Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

When I Was 5 — March 31, 2023

When I Was 5

The website-generated prompt today is, When you were 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Well, I wanted to be a superhero, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Earlier this week, yet another mass shooting happened at a Christian school in Nashville. Actually, according to current statistics, probably around 10 happened this week, the one in Nashville is the only one we’re talking about every day on the news and setting flags at half-mast.

A mass shooting is considered any where at least 4 people are shot and injured or killed. As of 2 days ago, there have been 129 this year so far. That works out to be roughly 10 per week. In Nashville, 3 of the deaths were 9 year-olds, the others were administration.

The shooter was a transgender male with 7 legally obtained firearms and a long, complicated mental health history. This is all according to the specific reports I read. Maybe some of it isn’t true, entirely or at all. Or maybe it is. We don’t have his manifesto yet, it hasn’t yet been released, or at least anywhere that I can find.

On another note, my son began the games that count in his senior baseball season this week. They lost the first one. After this post, I will no longer be discussing my thoughts on this program, unless they are positive and/or illustrate growth and beauty in the wild.

But that’s after this post. The program is in ruins. The young men are being forcibly spoon fed gruel far below what they deserve, on any level. As you are well aware, I happen to not be a man who particularly values wins & losses. The W-L record might be in my list of the top 10 qualities of a successful program, maybe. But by any metric, this one is upside down, inside out, dead and stinking.

Now. As the baseball program slowly circles the drain, there doesn’t seem to be any interest in plugging said drain and rescuing the boys from this sinking mess. Everyone is obviously content to crawl along, looking at the dumpster fire, nodding, doing nothing at all but watching it burn.

I just looked up “albatross,” and when I did, the tab I had open was set on an article titled, “What’s behind the decline in teen mental health?” Yes, social media and stressful college requirements, of course, but it’s possible that another reason is that the adults in the room always seem content to do nothing at all except watch it burn, watch them burn. I don’t imagine it helps teen mental health to scream for help when none ever comes.

High school baseball is a trivial example, right? It’s just further evidence of what is either malicious violence on the human spirit or impotence. More kids get killed, we give “thoughts and prayers,” and then 9 more happen this week, and 10 more next week, and the next and the next and the next, ad infinitum.

I wanted to be a superhero for as long as I can remember because I didn’t like injustice. Watching people cry, in pain, living in fear or in despair, sits in my stomach and soul like acid, making it impossible to rest or find comfort. I wanted to fix all of it. But there aren’t real-life superheroes (as far as I know). I still want someone to show you, me and everybody else that there is someone who sees and will do whatever it takes to care for us. If we use that definition (and not simply people with cartoonish super powers), maybe we could all be superheroes?

Can we please stand up and say enough? Our politicians, CEOs, administrators, aren’t interested in extinguishing the fires that fuel benefit packages and lifestyles. Minding our own business hasn’t and doesn’t work, now or ever. The hope here is, right now, today, in our homes and communities, churches, workplaces, parks, fields, and grocery stores, to start to love each other, not only in more empty words but with hands and feet and our full, sad, broken hearts.

Eyes To See — March 22, 2023

Eyes To See

I go to a local store for something called creamed pearl tapioca pudding on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday. And then I drop it off with the Angel at her office, along with a fountain soda as thanks. What I tell her is that it needs to be refrigerated and I’m unable to access our fridge. I don’t need to take it to her. I take it all through the winter, when my car is colder than any available appliance, mostly so I can see her for those 30 seconds.

Yesterday was Tuesday, and while I was there, I was overwhelmed, speechless and in awe of this woman. I sent her a text from the parking lot that read, “No kidding, I can not believe I get to be married to you. You are a KNOCKOUT,” and then I added 2 emoji faces with hearts for eyes. We’ll only talk about how she looks today, but as you probably already know, the beauty on the outside isn’t close to how lovely she is on the inside. She’s pretty far out of my league, but that’s her problem, not mine.

The point is that sometimes we can be so familiar with something that we take it for granted, easily and often. I live with this Angel, see her everyday, in pajamas and in heels, I know she’s gorgeous. I know her smile in my sleep, the way her eyes shine, how her laugh sounds, her skin feels. I know all of this, but there are surely lots of moments where I don’t truly appreciate all of this.

