Daddy Grown-Up

“When I’m a grown-up, I’m going to be a Daddy Grown-Up.”

I’m not sure whether I should be flattered when Jules says this, or whether this just means I’m a lazy bum and my life looks way more appealing than Melissa’s d=

Over 30 now and with 2 kids, despite my ravishing, youthful appearance, it seems that I found myself firmly cemented into adulthood.  But what does it actually mean to be an adult?  If the hashtag #adulting were to be believed, it seems that making a big purchase, paying off bills, taking out a loan, drinking alcohol, or completing some sort of chore-like task all fit under this category.

While one of the easiest ways to quantify one’s “grown-up-ness” is through achieving self-sufficiency, as I’ve reflected on what it means to be a grown-up, this seems like a woefully inadequate and largely inaccurate way to measure one’s so-called progress into adulthood.  Being surrounded by a middle-class lifestyle for most of my life, there’s certainly been times where it has been lost on me just how stacked the hand that was dealt to me was.  It’s easy for me to claim the milestone of adulthood because I’ve gotten married, had kids, and bought a house (a while back one family friend joked that I am moving up in the world because I have collected all the 子: 車子 (car), 妻子 (wife), 房子 (house), 孩子 (kids)) – but the reality is that all I’ve done for most of my life is follow the path of least resistance.  It just so happened that this is where I landed in my particular situation.  But frankly speaking, even if self-sufficiency were the bar, Melissa and I would still have a long way to go.  We are constantly spoiled by our parents who live nearby, providing us with abundant food and childcare, clothing, etc…

As I was discussing the topic of income and earning what you’re “worth” with Jeff the other day, he shared an article from the New York Times that I thought was an enlightening read: Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich.  It’s not so much that I have been pretending that I am not rich on some level… even with a notable income disparity with many of my peers or even those younger than me, I recognize the abundance that my family is able to live in.  What I did realize though, is that while I am quick to point the finger at others that act in self-preservation, that our move to the suburbs of Columbus just as much an act of self-preservation and a willing participation in the cycle of injustice.  There’s a number of reasons why we decided to move to our current location, and many of them are easily defensible, but that’s not really the point.  Easy access to good schools and affordable housing were easily at the top of our list, and even if it was fairly intentional that we aimed at the most integrated, diverse (both culturally and socioeconomically) of the Olentangy Schools, the truth is that when push came to shove, we weren’t really willing to sacrifice what could have been lost for our children’s futures for the purpose of fighting for a more equitable education system.  Back when I listened to the “This American Life” episode about how school integration has evidence of success, but each time seems to be stomped away by the backlash from the already privileged, it was easy for me to lament how selfish those parents are, but would I not have the same issues if it came to the same decisions for my kids?  I hope not, but it’s certainly hard to say.  On a broader level, even though I may criticize our parents’ generation for not recognizing the difference between their immigration experience and others less fortunate, when I enter the mindset of protecting the life they “earned” for our own children, am I not now culpable of believing the exact same thing?  That we actually live in a meritocracy that isn’t completely flawed and rigged from the start?  Jules is only in preschool right now, and especially with Melissa working in the industry, it is already very apparent to us that even at this age that kids do not start on equal footing.

Anyway, this has been a bit of a tangent, which seems to be the norm with my tedious ramblings.  Tedious because it’s a struggle for me to finish these posts when they require me to actually buckle down and work through my thoughts when the words don’t flow easily.  Tedious because it’s probably tedious for you to read my inane thoughts if you’ve somehow managed to make it this far d=

Back to the topic of adulthood.  From time to time, I chat with my childhood friends who sometimes remark to me that I appear to be in such a different life stage as them.  On the surface this seems true (back to the whole 子 thing again), but as I’ve been wrestling with this topic lately, I feel that maybe the more adequate measure of one’s life stage is simply how good one has gotten at making good decisions.

I personally know I still have a long path to maturity because even though my context may indicate that I have traveled far down this road to adulthood, I know that I am still by and large, a poor decision maker.  For the most part, I am able to make good financial decisions (perhaps outside of my career path, but that’s a long discussion for another day), because they lean heavily on pragmatism that fit the mold of Melissa’s and my personalities (being relatively boring people also aids this endeavor).  But on a more daily, personal level, if I am really honest with myself, my ability to make good decisions is unimpressive at best.

