worse problems than 3 kids who want to express physical affection.  But I can't help just wanting to be left alone.

It's in my genes.  I'm Chinese.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Guest Blog by Kai-Kai: My Agitating Kinfolks

 For the first time ever, I'm featuring a guest blogger, my daughter Kai-Kai, who wrote this essay based on "The Outsiders" for school.  I thought it was hilarious and an apt picture of our family.  I also don't remember the chicken drumstick incident.  Enjoy!            

My Agitating Kinfolk
Many times in life, humans encounter events that they believe unfair, bothersome, and angering. I have felt this way many times in my life. One of the main conflicts in my life is the way I fight with my siblings. Almost every day, we find something new to argue about. My sister, Ling, is the oldest and is in tenth grade. My brother, Ren, is the baby of the family and is in sixth grade. Being the middle child is hard, because half the time you’re responsible for being an older sister, and the other half you get blamed for being an annoying younger sister. Throughout my time living, I have felt many things are unfair, especially things that have to do with my brother and sister.

Kai and her brother at the age of the
infamous drumstick incidence
            I remember one time I thought life was really unfair. I was about five, and it was an ordinary day in my life. Lunchtime came around, and my mom was microwaving leftover baked chicken. Back when my siblings and I were kids, we loved to eat chicken drumsticks. We would wrap a napkin around the end bone, and eat the top.  Since we were eating leftovers, there were only two drumsticks left. I tried to be diplomatic, so I challenged my sister to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Whoever won got one of the drumsticks. We began shaking our fists.

“Shoot!” I held out scissors, but my sister held out a rock. I had lost. Immediately, I began to scream and throw a temper tantrum. I didn’t even bother bargaining for the second drumstick. My mother sent me to my room, so I stamped up the stairs of our house, swung the door to my room wide open, and lay down on the floor. 

Anguish swept over me as I lay on the carpeted ground. I wailed in misery. I would not get a drumstick. Disappointment brimmed in my body and I trembled, wallowing in my own sadness. I cried a while longer, and then pulled myself together. 

When I had calmed down, I haughtily pranced down the stairs. I entered the kitchen. My brother and sister sat together at the table, contentedly chewing on their chicken, which were wrapped neatly in napkins. My lips trembled again, as I stared longingly at their drumsticks. My mother then offered me a chicken thigh. I could burst into tears and stomp back upstairs, refusing the chicken thigh like it was dirt under my foot. Or, I could sit down and eat the chicken and forget about the whole incident. I heaved a big sigh, sat down, and ate the thigh, trying not to be jealous. After lunch, none of us kids could even remember the whole brawl, and we went out to play as usual. But, that was just one example of a time I thought life was unfair.

Us agitating kinfolk when Ling was 7, Kai 5, and Ren 3.
(At our 10th anniversary renewal of vows)
            Now that my siblings and I are older, we don’t fight as much about ridiculous things. I actually like to spend time with my brother and sister. My brother and I love to goof around and make videos of us acting out little skits. My sister and I love to shop together and tell jokes to each other. 

          We still have our squabbles and disagreements, though. A typical day to day conflict that we have now starts like this: I’m in my room, reading. My sister is in her room, doing homework, which is like cutting marble-slow, difficult, and lengthy. My brother has finished all of his sixth-grade homework, and is bored. He runs into my sister’s room, and yells, “Hello!!” He flops onto her queen-sized bed and rolls around like an excited hound.

“REN!” she’s shrieking as loud as she can. “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” He continues to roll around and disrupt the orderly position of the blankets, creasing the perfectly made bed. “You are such an annoying brat!” my sister screams at him. 

Finally, I realize that I cannot read my book with the incessant screeching. Something inside my body snaps, like an elastic band.  I smack the book facedown on my bed, swing my legs off the edge, and stomp downstairs.  “JUST BE QUIET!” I holler at both of them. 

My sister is very furious now. There are two unwanted outsiders standing in her room.  “Both of you, get OUT!” she screams.

I yell at my brother, “Let’s just get out so she’ll stop squealing!” By now, my mother has gotten involved.

“Ling, stop screeching! Ren, I don’t see why you need to be in her room!” She sends all of us to each of our respective rooms, and we stew silently for several hours. By dinnertime, the storm cloud of conflict has been blown away, and we’re all back to normal, talking to each other.