And there are so many things just like her (well, not just like her), but equally overlooked, or dismissed as common when they are anything but.

Pizza, Lord of the Rings, vinyl, this blanket, Catfish, creamed pearl tapioca. There are things we couldn’t wait to get, absolutely had to have, and changed our lives, that we don’t even give a second thought today. I’m not sure we need a change of scenery nearly as much as we need to open our eyes to the current scenery, because at some point that new scenery is going to be the current scenery we are looking to change.

I haven’t listened to The Queen Is Dead in months, and the last time I did, I skipped some tracks. It’s a perfect album, and I treat it so cavalierly that I skip tracks. We eat in front of the tv or in the car, concentrating and appreciating nothing. We see sunrises and sunsets everyday more perfect than the finest art. The Angel is so stunning she could stop clocks.

How and when did we get so distracted and jaded that we miss all of this splendor? Somewhere we were sold the lie that there was anything in this fantastic world that is “ordinary.” Ordinary is for the blind and imagination-less. In the Bible, scales fall from the apostle Paul’s eyes and he can finally see things as they are, see reality as it is. Maybe our scales need to fall, as well. I don’t really want to take anything for granted anymore, and I certainly don’t want to take people for granted ever again. I don’t want to become so familiar with laying like spoons with the Angel that it loses it’s tender warmth and simply becomes something we do. It IS something we do, but it’s not simple at all, it’s also significant and perfect.

I wonder how many other things in our everyday lives are significant and perfect, if we only had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel them.

All At Once — March 10, 2023

All At Once

I finally saw Everything Everywhere All At Once. If you haven’t seen it, you know what you have to do. We’re not going to talk about it in this space, specifically. Instead, we’ll talk about great art.

You watch an awesome film, like Everything Everywhere All At Once or Fight Club or Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind or Point Break or Pulp Fiction (there are a million honest examples), and the credits roll. How do you feel?

You hear an amazing song, like There Is A Light That Never Goes Out or Like A Rolling Stone or Let It Be or Party In The USA (again, a million examples), in your car as you’re driving home from work or to your sister’s house on Thanksgiving day. Where is your spirit?

You read a beautiful book, like Breakfast of Champions or Catch 22 or High Fidelity or Britt-Marie Was Here or Chronicles, Nehemiah & Other Books Nobody Reads, and close it after finishing the last words. What is the state of your heart?

I know the answer to these questions, and so do you. You feel soft and open, like you’ve been pried opened by soft, warm, loving fingers, which you have. The door is thrown wide and your mind is free to race around with no boundaries at all, free to jump and even to fly, if you’re so inclined. Anything and everything is possible. The usual rules and cynicism that keep us tethered to the rotted cracked boards that set the limits of our world no longer apply.

Someone exactly like you and me wrote the screenplay for Everything Everywhere All At Once. And we have somewhere bought the idea that “it is what it is,” we are all we’re ever be, and this is all we deserve. These are lies. And sometimes, in a chorus or scene, we are shown the undeniable truth.

Last night, Everything Everywhere won all of the Academy Awards, as it should have, and I am convinced that means we have all been aching to create something new for ourselves, our families, neighbors, strangers & enemies, for our world. Today is cold and gray outside of my window, but feels like sunshine and hope. These are the first moments of the new economy of creativity and love for everyone everywhere all at once

Another Last of the Firsts — March 6, 2023

Another Last of the Firsts

Today is the first day of high school baseball practice for my son, whom I love more than I can ever tell you. He deserves everything wonderful, and if you know him, you agree with me. It’ll be the last first day of practice, and that fills me with every kind of emotion you can imagine. So let’s talk about Argo instead.

Argo won the best picture Oscar in 2012. I hadn’t seen it until yesterday, I always wanted to, and who knows why I didn’t? It was a full day with lots of weight, stimulation and being “on.” After speaking publicly, I am wide open and terribly vulnerable, so I usually try to avoid much personal contact afterwards for a block of time. Yesterday I didn’t have a choice, and by the time I returned home and finished the last of my responsibilities, I crashed into the belly of my soft, comfy sofa.