While time comes at even more of a premium now with 2 kids, the amount of time I spend in idle, fruitless activity is probably just as jarringly bad as before I had kids.  It’s simply a lot easier to make excuses about it.  My head has always been filled with ideas that sound good in my head and fail to be executed.  Prayers that never got around to being prayed, encouraging conversations that were never had, books never read, photos never edited, games never played, skills never honed, songs never written…  There is evidence of all of things scattered through my house, but day after day I ignore them and follow the path of least resistance to my couch, my phone, my TV, or maybe whatever pressing house-related task is at the forefront of my mind.  If I do happen to do something useful, I feel accomplished and use that as an excuse to waste the remainder of my week.  Sometimes I fail to show the most basic levels of discipline, often falling asleep on the couch before relocating upstairs for the night.

But the sense of urgency for me to progress on my journey is increasing.  Jordan has reached 1 year of age and Juliette is starting to be old enough to learn more things, should we be motivated enough to give her the opportunity.  She will only continue to shadow the two of us more and more, and hopefully we will model lives that result in her aspirations being bigger than “when I was a Daddy Grown-Up, I used to play that game when I had a phone”.

I hope that when my children grow up, they are able to be self-sufficient, because I want for them be safe and be comfortable.  I think that’s a reasonable enough natural instinct for a parent.  But I also think that’s a low bar and to some extent an incorrect bar to set, especially when they’ve already been born into privilege.  So much more than that, I want them to reach for adulthood in understanding how to make good decisions, not only for themselves, but for the people around them, and for the world they live in.  These kinds of decisions have little to do with whether or not they have enough money to spend on an extravagant house or go on vacations, but rather if they know how to live in humility, in community, with an balanced inward and outward focus, and with discipline to master whatever craft they are gifted with, be it art, ministry, science or other.

As a closing thought, each year I am understanding more and more the reality that money is one relationship in this life that I will just never quite be at ease with.  Both a blessing and a curse, it can be used simultaneously to accomplish great things and serve as a mask, covering up the warts on our hearts.  I’ve now realized that I will actually rationalize not making more money because I’m scared that if I do, I will just adapt and treat it as normal; spending more, indulging more, rather doing the hard work of examining my heart and responding to whatever God is calling me to do.  It’s easy to follow the norms of society and believe that we are entitled to spend or store any money outside of the tithing guidelines we are provided with, but sometimes obedience to God asks us for far more than what’s standard.  And if not with money, then certainly with our time and our lives.

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Where Does One Even Start?

Growing up as the child of Asian immigrant parents, growing up in a middle-class family, I was very insulated to many things that perhaps were common knowledge to my peers much earlier in life.  Academics, sports/activities, church, friends & family were the sorts of things we focused our attention on and talked about.  As a child I was never instilled with a strong sense of patriotism, nor was the importance of voting stressed to me.  Maybe this is a little bit of a tangent, but as a high schooler when 9/11 happened, I only barely had a grasp on what had happened, what the World Trade Center was, and the concept of terrorism and how it could affect our country.  Most of my understanding of our country was built on little more than what I had learned in history class at school and what I had seen when visiting landmarks around the country.  My dad listened to NPR, but I guess I didn’t pay much attention to it.

As such, I never grew up feeling particularly attached to my country, and in many ways I still am on my journey of taking ownership of the country that I have lived my whole life in.  I have spent most of my life enjoying and taking for granted the privileges and civil liberties offered by the United States and not put a lot of effort into defending them or taking action into truly caring for my fellow citizens to ensure that they are able to enjoy the same freedoms that I have become accustomed to.

I also had the privilege of enjoying a high quality (at least relatively speaking) education that has found me a job and allowed me to continue living a middle-class life.  It’s not an excessively exuberant existence, but certainly one with security, stability, and one that allows me to provide my children with the similar opportunities that I was raised with.

At 30, I participated in my 3rd election (I haven’t voted in midterms before), and since Tuesday evening, as I watched the election unfold, while frantically texting a few of the people close to me, and the day after, as I walked around like a zombie and felt a sickness inside as if someone close to me had died, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was actually engaged and invested in my country.

And now I’m realizing that it’s long overdue, in some ways too late, and that people like me are also responsible for the results of this election.  It’s the first time I’ve really told anyone that they should register to vote, and it’s the first year that I’ve really researched at all down-ballot, and the first year where it’s even occurred to me that I do not only have the right to vote in a midterm election, but it is my responsibility to do so.

