Things I was Supposed to Have Accomplished By Now

There’s an episode in The Office that’s kind of somber. It’s when Michael Scott shows a video of himself as a Michael Scottkid as a guest on a popular children’s show. In it, the puppet-host asks him what he hopes to be when he grows up.

The young Michael Scott, with suite and a neat comb-over, answers, “I want to get married and have a hundred kids so I can have a hundred friends and no one can say no to being my friend.”

Well, this depresses the grown Michael Scott because he’s not married, has no kids, and no one really wants to be his friend.

We all have expectations when we’re young, right?

We were building bucket lists even before Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman coined the term.

I had things that I was supposed to have accomplished by this time. Here’s a few of them:

1. I was supposed to have won my third Academy Award for best director and actor and screen writer.

2. I was supposed to be a bestselling author and on a first-name basis with Michael Crichton.

3. By now I was supposed to have saved a bunch of people from a mad terrorist and be headlined as a hero on the front page of every newspaper for years.

4. I was supposed to have finally found the perfect hairstyle for my thinning hair; but then again, my hair wasn’t supposed to thin at all.

5. I was supposed to have found the best pizza in the world – one so good that I would never want a slice from any other place ever again. And then I was to learn to replicate it at home.

6. I was supposed to have made it through Lost without burning out.

Even though there’s a lot of things I haven’t done in my life, and breaking into Hollywood isn’t as easy as I thought it would be, I have to stop and remember the things that I have accomplished.

I’m married to a beautiful woman. Check.

I have an awesome baby girl (though she’s not a silent baby like I was hoping for). Still, check.

I have two dogs.

I’m a homeowner.

So yeah, I’m at least still writing, and haven’t given up on becoming a bestselling author, and I’ll probably eventually get back to Lost someday, but it seems like I’ve got all the important things accomplished.

Now, if  you excuse me, I’m going to take a music break and listen to Montgomery Gentry’s “Something to Be Proud Of”

 

When We Were United

This is a very difficult time for people, these later days of summer. What should be a time for welcoming fall,  shopping for new school clothes, picking out ugly sweaters, and pulling holiday boxes out of the attic, has, for the last thirteen years, been a time of grief and stark reminders of reality.

For the last thirteen years, not even the bravest of us can get on a plane and wonder, if just in the back of your mind, if you’re on the next disaster flight. The 21st century world differs greatly from the 21st century world in many ways, but no so much as it does in America’s psyche when it comes to national security.

I drive past the Louisville airport on my commute to work. I don’t think I’m the only one who has a brief flashback of 9/11 when I see the planes coming in or taking off. I don’t think I’m paranoid, because I know it isn’t likely going to happen the same way again, but so deep-rooted was that day’s calamitous impact that it really does still affect each and every one of us every day in some way.

It’s a conversation we can all  contribute to with our own personal stories about where we were that day, how it affected us, and when we think the next strike will be. We all have our political opinions and subscribe to certain conspiracy theories. But in the end tomorrow’s observance of 9/11 ought to remind us not of the politics surrounding the attacks, or pointing our fingers at who’s to blame, but it should cause us to recall  how, for a short time after the attacks, we were united as a country like our generation had never seen before.

Almost every car had an American flag clipped to its back window. Strangers were friendlier toward each other. Neighbors showed compassion that otherwise wouldn’t have been shown. Everyone, it seemed, at least for a short time, came together. The families of victims were suddenly America’s greatest concern – they became America’s families, whom I believe every one of them deserves medals of honor for their courage and strength, and the losses they’ve endured.

As terrible as those September days were  in the wake of the new millennium, I wish that camaraderie and unity stuck around a little longer.

If you’ve lived through a natural disaster, you know about the warm feelings of neighbors meeting each other and sharing each other’s stories, and helping each other clean up the street.

With 9/11, it was an entire nation that came together; not just a block or a neighborhood. But somewhere from then to now, we lost sight of that unity and love for one another.

Somewhere among presidential races, and racial court cases, we lost sight of what it means to be united, to stand together as one nation, to blindly practice goodwill toward one another.

Let tomorrow’s somber reminders cause us to reflect on those times when political aisles were torn down and there was no white and black between us. It didn’t matter who you voted for or who you spoke with at the water cooler. What mattered was that you are an American and you were affected as greatly as I was, and we are in this together.

Priorities

priorities-1024x768We all have priorities in our life. Work, school, family, kids, weddings, hobbies. But the interesting thing about priorities is, for the most part, we have complete control over them.

If work is your priority, it’s the job that might keep you bound in obligation, but you don’t have to keep it as your highest priority.

Let me explain.