Probably the best thing I could’ve watched was something I’d seen a thousand times before, like Return of the Jedi or the first Avengers. I like them and don’t have to plug in at all. The worst thing would’ve been a breathlessly suspenseful thriller that I had never seen before about the extraction of American hostages trapped in Iran in 1979-80. 81% of Google users “liked” it, which makes me wonder about the other 19. Who are they, and why do they hate movies so much? Maybe they just hate Ben Affleck?

Instead of watching through half-closed eyelids in my couch, I watched the last hour standing in the middle of the room. This was not a restful experience in the least.

Anyway. When Affleck arrives in Iran, meets the hostages and informs them that they will be a movie crew scouting locations for a science-fiction movie (“Argo”), they have to decide if they will participate in this human heist. The 6 men & women haven’t left the Canadian embassy for months, are in grave danger, but this plan is “the best of the bad ideas” and presents overwhelming danger, as well. Would they become paralyzed by their fear and incapable of movement? Would they risk everything? And if so, would that risk end in America or in death?

How many times are we faced with the same decision? We’re confined to a “room” we know, whether it’s a relationship, job, worldview, whatever, and leaving is terrifying. Usually someone comes through the door with an offer, an invitation – someone has to, we simply don’t leave on our own – and the scene is the same. What if it doesn’t work out? What if we fail? What if there’s nothing and no one out there for me? How will it end?

We’ve all heard that awful cliche: better the devil you know. We all hate it, too. But cliches get that way because they’re often true. We do choose to stay in rotten dead-end jobs, with abusive, unfaithful boy- and girl-friends, seeing the world though cracked lenses because the fear of the unknown is vicious and unrelenting. The questions are the same, what if what if what if how will it end????? Will I be ok? Is this the right choice? How do I know?

The bad news is that we don’t. The hostages didn’t. It could’ve easily been a very different film, the tragedy of a doomed rescue attempt. We all know friends who have forgotten who they are and why they’re here and settled for 2am texts and generations of damage and a long tradition of outdated -isms. But the first step out the door, to write the 2 week notice, to take the shot, with the adrenaline freezing in your veins, is the hardest one, isn’t it?

High school is my boy’s Canadian embassy. And mine. He’s familiar, we’re familiar, it’s (relatively) safe, at least it appears safe. He knows where the rooms are, when the classes change. He is no prisoner here, at home, he’s only confined by the chains in his mind. What will he do when there are no more last firsts? Will he take that first, hardest step?

Will he fail? Of course he will. At least I hope he does. The only ones who don’t fail are the ones that stay inside these rooms. But that’s not true, either. What we don’t always recognize is that staying is failure, too, just a different sort. I hope he shoots a million times and misses a ton of them. I hope he dreams. And I hope he breaks out of all of these rooms and really lives.

Toothpaste Caps — February 27, 2023

Toothpaste Caps

In the modern classic The Incredibles, Bob (Mr. Incredible) returns home from some forbidden crime-fighting to an angry wife, Helen (Elastigirl, or Mrs. Incredible). They argue about the political ban on superheroes, moving, changing jobs, and sports for their son, but the argument isn’t about any of those things.

It’s the same in all of our relationships, isn’t it? The most common example of conflict in marriage revolves around the toothpaste cap. We all know no one actually leaves the cap off of the tube. Unless they do… Does this come from somewhere in real life? Why haven’t I thought about this sooner? I figured it was just some nonsensical hypothetical scenario, like making “widgets” in business classes. What kind of savage doesn’t put the cap back on? Maybe it is totally imagined, it has to be.

Anyway, it’s a solid example because toothpaste caps are small and insignificant, and the fights are big, loud, very significant, and not about oral hygiene or bathroom cleanliness at all. They’re about respect or value or minimization or resentment or fear or insecurity or inadequacy or regret, any number of reasons, really, and all things that have their roots much older and farther reaching than toothpaste. It’s like treating the cut in the skin rather than the broken bone that caused the tear.