Elections and policies are complex, and while I never was willing to identify with a party before, I think this election has made it clear to me that I am in fact a Democrat.  I say this not out of some sort of allegiance I feel to the party, but because of the types of policies they pursue and the general big picture of their message.  There’s been a lot of tension among my Christian peers in particular, and while I don’t want to get into the finger-pointing and suggesting one group of Christians is more correct than another (I do have plenty of opinions, but when are these conversations really productive?), I think one important things that we should be able to agree on is that a holistic picture of your options is important to have when you are trying to make a decision based on your faith.

Maybe some of this will come off as left-leaning propaganda to some, and sure, flame me if you want… call me a… (what was it I saw on my Facebook feed the other day… “Libtard”?) if it makes you feel better, I don’t really care.  But if we are considering the a pro-life platform, what all does that involve?  Here are some of the things I personally believe need to be considered:

Pro-Life Platform:
-Abortion (life of child) – This in itself is a complicated issue, but let’s go ahead and say life begins at conception for the sake of simplicity).  What about when there are complications with the pregnancy, do we factor in quality of life here?
-Abortion (life of mother) – While many people disagree about when a child is a child, I think we can all agree that a mother is a living person and should complications arise, her life should be a priority.
-Contraception – How are helping those that cannot afford contraception have access to it, and therefore reducing the number of scenarios where abortion could be a potential outcome?  (I’m assuming here that contraception is permissible, which I know may not be the stance of all Christians)
-Death Penalty – Are we okay with killing people because they’ve considered heinous crimes?
-Refugees – Allowing refugees into our country saves many from the devastation and often impending death caused by war
-Healthcare – How are we helping people who are suffering from life-threatening conditions take care of their health and extend life?  (By the way, Trump already released his healthcare reform and it has no provision for this group of people.  The protection from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions will most likely be gone with the repeal of Obamacare)
-Pharmaceuticals – How are we helping people who need drugs to help them survive life-threatening conditions from being taken advantage by the pharmaceutical industry ?
-Jobs – How are we helping people find sustainable jobs that pay them enough to provide for at least the basic necessities for themselves and their families?
-Environment – How are we ensuring that people are not living in harmful conditions to their health, so that at a minimum, they can at least have clean water for their children?  (I’m not going to bother getting into the global warming thing here).
-Murder – I don’t really even know where to start here… haha.
-Drugs – Opioid abuse in particular is an epidemic right now, what can we do to fight this?

I’m sure you could continue going on, but to me I think all of these are some of the many things that someone should be considering when voting on a “pro-life” platform.  And next a few thoughts about a voting on a platform regarding the sanctity of marriage.  Disclaimer: I’m a bit more opinionated on this one…

Marriage Platform:
-Gay Marriage – Should we allow gay marriage?  To many, this is a simple issue.  But really, this is so much more than just a question of whether or not we believe being gay is moral or not.  I will go ahead and say that I do not believe that being gay is a true reflection of who God has designed us to be.  However, there are additional questions to ask for those of us that fall into this camp.  Do we enforce our beliefs through the government upon those who do not share them?  If so, what are our reasons for doing so?  Does blocking gay marriage help more people come to Christ?  Does it stop more people from being gay?  Personally, I don’t think either of those things are true.  Rather, I think it makes the LGBTQ community not only persecuted and unloved, but it makes evangelical Christians their enemies.  It is not enough for Christians to defend their position by pointing at a handful of people in the LGBTQ community that they have loving friendships with, because there is no denying that the LGBTQ community as a whole feels that Christians are targeting them and hates them.  How do we change this narrative and bring them to the love of Christ?  By forcefully taking away one of the civil rights that they hold most dear?  Perhaps some people truly believe this, but I do not.  If we are to be a Christian nation, it should be because we have done such a good job at spreading the good news of Jesus that they have embraced and bowed down to our Savior, not because we have shoved our beliefs down the throats of the people who do not know share the same value set.
-Divorce – Are we as a Christian people tough on divorce in a helpful way?  (I am only talking about situations where divorce is not a result of a toxic and/or dangerous situation)  Who are we choosing as our political leaders?  Are they people who reflect our stated values of marriage?  If we don’t truly regard the sanctity of marriage between men and women in this way and consider a strong marriage as an important trait of our leaders, how can we make such a big fuss about marriage in the first place?

