Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pay It Forward

Did you see the movie? The basic theme of the movie is “treat others the way you want to be treated.” You’ll find this in the Bible in the book of Matthew – part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Last weekend, we were undeserving recipients of a small gift.

It had been over two years since we last visited the PNW when we arrived in September. So we looked forward to visiting our old stomping grounds and hanging out with old friends. We figured taking a week or two to settle into our house would still get us down to “The Couv” (Vancouver, WA) within the month. Well now it’s February and our excuses were becoming more pathetic – so last Saturday we took a drive.

Six hours (round trip) in a van with three kids is a bit daunting. But with a DVD player and a bucket of guilt, we were better equipped to make this happen. We made as many stops as possible and missed a few as well. It was great to reminisce and catch up with our friends…and to begin guilting them into driving to see us. In addition to “friend stops” we had a few “food stops” to make. #1: Sheridan’s Frozen Custard. #2 Hula Boy (Hawaiian BBQ). It was during this second visit upon which my story centers. After shoveling down barbecue chicken and gallons of sauce (jerk, teriyaki, and sweet & sour) our waitress walked to the table letting us know that our meal had been paid for.

Apparently one of the restaurant’s patrons had been dining and noticed the five of us. There was something about us he noticed, signaling him that we could use a helping hand. Sarcastically I wonder if it was our ragamuffin appearances after a three hour car ride. Uncomfortably I know that though we don’t own a private jet, we’re doing just fine. Was it the fact that our son was clearly adopted? Did God speak to him?

I wanted answers, but I resolved to just accept it. Somebody just did a really nice thing for us, so shut up and enjoy it. And I did. We’ve done nice things for others at times and I’m sure it gave us more pleasure than the recipients.

It’s in moments like that, that I am invigorated. Life seems more real. It slows down. It gets really simple. I become the world’s greatest philanthropist. I make plans to give away millions and to bless thousands of people with gifts. But I’m limited. I can only give away so much. We’ve only adopted one child while millions need it. Tens of thousands of children starve to death every day and I’m drinking a $4 cup of coffee. I’m reminded of crime, disease, homelessness, and human trafficking. Pretty soon I’m crippled with a helpless state of mind.

If you watch the news, life is hopeless. Everything sucks. Even your team just lost in the playoffs. But for me, in some small way I get to pay it forward with a message I get to share each week. While trying to save the earth one recycled bottle and one Haiti-donation at a time, I get to convey real hope:

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. He sets prisoners free, gives sight to the blind, lifts those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the alien, sustains the fatherless and the widow.” – Psalm 146

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Attack of the Mothers-In-Law!

Because she had to escape the harsh Minnesota winter, my mother-in-law came to Washington this week. What? Not Phoenix? L.A.? Cabo San Lucas? Well compared to the brutal Midwest winter, a “mild” Seattle winter is nothing! Plus, today it’s perfectly clear and a balmy 57.

When Carol comes to visit, life is good. We enjoy great conversation. Dishes are done. Grandchildren are giddier. Our kids’ parents rest a bit more. It’s all good. This week we had the double whammy. My parents arrived last week and stayed ‘til Tuesday morning. Three hours later, the other mother-in-law came to town. No rest for the weary (just kidding moms). My parents helped us celebrate middle child’s birthday. Again, great conversations. Dishes/laundry are done. And free babysitting! Wahoo, dinner & a movie!

Though I hear horror stories from some of my peers, Jana’s and my mothers-in-law and her father-in-law are perfect. Now if you want to talk about my parents and her parents, that’s a different story (ha, ha, just kidding again parentals). Oma, Opa, and Gami have been a huge blessing to us this past year, having visited us in three states in the past 12 months – and more than once in each location. It doesn’t matter where we move (no, we’re not going anywhere), they’ll follow us. They come to spoil the grandchildren, hug us, and tell us they’re proud of us: whether we deserve it or not. Aren’t parents great?

Ten months ago, Oma and Opa drove from CA to TX to help us move. Eight months ago, Gami came to visit us in Texas after a particularly difficult week. She just hopped on the plane to comfort us. Five months ago, Oma and Opa traveled from CA to TX to WA to CA to move our stuff (about 4-5,000 miles total). Gami is here on her second WA trip. Oma and Opa have also visited twice.

These unexpected (though expected because of their character) trips have been particularly sweet. The hard reality of the loss of CA and TX friends has hit me this week. With the onset of spring I begin thinking about golf. When I think about golf I think about my golf partner. Then I think about other friends we chose to leave. It’s bittersweet. In so many ways we’re in the right place, but it came at a price. On the encouraging side, we’ve found a community and begun friendships that are significant.

So as time passes, we are no longer completely lonely. Week by week, month by month we feel more at home. We eat dinner with new friends, we make lots of long distance phone calls, and we greatly anticipate the attacks of the mothers-in-law.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Go to your room! Don’t make me pull this thing over! Are you getting smart with me?

As a kid I remember hearing a Bill Cosby record: yes I’m that old. It was a stand up routine where he talks about parenthood: he serves his kids chocolate cake for breakfast, his kids have Dain Bramage, and on and on. Funny stuff then, really funny now! Parenthood is multi-dimensional because we get to vicariously relive our childhood. It humbles us and it makes us more appreciate our parents (“because I said so” sometimes is the best answer).