There are 2 monsters in the closet here, 2 “broken bones,” as far as I can tell. First, we often hide, pretending that we’re perfect and nothing is wrong. That if we’re not fighting right now, then that must mean we have peace. We don’t communicate well, we ignore warning lights and signs, choosing to act like the white picket fence doesn’t have termites. This all comes from general, garden variety laziness and more importantly, our propensity to choose comfort, convenience, and ease.

I guess there’s only 1 monster, because that last paragraph was a list of symptoms, too. Helen finally ends the argument in the movie with, “This is NOT. ABOUT. YOU.” The bone that’s broken and in great need of attention is our narcissism. We are very selfish. The Bible calls this idolatry, and all that means is that we are our own gods, we are our own #1. I’m angry about the cap you left off because of what it says to/about me. I’m frustrated and resentful because you don’t do what I want you to do, what I think you should do. I’m offended because you are disrespectful of my wants and needs, scared because you aren’t properly deferential to me and my expectations, inadequate and insecure because you might not want or need me and what will that say about me???

This is almost entirely why we can’t talk about religion or politics like human beings. We identify with a position so closely that another position is not simply judging ideas or concepts or platforms, it is judging us. I’m so thoroughly identified, to discard my opinion is to discard me, to deem it less is to deem me less. We don’t usually do this with choice of condiments or sodas, so we can easily talk about the merits of ketchup without coming to blows. We cannot with our theology or our political affiliation.

Most conversations are variations on that Incredibles scene. We’re talking out loud about Dash playing sports, but barely concealed is a defense of our own worth and fear at becoming obsolete and discarded. And we are way too terrified to be vulnerable enough to drag the real issue into the light. So we dance around sports, tenets, and toothpaste caps, unable to say anything real.

It’s the most depressing scene in the movie by a mile, and every one of us can easily relate. We are all Bob Paar; Incredible, overflowing with so many talents, gifts and abilities…and wildly desperate that you notice. The thing is that all of the ways we try too hard to be these pathetic gods only obscure how super we really are.

Ant-Sized Expectations — February 22, 2023

Ant-Sized Expectations

I saw Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania Monday afternoon. After the pieces of garbage that were Love & Thunder and She-Hulk, I was unsure that I’d see it at all, much less in the theater. But I did, on opening weekend, no less. And despite the terrible critical reviews, I very much liked it. Here are a few reasons why:

Love & Thunder and She-Hulk made fun of me. They treated these movies as if they had heard the criticism of “serious” auteurs and wanted to sit at the cool table, too, so they ridiculed those of us who found ourselves entertained and stimulated by their work. Before those 2 stinkers (and less so the output of the last few years), I made the argument that these movies were the mythology of our generation. Certainly not just sugary snacks for fanboys alone, they explored social and cultural issues through the lens of extraordinary people. The psychology of the characters (and all of us) were on display and gave us all more substance than we were prepared for, if only we had eyes to see and ears to hear. They were never Pulp Fiction or The Godfather, but to lazily write-off these movies as spandex daydreams for teenage boys was an offensively grievous error. Quantumania didn’t make fun of me. It wasn’t The Winter Soldier or Civil War, but it was a stand alone story that did not patronize (or at least, I did not feel patronized.) That’s 1.

The second is its wild visual unreality. Now, this was precisely the reason The Angel did not like it, but we are very different people. If our pop cultural preferences met at a party, not only would they not talk, mine would probably ask hers to leave immediately. Usually, our imaginations are drummed out of us as we age, we are encouraged to leave them behind and focus only on the world that we can see, touch, feel, and prove. When an artist remembers that we have been made to be fantastically creative beings, as in the Star Wars cantina (for example) or the Quantum Realm, we see our original imaging bursting through into an increasingly monochromatic landscape. There were no limits on colors, characters, no restraints on what could be possible. Of course, some of it didn’t work, but that’s what happens with shooting; sometimes, you miss. But I really love the risk of shooting. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and that’s inspiring to me.