A less complicated issue than life, but there’s still nuance required.  And one last one for caring for the disenfranchised:

-Minorities – Are we loving minorities, and allowing them to be heard?  Are we seeking their representation in our political leadership from people that have influence among their people groups?  Whether or not you believe in the BLM movement, telling a black person that they are wrong or don’t know what they are talking about is not a productive way to approach them.  Are we listening to and considering their grievances or do we already have our minds made up?  Are we empathizing with their fear whether or not we agree with them about a particular case?  Are we thoughtful about the plight of illegal immigrants, many of which travel in horrendous circumstances to reach our country in hope of a better life for their family?  Do we consider them bad people for trying or is our opposition to them more out of self-preservation?  I come from a minority group whose parents’ generation was welcomed into this country because of their pursuit of education and because it was relatively easy to get a green card.  I don’t consider it fair to put their experience and the experience of lower-class working immigrants today side-by-side and say, well we did it the right way.  Our parents still worked their butts off to make it here, but there were also a lot of things working in their favor.  Are we loving our Muslim brothers and sister with how we run our nation, or are we willing to sacrifice their well-being because we fear the terrorists associated with the same religion?
-Working Class Whites – Ah yes, the group of people that many angry evangelicals have seem to have just discovered as this election has unfolded.  If some of us are just coming to the table, why is that?  Have we failed to care for and give a voice to these people just because they haven’t fallen into our traditional framework of the poor and disenfranchised?  Many seem to have only now after the election put forth some effort into understanding where they are coming from, when really the issues at hand aren’t that complicated.  So now we know they’re at the table, now what?  How are we looking for policies to help rural communities create new, sustainable jobs that are relatively future-proof?  How are we helping them understand how these policies will serve them well?  To me, there are many tragedies in this election, but one of the biggest is that a man that is basically the antithesis of a champion for these rural communities in fact… became their champion.  He, a man born into extreme wealth, who sticks it to his workers by underpaying them, and abuses loopholes only available to the wealthy that benefit only him, sold them a message on bringing back the glory days manufacturing, coal, etc… but the reality is that we are living in an age when alternative, renewable energy is not only much more environmentally friendly, but becoming much cheaper, and automation is also cheaper than traditional manufacturing and here to stay.  Even if somehow he was able to bring those jobs that these people groups lost, they almost certainly would not be long-term solutions.  Maybe if we had spent more time helping advocate for the creation of jobs in these communities instead of telling them that they are racist and xenophobic…

Obviously all this blabber comes out of my own world view, and I am a very flawed and broken person, and certainly not a theologian.  But, I hope that there is something of substance here for some people (if anyone even reads this) to mull over, whether or not they share my beliefs.  Personally, I feel very confused as to why the Republican party has traditionally been the de facto party for Christians.  I understand the angles of abortion and gay marriage, which I covered above, but even so, it is only part of a much more complicated system that we are engaging.  And outside of these two items, I feel that the Republican party hangs it hat on a number of things that really don’t align with Christian values, such as second amendment rights (I’m not saying this shouldn’t be respected, but I don’t know of a biblical basis for why this is important), the death penalty, military spending, slashing entitlements (which mostly benefit the disenfranchised).  I don’t like more money coming out of my paycheck, but if it is for the sake of working system that benefits those who are suffering and less fortunate, then so be it.  I am far too privileged to be voting in self-preservation.  I’ve also seen a number of posts saying that Christians shouldn’t be putting so much of their faith and hope in the government.  Of course the government is not a replacement for a savior, but it is certainly a tool to be used by God’s people to help care for the world that he created.  Should we not be distraught when a man who has preached hate throughout his campaign has become the leader of our country?

Also, whether or not you believe voting one way or another was the correct thing for the faith, why are many Christians flaunting the result and publicly declaring “Praise Jesus for the results of this election!”  These are appropriate remarks to be making to your church communities that share your same beliefs, but plastering it over the internet is showing complete disregard and disrespect for both your Christian and non-Christian peers who voted the other way, for many legitimate and carefully considered reasons.  Even praising God can be done in unloving ways…  If you think that the election is such a clear cut decision, then I implore you to dig deeper.

Anyway, back to where I started… I personally am horrified by the outcome of this election.  I have at least one friend whose mother’s life will be at risk because Obamacare will be repealed.  The day after the election, Melissa has had a coworker who had racial slurs spewed at her by a man she walks by every day.  Maybe there’s some overreaction, but there is also a lot to be concerned about.  When the results of the election were certain, I felt like all the good things I had come to believe about my country had been thrown to the ground and trampled.  If the primary reason most of the people voted for either candidate is because they didn’t want the other one to be president, then we as a people need to do much much better.  We need good people to engage with the system on both sides and deliver better candidates from the bottom up.  We have a duty to do our due diligence and know who the people we’re voting for are in every election and whether they deserve our vote, from the top to the bottom.  And if there are voids, maybe we need to consider stepping up and filling them.  There is work to be done, and I still don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I think it’s important for all of us to work together and learn.  I never thought I would want my children to become politicians, but now I wonder… why not?  If I do my job and raise them to be wonderful God-loving people, why would I not want them to influence my country and my people?