            In life, we can be disappointed by people, events, or places. These things we feel might not be fair. If you have siblings, you have probably experienced times where they got something you didn’t, so it felt unfair to you, and you exerted anger at them.  I have felt angry at my brother and sister so many times a day; it’s hard to keep count. No matter how many times I tell myself that I hate my siblings, that they’re annoying, and that they want to make me miserable, I always manage to forgive them and reconcile with them. Even though we feel exasperated by people, we always manage to still love them.
            In The Outsiders, Ponyboy feels the same way. He loves both his brothers, Darry and Soda. Sometimes, he feels like Darry is cold and harsh and doesn’t actually care about him. When Darry strikes out and hits him, Ponyboy runs away, surprised and hurt. As he runs to the park, he tells himself that Darry doesn’t care about him, and doesn’t want him around. But as the story progresses, and Ponyboy spends more time with Darry, it becomes clear to him that Darry really cares about him, and they begin to understand each other. By the end of the book, Darry and Ponyboy are getting along, and Ponyboy realizes how much both his brothers love him. 

          At the end of the day, you may feel like life is unfair still, but you also realize how much you love your siblings, even if they drive you crazy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fierce Conversations

Back in February, I borrowed Fierce Conversations, written by Susan Scott,  from my friends Jeff and Tara.  They used the book at their church's marriage retreat, and to prepare, had engaged in their own fierce conversation about their marriage.  Because I'm Jeff's supervisor as well as friend, they sent me their notes from their conversation.


And "Whew!" was what folks at their retreat said as well after they shared from their experience.

A week ago, I went through books on my shelf while looking for 2 books I never found.  Instead, I found Fierce Conversations, felt guilty that I'd held the book hostage for 6 months without even cracking it open, so decided I would read the first chapter.

Needless to say, I finished the whole book.

Now I generally think I'm pretty good at having open/honest conversations.  Being open and truthful about my own life, plus challenging folks to be open and truthful about their own lives has probably been the main hallmark of my ministry over 21 years.

But this book makes me feel like a wuss.

Here are the 7 principles:
  1. Master the courage to interrogate reality
  2. Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real
  3. Be here, prepared to be nowhere else
  4. Tackle your toughest challenge today
  5. Obey your instincts
  6. Take responsibility for your emotional wake
  7. Let silence do the heavy lifting
All of the principles hit me, but #6 leapt off the page at me.
Take responsibility for your own emotional wake.  
When we're young, it's easy to think that difficult relationships are all the fault of the other, but as we age we soon find that our difficult relationships often follow patterns--the same sort of person can't stand you,  you get into the same emotional messes but with different people, you offend in a uniquely "you" sort of way.

As a "blamer," I REALLY like to think it's 99% the other person's fault.  But if I keep causing the same problems wherever I go, the same emotional wake, at some point, I've got to point the finger back at me.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Real Leaders, Real Bosses, Failure Parents

Dad, as we drive to church while I'm ripping the kids for not cleaning the kitchen the night before:  If you grow up and don’t meet your expectations at work, you get fired.

Kid:  At work they have real leaders and people that actually care about you--unlike you two.


Of course, this statement was so ludicrous on so many levels that the 4 other members of the family burst into laughter and laughed the rest of the way to church.  A good thing too, because before then I was in a very foul mood.

I've been on a rampage over the state of our kitchen.  Those of you who follow this blog may remember that we went through a whole family rehab in early summer (read here).   Our family rehab revealed 2 things:  our kids want more money; we parents want more cooperation--especially cleaning up after dinner.

So we bumped up our kids salaries with the agreement that they would do the extra work of cleaning the entire kitchen without complaining.  This includes:

  • loading the dishwasher
  • washing cooking dishes
  • putting away leftovers
  • wiping and polishing the granite countertops
  • wiping off the Target vinyl placemats and the dining room table
  • sweeping
  • making your lunch for tomorrow

Our new plan sort of worked during the summer, but then the kids and I went to Hawaii for a month and my mother refused to let the kids clean up anything--mostly because she didn't want anyone messing with her piles of stuff.  Cleaning up meant delicately balancing stuff on top of stuff, and stuffing stuff amidst tons of other stuff in the fridge.  Even I couldn't make my kids fight that battle.

When we came home to Boston, the school year started and the younger generation felt too overwhelmed with their new schedules to clean up after dinner.  We parents (or fools) catered to them because we got how stressful this transition could be.  And when kids were actually conscripted to clean the kitchen, they squabbled incessantly about who's doing the tiniest smidgen more than the other.  

All to say at this point I'm paying 3 kids big bucks to not clean the kitchen, and spend my days regularly polishing granite and sweeping during conference calls.

