Friday, December 21, 2012

The World is going to end…NOW!!!(fizzle)…Now!(silence)…now?

Near the beginning of this year, I commented on the Mayan prediction that the world was going to end as of today. The big disappointment is: either the world has ended and nothing has changed, or the world hasn’t ended and nothing has changed. As many of us have come to realize, natural disasters will happen, artificial disasters are the ones we create, yet the personal disasters spun off those natural and artificial seem impossible to overcome. It’s sad that “change” as a word has been overstated to the point of loathing, but it seems to me the one thing our society needs, individually and as a whole. We waited for the world to change, but the world is going to do whatever it pleases because it is neither man or machine – it is Nature. We, the People, are graced with the ability to adapt and upgrade ourselves to whatever means it takes for us to survive. The Land we stand on has been graced with over 200 years of modern resources to make our country the 2nd largest producer and consumer of goods and services on the planet (Surprise – China holds the top spot). Our society was once the envy of every country’s people, and what is there to envy now? Homelessness, poverty, obesity, self-loathing, slovenliness, hoarding, infidelity, self-victimization, entitlement and murder. People once flocked to this country to be liberated from this persecution, and now we exact them on ourselves.

I’ve thought about the natural cataclysms and random acts of violence that have shaken our nation in the past 12 months, and it seems the people who scream loudest for change are the most likely to want it served to them and least likely to act positively in the best interests of themselves or the community. We can chant together for change and hope that it comes, or we can stop waiting for change and start making something happen for ourselves and for our nation. Very few things in my lifetime seem positively monumental to the social course of American history, and that is not the legacy I wish to leave for future generations. What becomes of our country depends on our ability to take the best ideas of the brightest imaginations, and not only integrate them into our society, but also to make them better.

Can we stop the sun from shining? Will the waves ever stop rushing to shore? Someday they will, but that’s not in our control. What we can influence is our destiny, with pride, persistence and careful planning. Let us not go into the darkness with fear of the unknown, but with unbridled zeal for an educated future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Teaching kids how to cuss

Whether you like it or not, at some point in your child’s life, s/he is going to learn how to use profanity, whether it comes from other sources, or like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, you, the parent, will be providing a front-seat show every time you have an uncontrolled rant. The embarrassing thing to me is that while my kids as toddlers may not have understood the meaning of the words, they were contextually correct when they were yelling at other drivers in heavy traffic. Fortunately for me, the windows were closed and I was the only one in the front seat, which made it easy for me to hold back any impression that I thought it was amusing or spot on in its assessment. Thankfully, profanity is still not “SOP” in their vocabulary and routine conversation, and I imagine it’s every parent’s wish that their children don’t end up working on a loading dock for the military or UPS. The pay was fantastic for the time, but the education was, well…wow. I never thought anyone could say something quite like that in a protracted fit of rage. Until then, I didn’t know that people could go from zero to thermonuclear in the blink of an eye. While I shouldn’t find it acceptable, I’m grateful that my childrens’ profanity has slipped out only when a situation seems profoundly ridiculous, and at that, those times are extremely rare. My father taught his kids that swearing is the mark of a small and unimaginative mind incapable of adequately describing a situation, which is also what I have tried to teach my kids, and if they felt the need to use such language, that they would substitute “cleaner” words such as “asparagus” or “sugar” or “shiitake”. Considering my experience, I believe my father was blessed not to hear the “colorful” remarks I’ve heard over the years.

In a sense, though, it’s kind of important that kids understand cussing. Better that they don’t actually use it, but I think people in general should be aware of when anger, confusion, and/or frustration are directed at them, as the situation could escalate to unnecessary violence. Cussing can be cathartic, then silly, then leading to a better mood and outlook, as long as you are the giver and not the receiver. I think most would agree that cussing is best served in the privacy of one’s own mind. That way, even if your kids do cuss (privately), their image in the eyes of others will remain intact.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father’s Day Message

“The key to Immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

Some of you might be familiar with this sage advice given by a legendary father, Bruce Lee. Because of his legendary status, many might be led to discount its meaning, but on this day of remembrance, I ask you, How will you be remembered? As a child, I remember my father not being home very much, and being a bit perturbed about it, but even then I knew him as the quiet, reserved man of great intellect and skill that many people revered him for. I always felt he was uncomfortable around children, which seemed kind of strange given his profession (he delivered babies to put his kids through college and fund our somewhat fruitless attempts at family businesses), until he met mine. In a way, I’m a bit jealous because it seems like he was really waiting for the grandchildren and grooming us to make it happen. It wasn’t until I finished college that the curtain was thrown back, and revealed to me that my Wizard of Oz was really human after all. I always respected my father, first because my mom said so (or else), then later because of the moving litany of how his life was unfolded to me, and how it ended.

My father was, as most people are in our beloved country, an immigrant from a far away land, looking for a better place in which to have a family and future. Many of you may be generations away from the days when homes had no electricity, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and hot water bathing. Going to school barefoot uphill both ways in hand-me-down clothes when you weren’t doing chores to keep the house together - this was the life of my parents as children, and I am supremely grateful for the spoils they have given me here in America. He had to be something of an entrepreneur to afford medical school, so he would shoot pictures of people with his Kodak Brownie to fund his expenses. Often he was faced with the choice of riding a jeepney home hungry or making the long walk home with little or nothing to eat. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember that my parents suffered a lot to get me indoor plumbing, hot showers, hot food, and air conditioning. It makes me work smarter to honor his memory.