After all, Juliette probably already has a better temperament than the man we have just elected to lead our nation.  -_-

Thirty Freakin’ Years.

No better way to show my age than to write a blog post.  d=

30 Years.  This last one has been a busy year, full of changes and expenses and excitement.  Another baby, a real house, and a big boy mortgage to go along with it.  Not to mention a whole lot of repairs and updates on the side.

To be honest, I never thought I’d make it this far.  Going back to my darker years, I always anticipated that I would die young.  23 was the number I had anticipated.  Yet here I am, 7 years later, so blessed that I almost feel guilty about it sometimes.  Our parents support us with childcare and food to an extent that I probably wouldn’t consider reasonable, we’re living in a place that we love, and friends old and new have cared for, loved us, and visited us even as we wrestle with new transitions and our tendency to be homebodies.  Even in a season where we are still trying to find our footing spiritually, God has continued to be incredibly generous to us.

At the same time, life has continued to deliver its sobering moments.  For the 4th time in 8 years after graduating, my closest friend at the time is moving away.  In the last month, I’ve learned not one, but two lessons in how insurance is an unforgiving system, and if you don’t fully understand all the details of your policy, the cost can be rather shocking.  Perhaps for the first time ever, I feel a some real financial pressure, with 2 children, a substantial mortgage, while working at a company that feels like it’s been spinning its wheels for years now.  Dipping farther into the war chest than I thought we would need to in the first year after moving.  There’s still some messy family drama in which I don’t really know what my role is.  Finding a new church has been a confusing process.  But I know that if these are my complaints, that frankly speaking, I am spoiled.

I’ve had to think about money a lot more than I prefer to in the last year, and I think it’s challenged me greatly in the areas of trusting money vs God and what it means to be frugal, and whether I really am or not.  Prior to buying our house, I crunched the numbers on our mortgage over and over.  What can I do to to get our rate lower?  What’s a comfortable monthly payment?  How much should we pay down our principal?  Is it better to pay down debt or invest the money?  Can we pay our house off faster?  These questions needlessly echoed through my head for weeks.  When the deal on the first house fell through, I was anxious and stressed about whether we’d recoup the lost money, or whether we should take legal action and pursue the house.  Then we bought the other house, and all sorts of questions on what to fill our house with, which things to remodel now and which things to wait on stormed into the picture.  Is framing something as an “investment” really me being truthful with myself or is it just a way to justify buying something that I want?  How pre-emptive should we be with repairs?  Even with what I thought was pretty decent planning, the expenses of the move have far exceeded what I anticipated.  There are so many hidden costs in a house that I never really thought about when we lived in our condo.

I continue to have more and more appreciation for what our parents did to get us to this place, and the kind of frugality that many of them continue to live their lives with even after their costs have been greatly reduced and they have the means to spend more money on themselves.  Of course this is a blanket comparison that isn’t accurate for everyone, but I feel like while I sit here and mull over whether or not it’s reasonable for me to buy some video game that I probably won’t even get around to playing, that when our parents were around our age, they were just starting to have money to buy things that weren’t complete necessities.  I think when I was born, our parents were just starting to have enough money to buy clothes for me, whereas the only option for Angela was hand-me-downs.  In contrast, our children not only have lavish amounts of clothing, both new and used, many of which they don’t even get a chance to wear before they grow out of them, but piles of $15, $30+ toys flood our living rooms like a landfill and we don’t even think twice if something breaks or gets lost.  If our kids don’t like bottles, we try 3, 4, 5 different kinds and just shrug our shoulders and toss them into storage when it doesn’t work out.  $.50-$1.00 more for this organic version of a single serving of smashed fruit and vegetables?  Sure, why not?

It’s not that this is necessarily bad… after all this is basically what our parents hoped for us as they suffered and struggled to earn and find their place in this country.  But as I sit here now, piling up possessions, I can’t help but wonder… am I still searching for the line on healthy spending in the eyes of God, or did I already plow through it long ago and not even realized it?  Is my self-perceived generosity even generous when I am already surrounded by such excess?  Perhaps I focus too much on the quantifiable things and what’s going on in one’s heart is more important, but I don’t really know.