So call me a tyrant, call me a fake leader and someone who doesn't really care about you unlike all your future bosses.  I don't care.

I just want a clean kitchen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sports Mama. . . Not

In so many movies and novels, a wounded, emotionally-stunted protagonist (maybe even a serial killer) tearfully blurts out, "My father never came to one of my games. . ."  The implication being that not attending one's kids' sports events is at the very least child neglect and at the most child abuse.


I can't believe it!  There's even jewelry
for the moms I'm not!
In 15 years of parenting, I've managed to miss the vast majority of kid soccer, softball, baseball, swimming or track events.  I'm not proud of it, but it's true.

In softball and baseball season, I often dropped them off at the field and returned to pick them up a couple hours later.  To my credit, I was often dropping off one kid at Field A, driving another kid to Field B, and then driving the 3rd kid to tae kwon do.  By the time I got them all dropped off, I usually had 50 minutes to make dinner before doing the rounds in reverse to pick them all up.

And in my defense, when you look at our profusion of:

  • orchestra/band concerts
  • piano recitals
  • fall plays
  • spring plays
  • parent-teacher conferences
  • open houses
  • moving-on ceremonies 
  • tae kwon do belt tests 
I think I've missed 2 orchestra concerts (traveling out of town), 1 parent-teacher conference (threw out my back and felt like I was giving birth to a 4th kid), and all of Ling's "Clocks" piano recital except for the last chord (dropping off Kai and her birthday party gaggle of girls at the 7th grade dance).

That's pretty good for 15 1/2 years of parenting.

But as you can tell, I prioritize what I care about, and even though I'm a bit rabid about my kids exercising, I care very little about them competing.

My friend Tara says she was a mathlete, not an athlete in high school.  I wasn't even a mathlete, I was just Chinese.

My parents didn't let me do any extra-curricular activities throughout most of high school, believing that straight As were the way to succeed as a human being.  Since I never could achieve a 4.0, they thought I should be studying more.  And since I was the oldest child, they didn't know any better.  Screaming fights finally gave me the right to join yearbook senior year, and broke the way for my siblings behind me to do all sorts of cool extra-curriculars.

When 12 years later, my mother confided, "I'm worried about your brother's college applications, he doesn't have the extra curricular activities you girls had," I could have screamed (and did so away from her).

But in the same way that not being allowed pets as a kid means I just don't want pets now (too smelly, too much work, why should I care for an animal when I can barely care for 3 kids?), not being allowed or encouraged to play sports as a kid means I just can't get myself excited about them as a grown-up.

I'm sure my kids would say I'm too pushy, but probably
not in sports!
Two of my friends, both Chinese-American, were athletes in high school (they probably were mathletes as well since they're your typical over-achieving wonders), and both speak unhappily about how their parents never came to their games.

So this year, I'm trying to turn over a new leaf.  I've made it so far to both of Ling's swim meets.  Despite being late both times, I saw her swim all her events, and it was definitely more exciting and fun than I expected.  However, yesterday's meet turned out to be in a Western suburb 45 minutes away when there's no traffic.  I got to drive back at 5 p.m.

All to say, kids, please don't become emotionally stunted serial killers.  Because I'm pretty sure I'll continue to fail as a sports mom.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Annie, Shoot your Gun Already!

SPOILER ALERT!  Don't read if you don't want to know what happens at the end of Annie get Your Gun!

"That's the worst movie I've ever seen," Ling announced after we watched Annie Get your Gun, the Irving Berlin musical about Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter with the Buffalo Bill Wild West show.

Today, Kai and Ren auditioned for the play, so we watched the movie as part of their research.

It's a fun story.  Annie Oakley, a spunky, illiterate hick gets discovered when she joins a shoot-off against Frank Butler, a famous sharp-shooter.  Buffalo Bill sees her talent, she falls instantly in love with Frank, and the musical explores the ups and downs of their courtship.

Much of it was very enjoyable!  There are famous songs we all recognize like "There's No Business like Show Business," and "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better," as well as fun less known songs like "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly."

At the same time, the musical's a product of its times with many cringe-worthy moments.
The demeaning portrayals of "Indians" acting like uncouth savages, and the unquestioned segregation between them and Whites was seriously disturbing.

But at the very end, when Annie purposely loses another shoot-off to Frank so he will feel superior and marry her, there was an outcry in our house.

"What??" the kids cried, "How could she do that?"

How times have changed.  When I was growing up, playin' dumb's what women did natur'lly.