You’re obligated to go to work and make your money to pay your bills. But you’re not obligated to take your work home with you, mulling it over in your head all night, working on projects when your kids are vying for your attention.

Does this make any sense?

Here’s another example.

Sarabeth and I have become quite addicted to this game I downloaded called “Subway Surfers.” It’s a brilliant In-Subway-Surfers-added-a-new-city-Seoulgame where you’ve got to keep your little guy (a juvenile delinquent) from being captured by the security guard who is chasing you through a train yard. Sarabeth and I are constantly trying to top each other’s score by how many coins we collect. (I won’t make a big deal of it, but I was the record-holder of 463 coins until she beat me with 560. She held the record for two minutes before I came back and topped her score with 863 coins, which is the total to beat now.)

But sometimes our seven-month old daughter needs attention while I’m busy jumping trains and dodging roadblocks.

michael-scott-dancing-oAnd during those moments, I must decide what my priorities are. Sadly my priority is usually to finish the round with as many coins added to my score so that I can gloat to my wife. This usually includes laughing and pointing and dancing around her like a big baboon as she buries her head in her hands in shame. After all, the baby will still be there, right?

But in those moments, I have a choice. I have full control over my priorities. I have the authority to make a quick shift in my mind, swapping my gaming priority with baby-time. I may not want to necessarily, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is, my daughter needs me, whether I like it or not.

I may be at 792 coins, but if my daughter needs me, it’s my responsibility to forfeit the game and tend to her needs, or respond to my wife when she’s asking for my attention (even if she’s just trying to distract me from getting a higher score!).

We may not be able to control everything in our life, but we can always control, and change, our priorities. And that can make all the difference in the world to the people around us.

 

My Day at the Fair

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Hi, it’s me, “Baby A.” I logged into my dad’s blog again.

Yesterday, my parents took me to the Kentucky State Fair. Being only seven months old, I’m safe to say this is the first fair I have ever been to.

First thing’s first. The smells! Okay, so I know I don’t produce very good smells, but good grief! The next time my dad complains about how bad my diapers smell, I’m going to grab my dad’s nose (because I’ve mastered that by now), crawl right down to the nearest farm, and stick his face up to a cow’s bottom.

Speaking of cows, my dad got in trouble by Mom saying something like, “No wonder they look so sad, they’ve all got a gloom future ahead of them.” I wonder what he means by that.

But on a completely different subject, there was a lot of meats and steaks and pork, and it all smelled so good! Sure, the only thing I like at the moment is formula, sweet potatoes, and fluffy pieces of bread, but I’m sure I’ll learn how to eat all that other stuff.

My dad got to check off something from his bucket list. He got himself a donut burger from donutKrispy Kreme. He kept saying, “I’m not getting any younger,” like he was psyching himself up to actually do it after talking about it half the day. Mom thought he was nuts and made him promise that that would be his only one. He promised it would be, but I wonder how serious he was. I thought only babies were supposed to be gross!

We got to see this thing called the horse and mull pull. It’s where they see how many pounds these animals can pull before they get-attachment-1.aspxbreak their legs or something. I was feeling sad by how hard they were having to work, so I started crying halfway through. I like doing that sometimes, just to make Mom and Dad uncomfortable.

I wonder if I’ll remember these days when I’m older. Probably not, but my parents will, and I think it’s good for people to get out and do fun things like go to the fair, or drive by a lake, or pack a picnic and take the dogs (and the baby) to the park for an evening.

After all, that’s what makes life worth living, isn’t it? Those little things? At least that’s what I’ve been told.

But all in all, it was  a fun day! I got as hot and sweaty as I’ve ever been, Daddy got a tummy ache, and Mommy got to get out of the house. I hope we go again next year so I can try one of those donut burgers with Daddy, then beg him to take me on a bunch of spinny-twirly rides afterwards.

I’ll be tall enough for those by then, right?

10 Movies About Adoption No. 3: Lilo and Stitch

WallpaperIf you Google a list of adoption movies, Lilo and Stitch isn’t likely to be there. True, it was overlooked by many since it came out durring Disney’s sub-par years, but it’s actually a little gem wedged between the direct-to-video Cinderella II and the deplorable Country Bears. So because of Disney’s track-record the studio was setting for itself at the time, it’s easy to see why many opted out of watching this movie about a destructive alien invading Hawaii.

But it’s good. It’s not a masterpiece, or unforgettable, but it’s a good flick to pop in while the kids are still up and about.

In it, the alien Stitch ends up being adopted by Lilo’s older sister (sorry – spoiler alert). But I think it’s a good reminder that families can be made up of many different nationalities and cultures. And besides that, people outside the world of adoption often can’t imagine adopting a “destructive” or “wild” child, which is essentially what Stich is.