30 years of age and I still feel like a child compared to who I remember my father to be in terms of discipline and responsibility.  Binge watching, long video game sessions, procrastinating housework, disorganized papers laying all over our house, cleaning-as-necessary, falling asleep before going to bed properly… a lot of things have become normal to me that probably shouldn’t be.  In an era where distractions are in abundance, I’m not sure I’ve gotten a great start in leading my children in the right direction.  It’s easy to play the comparison game (you know, the one we told ourselves we would never play when our parents did it to us) to measure our parenting, but I think relativity is often an illusion we use to feel good about how we are doing instead of evaluating how we are holding to our values in more direct way.  I also wonder if our absence of a group of friends that truly feels like home to us is less of a problem related to my friends moving away, and more of a reflection of sitting in the comfort of how tidy it is to rely on ourselves, our parents, and our single friends, and subconsciously choosing it over getting into the messiness and disruptiveness of intertwining our lives with other young families.  Our parents came and built their communities by learning to survive together, but now it’s a totally different ballgame.  Despite questioning whether or not we should try to increase our household income, maybe that’s really just another step towards isolation rather than integration.

But that’s probably enough negativity eh?  Back to the celebration.  30 years and I have 2 kids?  How did that happen?!  Being a parent has really been more joyful than I imagined.  Much of that I owe to Melissa being flexible and generous with my evenings and her sleep (a very big sacrifice for her).  My time with small children had been fairly minimal aside from when Athena and Drew let me have a mini trial run with Lily in San Diego, so I really wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Juliette says hilarious things all the time, and it’s so much fun watching her grow up and learn new things and figure things out.  Last night we met some neighbors and she burst into tears when we said we had to go home and she ended up walking back to our house holding hands with our neighbor Andy whom she had just met.  For the most part she’s been pretty gracious with Jordan’s arrival, and I’m so excited for when he is a little bit bigger and they can interact with each other more.  I think when people without kids say “misery loves company” about young parents, they’re just flat out wrong.  Sure, the tantrums, lost sleep, and pee/poop explosions are not enjoyable, but I can’t imagine missing out on what we’ve already enjoyed with our children.  I’m sure things will continue to get more complicated and new frustrations will arise, but at least it keeps life more interesting!

I feel truly blessed by God to have made it to where I am today.  I was a mediocre student that barely made it out of college with my scholarship in tact, but managed to find a job in Columbus late in the spring.  I ended up with a job that allowed me be a volunteer with InterVarsity for 3 years.  Even while hanging around a struggling company for 8 years now, I’ve been surrounded by wonderful people for my entire career and gotten an opportunity to have what is pretty close to a submersion experience of the Indian culture, which I had barely known anything about previously.  I’ve managed to survive rounds of layoffs and ended up on a great project.  Before I had a clue what I was doing I somehow ended up with a condo that gave me an opportunity to practice some basics about home ownership before getting in way over my head in a real house.  Somehow when I finally stopped harping on being single, I stumbled into a gracious, undemanding and nurturing woman who puts up with my sharp tongue, my incessant nagging, and my… unpredictable family in addition to my general craziness.

30 years have come with a narrative filled with unexpected chaos, sorrow, and joy, but I am grateful for each one of those years and how they have brought me to where I am today.  I am the sum of each tiny moment, good or bad, and better for it.  I have long stopped believing that my birthday needs to be celebrated.  The opportunity to continue living this life is reward enough.

Blast to the Past

As I sit here, I’m reminded of my high school and college days.  Unable to sleep, feeling emotional, and turning to my blog.  Fortunately this is not the norm in my life anymore.

I had Columbus day off yesterday, which is unusual, since it’s not normally a company holiday, but now that I’m working in a client office, we go by their holiday schedule.  Unfortunately, instead of being able to just spend a nice carefree day with Jules, I received news early in the morning that the seller of the house that we are under contract for may need to back out on our deal due to some legal issues she is regarding the custody of her child.

After spending the past week dealing with some minor anxiety due waiting for our inspection day and going over our financials and reworking numbers several times in excruciating detail, this news both blindsided me and had a bigger impact than I anticipated.  After the inspection, I was finally feeling relieved and comfortable with our decision, and had started moving onto thinking about how to handle the flooring in our new great room and was feeling genuinely excited about moving.  I even got off my lazy butt and started fixing some of the things in our condo to get it ready to sell.  It’s been very distracting to await the outcome of the sale and I had already started to think about whether we needed to prepare for our more difficult commute in the winter and where we would take Jules to play now that there wouldn’t be something in walking distance for her to go to every day.  I had started thinking through how this would affect new and old friendships and general convenience, how to cope with not being down the street from Los Guachos (I kid… sort of) and I think mentally I was finally ready to move forward.