I spent almost all of my young womanhood hearing I was too smart, too strong, too opinionated, too gifted with the wrong (masculine) gifts, just TOO MUCH for any man to ever want me.

When I broke up with a grad school boyfriend, my father's 1st question was, "How much does your intelligence have to do with this?"

Brokenhearted, I admitted it probably had something to do with the sad current state of affairs, to which he responded, "You need a man like me--with a big ego!  I don't care that your Ma goes in a room and dominates everything--I don't WANT to talk to people anyway."

When my mother got on the phone, she proclaimed, "You need a man just like your Baba, a man with a big ego."

I think my father's ego came from knowing he was often the smartest person in the room.  But his ego didn't need to make others feel dumb, it just made him feel good about himself.  And despite being a typical Chinese slightly misogynistic man of his generation, he raised 3 daughters and a son to be strong, intelligent,  and proud of what they could contribute to the world.

And perhaps the best way he did that was by making it clear how proud he was to have a wife who was strong, intelligent, and constantly contributing to her world.

I asked my son, "As a boy, what do you think about a girl pretending she's bad at something just to get you to like her?"

"That's stupid," he said.

Glad to hear it.  And glad to hear that so far at least, my girls will forge ahead "doin' what comes natur'lly," whether a guy approves or not.


Friday, September 16, 2011


Last week, the whole family watched the movie Parenthood to celebrate Labor Day Eve.

Friends recently saw it and raved.  So when I noticed it was a a streaming video on Netflix, and remembered that the last time I watched the movie I was not a parent (in fact, I hadn't even met Scott), I thought it would be a good chance for Scott and I to laugh and commiserate.

Problem #1, the movie's rated PG-13, and we have an 11 year old.

Problem #2, what to do with kids?

With a day off the next day, they weren't going to go to bed and would float in and out of the family room anyway.  They also LOVE just about every Steve Martin movie they've seen, so they weren't going to be happy about being excluded.  We decided to include them.

Problem #3:  We knew there were going to be some gags that stretched their knowledge of adult material.

Problem #4:  There were more gags and references than we even remembered.   Our 15 and 13 year old didn't understand things, let alone our 11 year old.  Like when Steve Martin during a black-out goes searching for a flashlight in his sister's bedroom and comes out with. . . something shaped like a flashlight with a whole other very private function. . .

Problem #5:  Repeatedly, we had to stop the movie to explain what the object/saying/action/etc. meant.  To most explanations we got, "That's disgusting!  Who does that??"

Who knew that Parenthood would be such an opportunity to further our kids' sex ed?  And we got to talk about broken families and driven parents and how everyone has problems no matter how hard we try to be perfect.

So come to think about it, overall there weren't that many problems after all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Gift of an Hour

When I was in graduate school, a senior director in my ministry gave a testimony about taking day-long quiet days with God.  It was such a great talk I invited him to give it 2 more times to 2 different groups.

But one thing he said has stuck in my craw ever since becoming a mom.  His daily prayer involved showing up 45 minutes before the first appointment of the morning and having a quiet time in a nearby park or coffee shop.

As I've borne 3 kids and tried to work part-time throughout it all, I've often bitterly thought, "Only a man with a wife at home caring for the kids could do that!"  

Since we moved to Winchester, for 7 years, 4 mornings a week, I've faithfully driven down Cambridge at 5:40 a.m., taken a spinning, strength or Zumba class, then still sweaty, jumped into the car and booked it home by 7:25 for a kid pass-off with Scott.  I rushed through showering while cajoling my kids to wake up, dress, eat breakfast, practice piano, pack up lunches/homework and get out the door.  

Each morning was a whirlwind.  And then I sat through 45-50 minutes of traffic as I drove back to Cambridge to meet with students, faculty or staff.

But now that Ren started middle school, I have a new lease on life.  The middle school begins at 7:45, 45 minutes earlier than elementary school.  Because we're mean parents who hatefully punish our kids by forcing them to walk a mile to school (uphill both ways), they leave by 7:10 each morning.

I have been given the gift of an extra hour each morning.

I no longer have to rush home from the gym to see kids off because they're off to school before I can get back.  Instead, I can actually shower at the gym, then stay in Cambridge for work if I so choose.