Our seven-month-old is going through a very grouchy stage right now. She’s frustrated that she can’t move on her own from point A to point B. So she cries all day long. Toys don’t make her happy, pacifiers don’t pacify, and don’t even bother trying to put her to sleep – you might as well try taming a rabid zombie.

But still, that doesn’t matter. We love her even when she’s kicking and screaming and blowing bubbles so forcefully that it sprays all over the spinning ceiling fan. And so what if she’s a little loud because she’s teething (or not teething)?

But there’s a line in Lilo and Stitch that we often use in our family, as I’m sure most other fans of the movie use as well:

“Ohana” means “Family” and “Family” means no one gets left behind.

I’m sure our little girl will cause us some headaches and give us ulcers in the coming years, but she’s still our family, and once she is adopted, always will be.

Some foster parents are amazing enough to take in older kids – kids that society has deemed as “troubled” or “a nuisance” – like Stitch. But they’re still worthy of our love and care. They’re still as valuable as anyone else. And they still need a family just like anyone else.

And they’ll probably require a lot more love and attention than other kids, but I think in the end, it can be worth the effort.

This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

Observing a Life

genieWe’ve been hit with some pretty big celebrity deaths during the past five years, and they seem to hit closer and closer to home.

We still download Michael Jackson’s music while we watch Heath Ledger’s memorable portrayal of the Joker on our Macs and iPads that were of Steve Jobs’ genius design.

dead poetsBut most of us found ourselves rummaging through our old DVDs and VHS tapes yesterday, still trying to get over the shock of Robin Williams’ sudden passing.

No one would have guessed he’d be next.

I was at a restaurant when I saw the breaking news pop up on the TV monitor. There was no shortage of gasps. Throughout the rest of the evening I talked with friends and coworkers about his death, and what shocked me was the wide variety of responses I heard.

One guy said, “Just think of the movie marathons that’ll happen this week.”

When CNN erroneously reported that Mr. Williams had died of a heart attack, another guy said, “I’m more than half that age. That could be me soon.”

My best friend texted me an adage from one of our favorites, Hook: “To die will be an hook_robin-williams_spielbergawfully big adventure.”

Shockingly, someone said, “Good riddance.” When I asked for clarity, he said he never thought Robin Williams was funny. That was a first.

One girl started crying.

Another guy said, “I always thought he’d out himself; he just seemed too happy on the outside.”

And someone else, out of anger and hurt, said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?”

jackNo matter what your thoughts are, there is likely not a person in America who hasn’t seen a movie with him in it, or voiced by him. I mean, who hasn’t already thought of Genie’s “Never Had a Friend Like Me” since the news hit?

But his death, in particular his suicide, kind of jolts me. The guy who said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?” got me thinking, as each celebrity suicide does. You remember Tony Scott, the Top Gun director who jumped off a bridge a few years back? People asked the same thing of him.

I don’t know these people, but I know that they had a whole lot of the one thing we’re all Mrs-Doubtfire-robin-williams-33200263-1024-768after. We’re all after that one thing that we think will obliterate all of our problems. I find myself thinking, quite often, how I would love to be rich. Filthy, stinking, rich. Not to buy things, really, but to set it aside in savings.

Go out to eat wherever I want. Take my wife to Hawaii and Tahiti, just for the fun of it, as often as we’d like. Not have to work. Not sweat when I write the check for the mortgage. Get whatever we want at the grocery store each week. Open up an orphanage.

You know, little things like that.

We think money will afford us all these things (no pun intended). But clearly there was something else Robin Williams was after. And I’m not saying suicide is reserved for the rich and famous. Poor people are prone to it, good people, bad people, lonely people, popular people. But we have this idea that if we just have enough money, we’d be exempt from depression and sadness and bad hair days and week-long laundry piles.

patchadams-1024x576But depression can sneak in and grab anyone. Even Christians.

I am reminded today that we ought not to struggle and fight and work for the things of this world, for it is all temporary and fleeting. But to struggle for what comes after this world, the promise that there is a Kingdom for those who believe in Jesus Christ where all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more dying or sadness or struggle ever again.

I am grateful for the life of Robin Williams, the inspiration behind so many iconic movie characters, the source of so many jokes, and the heart behind countless movie scenes that have touched us deeply. And though I’m deeply upset by his death, I’m glad that it causes us all to stop and think about what we’re clawing after, what we’re striving for, and remind us to do a maintenance check on our hearts and motives to see that we’re heading in a direction that is healthy and life-giving.

I’ll leave you with a statement from President Barack Obama that I found quite touching.

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”

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What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…

disruptive-messiah-coverweb

I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.

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