But now we have a legitimate setback, and it’s been difficult to manage balancing compassion and frustration/anger.  While I understand the seller may be in a difficult situation, she should have known it could be a possibility before entering into contract with us, and I think it’s unfair to expect us to just back down because it might now be inconvenient for her to move.  So how to proceed… threaten legal action?  Just be reimbursed for our expenses and lie down and roll over?  Demand monetary compensation for our efforts?  As someone that in some ways doesn’t really place a high value on my own time, it’s difficult for me to evaluate what is fair.  I want to have compassion but also think isn’t right that for the seller to do this and feel wronged.  In the end, I wrote a letter to the seller to express our disappointment and ask her to consider other options to backing out even if things don’t work out the way she is hoping.  I don’t know a thing about her, so who knows if it will have any impact, but it’s worth a shot I guess.

We extended our remedy period for a week while she seeks a second opinion for her legal situation.  So the waiting game continues…

On the bright side, I used www.sacredspace.ie for the first time this morning in a while.  Quick & accessible quiet times.

But what do I say when everyone is gone?

I generally stand strong by my convictions about staying in Columbus for what I predict to be the rest of my life.  It has a lot of the perks of a big city without many of the inconveniences.  The caliber of the food may not be that of other places, but there are plenty of affordable and delicious places to eat.  The cost of living is also relatively low and I like the idea that if Melissa really didn’t want to work that we would still be OK.  But mostly, I like to think that I stay for the people, not the place.

With the impending departure of one of my best friends and one of the few remaining connections around me to my childhood, my unwavering confidence has wobbled for the first time in a while.  Since I’ve started my working career, I’ve been dealt a few blows.  First my best friend from college, Jeff, then my best friend from work, Ajay.  So now I guess it’s fitting that my best friend from my childhood, Jay, finishes the trifecta.  This is not to suggest that I believe I am entitled to my friends living within the same city as me, but more than anything it causes me to look inward and wonder if the reasons that I claim to hold so dear to are merely an easy response that sounds good, and a crutch that I like to lean on.

My immediate family is all nearby… Melissa’s parents, my mom & Hannah, and Angela’s just a couple hours away, and I do maintain that I love the prospect of my children growing up around their grandparents.  I feel sad that I really don’t know/didn’t know my grandparents, and I believe that the family structure that God has designed makes sense, given that it doesn’t collapse under the weight of our sin.  I want my kids to really know who our parents are, not just hear about them.  I want them to find joy in each other, and not feel awkwardly formal like I feel like I often do with my own relatives.  So there’s that.

On the other hand, I sometimes wonder if I am just epically unmotivated and unambitious.  Too willing to settle and be comfortable, to do what’s convenient and easy.  I’ve never in my adult life thought about my job as something that I need to love or even feel proud of, but more of something that I will try to excel at and something that supports my family.  I had no idea the company I was hired onto would later be a part of HP, so it’s not like I had any intention of working for a large, well-known corporation.  My suspicion is that if you handed my career journey to my peers, most of them would have left the company a long time ago.  Admirable or damning?  Hard to say, I guess.  It’s pretty easy to justify my life on the surface, but just because I can persuade others doesn’t mean I’ve completely convinced myself.  One by one, my friends have moved away to what most consider “better” places to live, accumulating degrees, moving up in their company ladders, pursuing jobs at highly renowned employers.

Maybe I’m falling into the trap many of our parents’ have set for us, comparing myself to my peers instead of believing in myself and what I’m doing.  The title of this post is not completely accurate, because there will always be people in Columbus.  However, part of me does wonder if at some point after more of my close friends leave if Columbus will cease to feel like home anymore.  If so, are the rest of my reasons enough to stay?  Will Jules only get to see some of the people that have most deeply impacted my life and given me the most joy through the lens of a tablet or phone?  I hope that’s not true, but I guess maybe that’s just reality.

Hi.

I guess reminders of my dad seem to be one of the few catalysts for me to write these days…

I went to my second funeral yesterday since my dad’s, and the first of someone that I actually knew.  My friend Jeremy and his mom, also my piano teacher for many years, lost his father to cancer, and though I didn’t anticipate it, I had a hard time staying composed during the beautiful service that honored him.

To see so many of the friends and family that I grew up with all grieving together wasn’t something I felt prepared to see, and it made me dread the years (hopefully many many years) to come when we see more of our beloved shu-shus and ayis leave us.