For the past 2 weeks, this extra hour to hour has been wonderful.  Here's what I've done with the extra time thus far:
  • Extra stretching and "lazy abs" (ab exercises done while reading a magazine and lying on a mat--fellow gym-rats laugh at me)
  • Take a leisurely shower
  • Sit in the hot tub for at least 5 minutes
  • Blow-dry my hair 
  • Buy a cup of decaf coffee at Panera or Starbucks to pay for sitting rights
  • Read the Bible (I've been enjoying IFES's daily read thirsty, and my church's lectionary readings)
  • Journal
  • Read a helpful book:  I read Fierce Conversations over the past week--am sure I'll be reflecting on that in days to come. 
My kid going to middle school has made me into the sort of person who can give a talk about doing a great spiritual practice that will make parents in the future hate my guts!

I talked with my spiritual director about how while the driven part of me thinks I should get cracking on work during that hour, the rest of me resists.  She applauded the decisions I've made, "Resist the work!  Rest!" she said.  

I'm going to try to do just that.  After all, I've been given a gift.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Last Friday our house was T-P- ed.

The 2 girls and I drove home at 8:30 pm to find toilet paper streamers hanging from trees, wrapped around the front railings and strewn over our new sod.  Shaving cream squiggles decorated the sidewalk along with a couple feminine hygiene products (new and used--eew!).

Not our house--Ling took pictures, but I don't have them!
A sinking feeling hit my gut--who hates us so much that they would do this?  Who have we unwittingly offended?

My thoughts flitted to the kid who's bullied my kid--but surely he wouldn't go this far?  And how in the world did someone manage to TP our house while Scott and Ren were sitting inside?

Both girls were shocked and appalled and a little frightened.

When we walked in the house, Scott didn't seem perturbed.

"What happened?" we asked.

"The swim team came by," he said, "there were giggles, and whsk, whsk, whsk [some large arm movements], they rang the doorbell 2 times and 2 cars sped away."

Oh. . .

We just got initiated into the Winchester High School swim team family.  The shaving team squiggles, once inspected, read, "Swim Ling Swim!"

No wonder the swim team dinner only lasted 50 minutes.  ("What?" I said when Ling called to be picked up, "What kind of party only lasts for 50 minutes???")

So after whining about the swim team a little here, I'm actually much more impressed with it now.  Here's what I like:

  • They're actively forming a community and team spirit:  
    • team dinners each night before meets,
    • they choose a "secret swimmer" who they buy treats for at each meet, and a gift for at the end of the season
    • there'll be a Harbor cruise bonding trip in late September
    • and a banquet at the end of the season.
  • They had a parent meeting--I know what's going on!
  • They have a google-group and send emails--I know what's going on!
  • On Saturday they'll do a dump run fundraiser--in our town, we don't have trash pick-up.  For a mere $10, the swim team girls (accompanied by parent drivers) will pick up your trash and take it to the dump for you.
And even though I feel mixed about the practice of hazing, TPing my house, and especially leaving used feminine hygiene products on my lawn, I get that it actually helps form a sense of community.  After all, research has shown that the more severely folks are hazed, the more committed they are to the group.

Ling!  Welcome to the swim team!

1912 British women's Olympics swim team

Thursday, September 08, 2011


You may have noticed that I'm just slightly obsessive around turning gray, yet not wanting to dye my hair.  This was exacerbated when several folks in Hawaii last month exclaimed about the gray/white streak running down the right side of my head.  That's what happens when you don't see your friends for 5 years.

I took a closer look in the mirror and noticed that indeed, the gray streak that runs from just below my temple to my ear is quite noticeable.  Flipping my hair around, I noticed that there's virtually no similar streak on the left side of my head.

So I tried a comb over.

After 23 years of wearing my hair parted on the right (I changed my part in graduate school when I realized my hair waved better that way), I combed my hair over to part it on the left.

"There's a big bump on top of your head," said my kids.

I wore it that way for a day and a half, and then felt so silly I had to change my part back letting the white streak declare itself again.

Soon after returning, I went to my hairdresser, my very expensive Chinese-American hair-dresser who is one of 3 persons in this world who has ever given me a terrific haircut.  (All 3 were Asian, all 3 were astoundingly expensive, but all 3 knew what they were doing.)

Fourteen years ago, when we had no money because Scott was in B-school and I was supporting the family on an InterVarsity salary with a baby and no childcare, I had a very bad hair life.  My sister suggested I call this expensive salon on Newbury St. (the chic expensive store street in Boston) and ask for a good hairdresser.  Scott, always supportive of my attempts to tame my hair even with no expendable income, said I should go for it.

"I have extremely difficult Asian hair--do you have anyone who can cut it?" I asked the receptionist.

"I think Kwan would be a great choice."

"But I have EXTREMELY difficult Asian hair--no one knows how to deal with it--are you sure she's the best one?"