But that’s enough about the actual movie (not that I don’t have anything else to say about it, I do). I’m wondering how much of my appreciation of Quantumania had to do with the steaming pile that was Love & Thunder. I think I’m sort of out on the MCU. Obviously, I’ll see the movies as they come out, I’ll watch the streaming shows, but they no longer captivate me. It was a beautiful time that I shared with my sons, we saw every one together as they were released. (Quantumania was the first one we didn’t, and don’t even get me started on the heartbreak of that.) Thor convinced me that those movies were of a time that had passed. Thor showed me what I already knew, everything changes. The movies change, we change, our reaction, our connection to them changes. With one swing of his hammer, Thor broke any idea of corporate trust or loyalty. I know, I know, the studios (including Marvel/Disney) care about me only as long as I’m buying tickets and paying for their streaming service, but the delusion is one I would have liked to keep. I took Love & Thunder and She-Hulk like a personal affront, like an act of disrespect. Why? They don’t care at all about me, they care about worldwide grosses and merchandising deals.

And on one hand, that stinks. But on the other, it’s pretty liberating. If I want to see the next one, I’ll see it. If not, I won’t. I don’t owe Disney anything. I’m a product, but so are they. (If it’s seems embarrassing for such an old man to come to such elementary conclusions this late, it’s not for me. I understand/understood perfectly, but I just didn’t want that to be the last word. I want to let my imagination run and dream, too.) I have no more expectations for quality – She-Hulk smashed that into tiny little pieces – so when something is good, like Quantumania, I enjoy myself. I don’t expect greatness, I don’t expect anything. I am free!

Reviews — February 14, 2023

Reviews

It’s been a few months since I’ve reviewed anything – this will happen. Sometimes, the overwhelming nature of living a life you love provides more than enough inspiration. But today, my calendar is clean and I can settle in, think back and hopefully decompress while I tell you what I liked and why.

A quick observation before we begin, about the Rihanna Super Bowl halftime show. No matter what happens, there are legions of trolls saying how terrible it is, and I can’t think of anything less interesting. There are notable exceptions (Thor, Love & Thunder, which is fascinating in it’s desire to devalue the entire MCU and ridicule fans) that prove the rule you’ve surely deduced: I like everything. There is beauty in most all works of art, some might take more time and effort than others to discover, but it is there. And if it’s not (again, like Love & Thunder, though Christian Bale’s performance is terrific), then I prefer to move on without much comment. There is already enough negativity in the world, you don’t need mine. I don’t even need mine!

I’m currently listening to Local Natives cover Gerry Rafferty’s “Right On Down The Line,” and it makes me appreciate The Angel. Today is Valentine’s Day and the best, most beautiful blessing in my life has always been her, right on down the line.

Poker Face is a cool hard to categorize comedy-ish drama on Peacock, starring Natasha Lyonne. After episode 1, I’m firmly in, but I’m pretty sure I’d watch Natasha Lyonne do anything. She’s so good, she gives me hope for tomorrow. It makes me want to watch everything she’s ever done.

Raya and The Last Dragon is an animated film with Rose from the new Star Wars as Raya and Awkwafina as the dragon. You know, the most disappointing reaction from that Star Wars trilogy was the embarrassing treatment of Rose/Kelly Marie Tran. Sometimes, our behavior is just abhorrent. The second most disappointing reaction was the creators of Rise of Skywalker caving and writing her character essentially out of the trilogy. Anyway, my sons are still laughing at how I cried during Raya, but how can I help it? My soft, beautiful heart grew 2 sizes the day we watched.

I finally saw Wakanda Forever, the 2nd Black Panther movie. I wondered if I would, or if Love & Thunder and She-Hulk chased me away forever. I didn’t see it in the theater, and instead watched it from my couch, just in case. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term “woke,” but one of the criticisms was that Wakanda Forever is “woke.” Probably it is. I don’t like being the target of an agenda, especially when it’s so ham-handed that I am conscious to the fact that I am nothing more than a “demographic” – this wasn’t as obvious as other examples, I didn’t think. Women were the leads and most of the important characters, but representation is not “woke.” I wanted to be a superhero because I was a little white boy and all of the superheroes for the last 100 years looked just like me. Now, they don’t. And that is not a bad thing in any galaxy. The cultures (people, music, rituals) are different, and that’s wonderful, in cinema and in real life. I say it’s probably “woke” because Disney usually seems to be trying too hard. However, if the art is as lovely, deep, and honestly moving as this one, “woke” isn’t so bad.