My father would never take credit for the life he built “by himself”, because he firmly believed he never would have made it in America without his beloved wife. They kept each other going and helped each other be efficient at work and at home. They fought like married couples should – mostly about the important stuff and never in fear of losing love over a difference of opinion. Neither would he want to be remembered as a singular entity, because his wife was together with him in everything, except in dying, for which I am also grateful, because I don’t think I could bear such a heavy weight on my heart.

He left this world rather suddenly, and this will be the second Father’s Day we will celebrate without him in person. His impression is so deep on me that his spirit carries on, and despite his lengthy illness at the end of his life, I will always treasure that we were always able to laugh together like nothing else mattered, because in the end, being together with your family is all that really matters. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I think my own remembrance as “Dad” has the tank at about half-full. I have been calculating that my kids will be so full of me by the time they leave the nest, they won’t “need” me at the end of college or wherever life leads them, because they will be well-trained, well-balanced, and driven to succeed in whatever vocation they choose.

How will you be remembered?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Building Respectable Human Beings

A dinner conversation we had not too long ago discussed the reason why my children are so attractive to their peer’s parents. My kids are still kids, but comparatively they seem better mannered, more focused on the current objective, and are open to either independent or team-oriented achievement. They are equally praised by their teachers and consistently earn high marks on their report cards. I know that I don’t shower them with as much praise as they would probably like, but I would have to be a complete idiot not to know what a blessing it is to have children that are healthy, smart, conscientious, well-balanced and ambitious, and for some reason, they love and appreciate me, too.

My kids are still kids, but I remind them constantly about how what they do now affects their future. I try to do this without applying too much pressure or guilt, and in fact, the pressure is really on me to keep this issue fresh in their minds without being overbearing. Everyone wants love and respect, but I think many people know that you can’t get what you don’t give first. I am human, and I’ve made and make lots of mistakes that I am sorry for, but my persistence to make things better for all of us is fueled by the challenge and inspiration given by the family that supports me. In terms of messes, I think my family has more than its fair share, and because we are all still here, it is intended for us to overcome our mess and revel in our godliness. But all of this cannot come about if we cover up in self-pity and nitpick each other about our flaws. I have to accept people for who they are, and have a little sympathy for what they are not. We all must. But that should not stop us from influencing people to be the best of what we imagine them to be, at work, at school, at home, as parents, as professionals, as people in a family. I don’t treat my kids as kids. I treat them as the kind of responsible human being I want to be and be with. Playtime is just as important as work time, but I believe that when a child understands what is going to make his life easier as he gets older, the child isn’t just growing. He is also growing up, as a responsible human being.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Year, New Attitude

2012 is apparently pegged for historical change. It is an American Presidential election year. The Mayans believe December 21 is Doomsday. Under this shadow and mounting economic pressures, so far this year has been difficult. I’ve tried to deflect the depression by noting there was a full moon early this month and Winter has a way of playing tricks on the mind, as well as the ability of consistent and invasive cold to demoralize warm-weather creatures. Considering this may be the end of the world, whatever advice or thoughts I may spark from now on will only have a shelf life of less than twelve months. As we wait for “the end”, it would be simplest to sit back and let it come, but what if it isn’t “the end”? Few successful things in this life come about as random events. Planning ahead for yourself and encouraging your kids to set goals for their future is never too soon. Expanding horizons before the future becomes the present makes success less of a surprise. What do you want? How are you going to get it? What do your children want? What do you have to do to get them access? When you’ve decided these answers, take hold of them and don’t let go. Life can be harsh and goals will try to slip away from you, but persistence, flexibility and patience will make life live up to your expectations. If you’re still here, there’s still time to make your good life happen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holidays and the End of the Year

Time, at times,
Goes by so quickly.
At other times,
Not quickly enough.
Yet, we hope the time
We’ve had together
And our times
yet to come
Still kindle at least a smile
And remembrances of
Warmth and fun.
We miss you dearly
and hope to see you again soon!

May your hearts be blessed with joy and the company of good friends and close family throughout the holiday season and the New Year.
Best wishes for a prosperous 2012!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to explain big words and concepts to children

My 12-year-old daughter needs to have a current event topic for every school morning. It's funny how the kids compete to have the best bit of news for the classroom, but I guess it also shows how eager they are to learn. So one day she picks a story about a former local commissioner who was arrested before last year's election on charges of fraud, corruption, and other crimes of politicians. The newspaper article headlines that her prosecution is "politically motivated". The former commissioner whined that she was being persecuted. My daughter didn't understand what "persecute" meant, so I told her, "It means that, someone or something, in this case 'the government', says, 'Nyah, you're a dirty liar! Nyah, you cheated, you stinky butthead!'"

It's a shame that most concepts have to be reduced to the comprehension level of a fourth grader, but it's amazing how many people get the concept when it's delivered this way.