"Kwan is very good, I think you'll be happy with her,"

Kwan, indeed, is very good.  So good I've followed her through 3 salons and been committed to her for  going on 15 years.  I scheduled my hair appointments around her pregnancies, and when she gave birth 3 weeks early so I couldn't see her, I ended up looking like a mushroom.

So as I sat in Kwan's chair, I told her about my comb-over and how bad it looked.  Sure enough, like I guessed, she cuts my hair according to my part, a reason it didn't work.

She flipped my hair back and forth, examined me closely, and said she was willing to try the comb-over, saying that she wouldn't do it if she didn't think it would eventually look OK.

So we went for it.

Meanwhile, I could tell she just doesn't get why I go to such measures when I could just dye my hair and not worry about it at all.  "It takes at least 5 years off," she said.

But that's part of the problem--I feel like a lesser human that I can't reconcile feeling OK about being the age I am. . . and looking it.  And therefore I'm trying to get my emotions to grow up along with my hair.

When I walked out the door and met my kids who'd I sent wandering Newbury even though they couldn't afford a thing on the street, I asked them what they thought of my official new comb-over.

"There's still a big bump on your head," said my son.

Oh well. . .

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Conversation Last Week

She:  Would I still have to go to youth group tonight if there was a family death?

Me:  Probably not. . .  (I think about it a little more).  Well maybe you'd still go because what else would you to do tonight other than be sad?

She:  I'd have things to do!

Me:  Like what?

She:  Like plan my funeral outfit!

Perhaps I need to buy this book. . .
Me:  (After some shocked silence and open-mouthed gaping)  You do remember that vanity's a sin, don't you?

She:  (In a non-commital voice)  Yeah. . .  But it's not as bad a sin as LAZINESS!!!  (with a glare at a sibling)

A few minutes later. . .

She:  Sigh. . .  I love family funerals--it's so good to see everyone. . .

There are so many problems/issues/theological heresies going on here that I can't even write anything else about it.

All I can say is  "Lord have mercy. . ."

Friday, September 02, 2011

To Save a Life

Last night our family watched To Save a Life, an indie Christian movie aimed towards high school students.  When we watched Soul Surfer back in Hawaii, there was a preview for this movie, the kids begged to see it, and luckily Netflix offered it.

Generally I don't prefer "Christian" art.  Too often, it isn't very good art--trite, simplistic, sentimental.  More concerning, I often don't recognize the faith the art espouses or recognize the God it serves, even though I've been following Jesus most of my life.  (Just like I don't recognize what the media calls "evangelicals," even though that's been the church stream I've swum in most of my life)

But all 5 of us loved to To Save a Life.

It begins with the funeral of a school shooter who took his own life.  Jake, his former best friend, dumped him to pursue popularity, a hot girlfriend, and acclaim as a sports star.  The movie follows Jake as he wrestles with his role in his friend's suicide, the meaning of life in general, and how to respond to the pain of high school culture, his parents' failing marriage, his girlfriend's rejection, and the consequences of his own behavior.

Here're some things I liked about the movie:

  1. The problems Jake and the kids wrestled with were real:  drinking, drugs, sex, peer pressure, broken families, cutting, rejection, isolation, a social caste system.
  2. The youth pastor who tries to help offered the love of the God I know.  He listened, he asked questions, he didn't preach.  Hey, I'd hire the guy!!
  3. The church had serious flaws, including a head pastor who didn't get it, and whose son was rebelling.  Unfortunately, I recognize that too well also.  
But what I liked most was how the movie gave us the chance to talk with our kids about values, how we treat people, and what it means to risk leading so that life and good come to your community.

Not to beat up on the high school swim team captains, but the fact that my kid, who, as a new kid, was excluded from the carpool, was an example of bad leadership.  As I said to her, "Good leadership always watches out FIRST for the marginalized, the new, the weak.  The older girls who are 'in' can always find a way to take care of themselves."

Scott pointed out that the swim team captains acted like all high school students do.  Of course they took care of the popular, the in-crowd and their friends first.  

That may be the stream of high school culture, but I think we can ask more of high school leaders, even if their only in their teens.  

I felt vindicated when my friend told me her son's baseball team, with 12 year old captains, have been trained by their coach to call around the night before every game to make sure everyone gets a good night sleep, has a ride, and is doing OK before the game.  Now that's GOOD leadership.

So if you have kids old enough to think about these topics, I highly recommend watching To Save a Life as a family.  After all, if our kids can stand courageous on behalf of others, who knows what lives could be saved?