This Is Pop is a series on Netflix and, this week, I watched the Britpop episode. It would be impossible for me to express just how much Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Suede, Echobelly, and on and on through all the disposable B and C ripoffs, meant to me. I’ve been abundantly clear about the Smiths/Morrissey, but it never ended there. The nostalgia I feel sometimes causes my heart to ache, the music was awesome, everything felt far more simple than it does today. I had opinions and understood the world. Oasis fought Blur for Britpop supremacy, but the right answer was that Pulp was better than both of them.

I’m not so certain about too much anymore. I do have some, and hold onto them firmly and passionately. But (I can’t believe I’m going to write this) I don’t care what sort of music you listen to, what your Top 5 desert island discs are, or what your favorite song is – I just care that you do. You see, I find you totally fascinating, who you are, what you think & believe, what you’re like. I want you to have opinions and I want you to know why you hold them. And I really want you to tell me what they are.

Of course I love all forms of art and the effect they have on/for me, but more and more, I love the communal effects. In a dark theater, a great film connects us, to each other, to God, to our world. The same thing happens when we sing along to a song, when it takes us back to a space and time when we were present and alive. Usually we are so wrapped up in surviving, putting one foot in front of another, getting through the day, that some program on a streaming network can jar us out of that monotonous routine like little else, and wake us up to the indescribable divine gift of each moment. We are here and we are alive, so for heaven’s sake, turn it up and move a little.

We Are In This Together — February 9, 2023

We Are In This Together

Last week, I wrote about my son’s high school basketball senior night, and I want to tell you that I was absolutely there, fully present and engaged. I wrote that there were 3 games left, so while it was the last home game, he still had games to play. The final game was last night. The last high school basketball game he will ever play.

It was wonderful. And it was awful. The Angel and I cried in the stands with a minute on the clock as the game reached its climax; the bad guys won on a basket with 9 seconds left. It was always going to take 2 hands (at least) to hold all of the flooding emotions with the care & respect they deserve. He’s learned so many lessons on the basketball court that will serve him well every day forward. And so did I.

Sports are important for lots of reasons, the least of them being the final score. I hope in 20 years, when he looks back, he is satisfied and carrying few regrets. My knees crack, my back hurts, I can’t sleep in certain positions because of my aching shoulders, and wouldn’t change a thing. I had dreams of being a Major League Baseball player, gave all I had through high school and college, and when I finally resigned to the fact that I simply wasn’t good enough (almost no one is), peace was all that remained. I loved all of it. Of course I wish I had enjoyed it more in moments, I wish I hadn’t carried losses for quite so long, I wish I had some more perspective. But those wishes are small and quiet, and when I sleep at night, I rest well (as long as it’s not in certain positions.) I hope he does, too.

The team we played last night was evenly matched, a solid rivalry. The gym is small and very, very noisy. I saw Billy Idol play at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, and have not been the same since. When my family has to repeat themselves, they have Billy Idol to thank. This was not that, not soul rattling, but as far as high school basketball games go, it went to 11. Before games nowadays (do I sound like everyone’s dad?) they read a ridiculous sportsmanship pledge that no one listens to and even less follow. They say something along the lines of “cheer for your team, not against the other team,” and it’s all any of us can do to stifle our laughter. This school (Pequea Valley, the name has not been changed to protect the guilty) and their student section did not adhere. The most egregious offense was after the game, when a skinny underclassman, hyped up on his own insecurity, aggressively screamed in our players faces as they exited the court, almost following them into the locker room. I think the pre-game nonsense should be cut, it does nothing but draw attention to the inadequacy of the adults in the room. If we’re not going to follow through on the threat, we probably shouldn’t make it, right? If we don’t believe what we’re saying, everybody knows, and it feels disingenuous and embarrassing.