I was distraught for their loss, but it also opened a new conversation in my head that I hadn’t heard before.  One considering how even if one didn’t fear death, how difficult leaving this world can be, to leave your loved ones behind.  As the people who stay behind, we grieve, we suffer, and eventually we move on, but to be in the position of knowing that you are going to miss out on life with your loved ones must be a heart-wrenching experience, even on top of much of the physical suffering that those fighting terminal illnesses.

So while I was sad for Jeremy, I was also in a small way glad for him.  Glad that he had the opportunity to become a wonderful grown man, that his dad was allowed to see the fruit of his efforts, to see him finish college, and med school, to become a self-sufficient adult.  I was glad that he was in a place where he can actively engage in the loss of his dad, to understand what is happening, and better appreciate his dad and who he was before losing him.  Then again, that’s definitely an oversimplification of the situation.  I mean after all, there’s always more to see right?

As I sat in the pew waiting the start of the service and later as I watched Jeremy deliver a poignant, articulate eulogy for his father, I was reminded more than ever before just how out of it I was at my own father’s funeral.  I have little to no memory of the day.  All I remember are that I was physically there, and that my sister and my dad’s coworker delivered eulogies.  I think Mrs. Choy (my piano teacher) may actually have played the music, but I’m not really sure.  I lament the fact that I was too young and too immature to understand what was happening.  That I will never be able to honor my dad like that with my own words, sharing what a wonderful man and father he was to me to those that loved him.  How he molded and shaped who I am.  But I was just barely an angsty teenager, only starting to figure out what it meant to navigate the meaningful relationships in my life.  I suppose there’s no reason to feel guilty about it.

I’m just a few months from reaching the point where I’ll actually have lived half my life without my father, and it’s hard not to feel like I missed out… that we both missed out.  Even at 28, most of the milestones in my life have already occurred without him.  When I see Melissa’s dad enjoying time with his beautiful granddaughter, I can’t help but wonder how delighted my own father would be.

If he was still around, he’d probably be mulling retirement, and my mom would be most likely be retired already.  They’d probably have enjoyed some vacations together and maybe would be considering moving down to Columbus upon his retirement to be closer to us.  However that fantasy is a but a pipe dream, and the reality is that the newfound awareness that my dad “missed out” on all these things has instilled a fear in myself that I could do the same one day.  While I cherish the days that I have now with Juliette and Melissa, I desperately want to be here too to see her grow up.  I want to see her become a talented, kind, and loving woman as she enters into adulthood.  I want to see her fall in love with her spouse, and later with her children, should that be the way things turn out.

The night before the funeral I had a dream that I was in a building during a tornado-like storm, clinging to furniture for dear life.  After the storm passed, I suddenly realized that Melissa & Juliette were still at the condo and I panicked, wondering if they had survived, noting that Juliette at her young age could not possibly cling to a piece of furniture to avoid flying away.  I found them in the end, but I will not forget the terror I felt from that dream.

If you know me, you would know that I often pride myself on being resilient.  I do my best to shake off the cold, and am determined to shake off sickness when it tries to come my way.  For the most part it works, but last night as I drove home through a blizzard in my mom’s minivan with barely functioning wipers, at times I felt fragile and small as semis flew by and I struggled to see the road.  My hyperactive imagination planned out several times what I should do should we start spinning out.  I wondered what would happen to Melissa and Jules if something happened to me, if they would be OK.  Perhaps this is a growing pain that comes with fatherhood.  When I did get pretty sick a few months ago, similar fears had surfaced.

Perhaps it is a healthy fear, to feel like you have something to lose.  When I was younger, particularly in my darker days, I didn’t really feel that way.  I know that God is in control, but I do hope that his plans are the same as mine.  There are few things where I have “FOMO”, as they say… the “fear of missing out,” but I guess this is one of them.

So thank you Mr. Choy, for teaching me, even after you have left us.  Thank you for your life that you blessed everyone around you with, and thank you for your wonderful family that you grew, that has been a significant part of my life.  I am thankful that I got to see you one last time, even if it was later than I would’ve liked.  It is good to know that you are smiling down from heaven.  I can only hope that I can learn the same thing that Jeremy has learned from you.  To cherish the things that God has given me and love them ever so stubbornly.

Imago Dei

It was a joy and a privilege to serve as one of the praise leaders @ Imago Dei…  Lots of things to think about going forward regarding family, school, & work.  Hohum.  d=

Was reminded of a song a wrote a couple years ago…

Image of Me

My book page was pretty fail, so replaced it w/ music page d=