Do you remember peek-a-boo? Perhaps you’re well versed right now. Kids have this belief that if their eyes are covered, you can’t see them. So you cover their faces with a sweatshirt or something and say, “Oh, no. Where’s Elias?” When he pulls the sweatshirt off his face and giggles uncontrollably you know he hasn’t grasped object permanence.

This concept transfers to misbehavior too. You may remember when Kiera found the advent calendar chocolates, hid, and rifled through multiple morsels before we found her hiding place. (This happened in 08 and 09, by the way.) Unlike Kiera’s hiding place (which really was out of sight), Elias has found his new “den of iniquity”. Okay, a little harsh, but it’s the same idea.

Because the word he hears more than any other these days is “No” (don’t open that drawer, don’t harass the cat, don’t climb those stairs, don’t take mommy’s lipstick, don’t play with scissors, don’t throw food, etc.), he is beginning to understand that certain behaviors are not acceptable. And what are we supposed to do when faced with a moral decision? Either don’t do it or do it in a hidden location.

So at the intersection of these two concepts (object permanence and morality), we find Elias’ hideout: under the dining room table. Yes, I said under the dining room table – about as porous and effective as a patio shade structure in Seattle. In a small corner of the house and behind dining room chairs with spindly legs, hides number one son. What is he doing? What does he have? Just fill in the blank. On ______ (name a day of the week), _______ (name parent A or parent B) found Elias under the table with _______ (pick your poison). It could be a marker, a bag of rice, a dog toy, food, whatever.

We’ve become so adept at our sleuthing skills, we know that if there are 30 seconds of silence in the house, something’s going down under the table. Honestly, it’s quite entertaining. We shake our heads, call out his name, and slowly approach the crime scene. We’re either met with grunts and shrieks (translation: don’t bother me) or with an immediate protruding hand with said object (translation: I’m sorry; please don’t put me in jail).

So, where do you go when you hope to avoid getting busted? It would be foolish to say our indiscretions end in childhood. Perhaps we’re just better at concealing it. It sure makes me think a lot. Am I living in the open or am I too often hiding under the dining room table?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Daddy Does the Shopping

Why don’t most married men do the grocery shopping in the relationship: Laziness? Sexism? Boredom? Cluelessness? In our marriage, I go once in a while. Why? Well…exhibit A:

Last Saturday, I went running. Because I’m logging as many miles as coffee I’m drinking these days, I decided to begin my “Out and Back” run next to one of our favorite local coffee houses. Except it’s actually in a grocery store. Though I most frequently patronize Starbucks, there is even better coffee and espresso! (If you haven’t understood this, please talk with me for directions on your next step.) So I run my 3 or 4 miles and walk right into the store – the one we commonly refer to as “Whole Paycheck.” (Despite said name, their espresso is ironically less expensive than Sbux.)

I wait in line, accidentally cut in front of a gracious man (because I’m so focused on the roasted beans), then sip my reward for exercising in sub 50 degree weather (very noble for Californians). Exhale. Aaaaahhhh, carefree Saturday mornings: kids at home, sipping a latte, thawing out in the bakery…oh hey, what is that smell? Oh wow. Fresh baked bread! Crunchy on the outside, chewy and warm on the inside. We definitely need a baguette!

I wonder if we need anything else? Hmmm. Let’s see. I know Jana is headed to Trader Joes later today, but I never go with her and there are a few “must have” items I want. I think I’ll wander through the aisles. Oh here’s the refrigerator section. I wonder if they have any…oh there it is! One quart of fresh squeezed orange juice. There’s nothing like it. And 6 bucks is SO worth it. Oh and there’s the milk. $5 for organic? No way.

Alright let’s see here. What’s in this aisle? Pancake syrup, chocolate bars. That reminds me – I have SO been craving one of those Santa Barbara Blazing Blenders peanut butter, chocolate, and banana smoothies. Perfect! The girls will love it. Mama’s at work tonight and we can go crazy. Let’s see, chocolate syrup – $4.50. A bit pricey, but by the time I drive to the store down the street it’ll cost me that much in gas. Oh, what the heck! Now, Ice cream. I’ll just buy the cheap stuff. Plain vanilla, store brand. Yikes, still $5. Oh well, there’s nothing like PB, chocolate, banana smoothies.

Okay, I better get home before I do too much damage. I’ll just walk this way to the regis…Hold the phone! Are those LOCAL microbrews? It is so not fair that it’s so cloudy and cold here in the winter. If it were warmer, I'd be playing golf every weekend. And that’s like $50 a round. This high quality Red Hook Copper Ale is gonna be so tasty. Perfect for our friends who are discriminating beer drinkers. Look at all the money I saved by not golfing today! On to the register. Look at those flowers! I haven’t bought flowers for my bride in a long time. And she’s watching the kids while I get some quality alone time this morning. She is so great!

“Good morning,” says the cashier. “Ice cream, beer, flowers. Someone’s having a party!” I search for a comeback. Yeah, my life is a non-stop party…that’s how I roll… “Uh, sure,” was my lame reply. At that moment I realized the obvious. My stop for coffee had turned into a shopping extravaganza of biblical proportions. Confirmed upon my arrival home, when Jana witnessed the carnage – “Look what happens when daddy does the shopping!” Well, at least I didn’t go golfing!