That last paragraph was a bit of a soap box, but this is a space where I work out what it means to live a life of love, what it means to live a beautiful life, and that requires processing. What you get here, if nothing else, is honesty. Maybe it’s garden variety narcissism to detail your own journey out loud, but I’m convinced it’s much more than that. When you listen to songs you love and read books & watch movies that make an impact, they are strikingly specific (Taylor Swift wrote a song about actually breaking up with John Mayer, John Lennon cried out for Help from inside his own deep despair), and in that specificity, they become universal.

I write about high school sports and who cares about high school sports? It’s simply a context for growth, adversity, effort, failure, and we all have that, no matter what the context is. I imagine no one particularly cares about my thoughts on some silly pledge of platitudes, but we all know hypocrisy and carefully crafted words that mean nothing at all, right? My heart swells and breaks as my boy becomes, and you totally understand 2 (or 2,000) hands. The Dallas Cowboys are my team, sadly, and that’s completely irrational – maybe yours isn’t a largely irrelevant football team, but we all have irrational attachments. We are in this together, far more similar than different.

One last thing. When a couple gets married, they honestly believe they will always feel the way they felt as they say “I do” every moment of every day. Then, a month, or 6 months, later, they look across the table and maybe don’t like that person very much, the love is gone, they’re broken, maybe they made a huge mistake, the marriage is over. And they hurt in isolation, hopeless. BUT if they would just reach out to the couple that’s been married for 30 years, and honestly share their fears, they’d hear that it’s everyone’s experience. It’s all natural and expected, nobody’s broken, just do the dishes, talk kindly, hold hands and lay like spoons when you go to bed.

It’s not narcissism or self-import, it’s the very human desire for connection and community. We are alive and we are here, now, sharing basketball games and our lives together.

Senior Night — January 31, 2023

Senior Night

Tonight is Senior Night for the basketball team. There are 3 games left, and this is the last home game. Maybe there will be playoffs, but I don’t have anywhere close to the intellectual capacity to figure that out – the districts, sections, and classes have never made any sense to me. I imagine someone will tell me if we have more games.

This team is much much better than previous years. There was a toxic class to pass through the school and their influence will take time to dissipate, so this year was the first in rebuilding an entire culture and, playoffs or not, has been an almost total success in that. “Learning to win” is a tired sports cliche and the reason it’s tired is because it’s so often true. These boys are beginning to learn to win. Tonight, that isn’t an issue, they will probably not have to worry about winning. But the great thing about sports is that you never know. In the 1988 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat an unbeatable Oakland A’s team in 5 games. It was impossible, yet it happened. So maybe… but the result hardly matters.

Tonight is the first senior night for my oldest son (there will be another one for baseball in the spring.) We’ll walk him out to the middle of the court and smile and barely keep it together. Or we won’t and the Angel and I will cry like babies. Either way, we will be there, fully present, with each other and with all of the emotions surging in our hearts and souls.

I’m remembering the night I learned he was no longer an idea. The Angel took a test on the phone with me, of course I couldn’t wait to get home, and she gave me the news. I was on 422 coming through Lebanon and pulled over in front of the community college and wept, equal parts terror and elation. Well, not exactly equal parts. We had prayed for him and now he actually existed, it was more celebration and gratitude. But there was certainly terror, swirled in like the cream cheese filling in a pumpkin roll. What kind of daddy would I be? Was I ready? What kind of boy would he be? And a hundred million more questions.

If you’ve met him, you know how amazing he is. If you haven’t, I’m sorry, you really should.

We often refer to a 2 hands theology, and a 2 hands life. Nothing is usually just 1 thing, it’s a combination, more like a hurricane, of different, sometimes wildly conflicting emotions. Tonight, I’ll be proud of my boy, happy for the boy he’s been and the man he’s becoming and grateful that I got to watch and know him so well. I’ll also be heartbroken, crushed that he’ll not nap on my chest again, and frustrated that each day couldn’t have been forever. What a 2 hand anything requires is honesty. We show up as we are, feel what we feel, no hiding, no images. We don’t miss a thing. We don’t wake up and say “God was in this place and I was unaware.” We show up.

I think back to all of the moments that brought us here. I didn’t want to go to Lebanon Valley College, but somehow I found myself there, a business major in 2 classes with the Angel, who had a boyfriend for nearly all 4 years. She happened to drop him right on time. I happened to be in the computer lab one evening, and she happened to be there, too. I happened to talk to her, even though she was faaaaar out of my league. I happened to be on a plan that took more than 4 years – the last semester, which I shouldn’t have had, was when we met and went on our first date. We happened to go on that date, happened to get married, and happened to make this person who will have his senior night tonight.

I say “happened to” and “make” with the same posture. It all seems so orchestrated, almost as if there was a wonderfully loving God making paths, moving feet and softening so many hearts, which of course, He was. We didn’t make Samuel alone, couldn’t have ever made Samuel without the Creator of the Universe making him first.

So now, I want to tell you my answer, with 18 years of hindsight, to the question if I was a good daddy. Maybe. What I do know is that I was intentional. Everything I did (even the mistakes I made) I did on purpose. When he sits down with a therapist to complain about me, what he’ll say is that I hugged, kissed, and told him I loved him too much and too often. And I can live with that.

There are other places where I’ve written to him (beginning with that positive test on his first night), much more detail I could, and will, dive into, but those are only for him and I. Here, tonight is senior night and I will do the 2 things I have done every day of his life; I will be there, authentically, embarrassingly me, present and engaged, and more than that, more than anything else, I will love him.

I (heart) the Dallas Cowboys — January 23, 2023

I (heart) the Dallas Cowboys

I have been a Dallas Cowboys fan for longer than I can remember, since probably before kindergarten. My father had few other interests and I was his boy, so loving sports was a requisite in my home. You choose your teams wisely and think you’ll stay with them forever, like your first best friend or first kiss. Best friends came and went, girlfriends passed though, but the Dallas Cowboys moved in and have forever lived rent free in my head & heart. Now I’m 47 and not 4, no longer call them “us,” but last night when they lost again in the playoffs, I was shocked by how disappointed I was.

I have come to believe fandom is an irrational insanity. What other arena would you continue to patronize and, in the worst cases, identify with a product that’s quality varies this wildly. If you only bought Dawn dish detergent, then it changed formulas and no longer cleaned your dishes, you’d find a new detergent. If you really loved Chipotle, how many cold, rotten burritos would it take before you stopped going? Would you still stand in lines because you had a good one 30 years ago? How many stale, crushed bags of Doritos would you buy before you found some new chips? How many times does Lucy have to pull the football, sending you flying through the air, before you stop having her hold???? In fact, if you had 30 unbroken years of losses with your spouse…

I left DirecTV, with extreme prejudice, paying the early cancellation fee, after 1 long year of terrible service. With the Cowboys, 1 long year sounds like a dreamlike utopia.

I used to ride or die with the Detroit Tigers baseball team, and if you’d ask me, I’d still tell you they’re my favorite team, but it doesn’t affect my life at all. I have no idea how many wins they had last year or who their current shortstop or manager is.

I understand children chaining themselves to a team, because to a kid, everything and anything is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. But leaving that behind, with the rest of the grade-school trends and fashions, sounds like the right way for an adult to behave.

And yet. When Dak Prescott threw a 6 years pass in the middle of the field deep in their own territory as time expired, my heart broke again. I don’t know why. I don’t know Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott. I don’t think Jerry Jones would be a particularly nice person – but maybe he is. That’s the point, how would I know? I’ve never met him. Why does my Sunday evening (and Monday morning) have anything to do with the fibula of Tony Pollard?

When I was 4, I loved the big beautiful star. That’s why I chose the Dallas Cowboys. When people ask me why, that’s the honest answer. Danny White and the star. But a logo is hardly a reason to handcuff myself for the rest of my life to a perpetually good (that’s what makes it so heart-breaking – that every year, we think “maybe this is the year,” like a legion of Neanderthals) professional football franchise.

Maybe I’m done. But I’m not.

Maybe I’ll pick a new team, or better yet, no team. Maybe I’ll just watch the games as a completely impartial party, enjoying the athleticism and the game. But I won’t.

It’s not loyalty, either, like other broken people say. It’s a masochistic disorder. But it’s my masochistic disorder. It’s our masochistic disorder.

But next year will totally be our year.