Category Archives: Parenting

Movie: The Road Within

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I just discovered this movie on Netflix. As I always say, I don’t get out too often, so most of you may have already seen this film. Not only do I like indie films, but I especially keep an eye out for ones that explore aspects of mental illness.

This particular film caught my eye because it qualifies as:

  1. a “buddy flick” – and I love those, and
  2. a movie dealing with characters who suffer from some sort of metal illness.

The Road Within is about three young people who don’t know each other, but they all escape from the same wellness center (I’m trying not to use ‘psych ward’). The main character, Vincent, suffers from Tourette syndrome; Marie is anorexic; and Alex, who they pick up at the last minute, has severe OCD. So severe that he constantly wears latex gloves and opens and shuts car doors exactly five times before entering.

They steal/borrow Vincent’s father’s Mercedes and head for the coast to spread Vincent’s mom’s ashes. Along the way they encounter adventures and moments of self-discovery and heartfelt sharing.

It’s not the typical buddy-movie formula: these characters are deep and they’re hurting. They just want and need some help and someone to love and understand them.

I didn’t realize this before watching the movie, but I didn’t know that anorexia was a disease of the mind. I was ignorant like most people probably are.

Alex tells his new friends that his OCD keeps him trapped inside a world of rituals that he cannot escape. He even pays a gas station attendant to chase him out of the store to make it look like Alex ran away without paying. He later confesses to his friends that he did this “to look cool” and to feel normal for a change.

Vincent explains that his Tourette syndrome is like a sneeze: you can’t stop the tics and outbursts of vulgarity no matter how hard you try.

One moving scene in the film shows Vincent’s dad confessing to the boy’s therapist where he went wrong:

It’s awful to say, but I was embarrassed by him… I wanted a different boy. And he knew it. He could see it on my face.

This film doesn’t offer any answers or self-help advice. It’s just a movie about three individuals who are not like the majority of society and how they learn to cope with and eventually rely on each other. I highly recommend it.

~t


How (I Think) I Ruined Easter for my Kids

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twiniversity.com

It was a day that my wife and I had been preparing for. Easter morning. Our two sons, both on the brink of still believing in the Easter Bunny, awoke at 7:00 am to search for their baskets.

Let me backtrack a bit. Friday night, I took a full dose of an antipsychotic drug that my doctor had prescribed. I had held off on taking it due to its potency (even after cutting it into fourths).

As a result, I awoke on Saturday morning as a zombie, not able to get out of bed or form a coherent thought. It also happened to be the morning that we were supposed to go to the animal shelter so the kids could walk and play with their favorite dog, Bee. It was their second time to walk Bee. She saw my boys approaching and became so excited, jumping up and down inside the cramped kennel.

See, I was supposed to go with them on Saturday, but due to my medication, I had to cancel that morning. My youngest son, who is 8, came to my bed. “Daddy, are you coming?” It was nearing the time that we were due to leave. “No, buddy. Daddy’s not feeling very good.”

My son sighed. “OK. Next time I guess.” And he and the rest of my family left. I remained in bed where I lay passed out from my drug-induced slumber.

The effects of the drugs were so great that they lingered on even into Easter morning. My heart was not into the tradition of watching the boys look for their Easter baskets that “the Easter Bunny” had hid the night before. When they finally found them, I was thinking about crashing in my bed and certainly not thinking about my kids’ joy in discovering their baskets and opening the toys inside.

I dragged myself to Mass that morning, not wanting to go because of the crowds; one of two days that the “C & E” (Christmas and Easter) Christians would attend, swelling the attendance and leaving the sanctuary standing-room only.

I hurried back home for the egg hunt that my wife and I always do for our kids. Reluctantly, I helped her to hide plastic eggs around the backyard, the whole time my head spinning around and focused only on the thought of my comfy bed.

Kids can tell. They know when something’s not right. Our kids, 8 and 10, wouldn’t let on that daddy’s heart just wasn’t in it; but they had fun, and my wife made up for it.

Afterwards, my sons wanted to hide eggs for my wife and me to look for. At this point I flat-out refused. My wife talked me into in (in front of my sons, I might add). I went through the motions, forcing smiles and filling my own basket with plastic eggs.

Finally it was over. I immediately went back to bed and tried desperately to sleep off the meds. I was awakened at dinnertime, the whole day pretty much gone.

Here it is Monday morning, and my heart aches for my two sons. They seemed to have fun, but their daddy didn’t display the interest that he normally does.

Yesterday is gone. I can’t get it back. My sons are getting old enough to remember things like this. Their days of innocence when they didn’t realize what a jerk I was have come to an abrupt halt.

If only I could make it up to them. I want to blame the damn pills, but it was my decision to ingest them Friday night. It was for a good reason, I keep telling myself. But at what cost? My sons’ 2016 Easter is now a memory, and I wasn’t at the top of my game.

As my boss says when I linger in the office too long after class: “Your kids aren’t young forever. Go home.”

Try harder next time, I tell myself. That’s all I can do.

~t


Divorce and Marriage: Things Missed and Things Taken for Granted

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Source Unknown

My sister posted this on her social media account recently. It speaks for itself and needs no introduction:

 

As the one year anniversary of my divorce is approaching, I’ve made a list of things that I miss and that were taken for granted while being married (beware: it’s a long list). I’ve become an even stronger person and I’m doing great at handling everything. I’m Supermom. smile emoticon

-Having someone give me their honest opinion about anything.
-Having a date for every function.
-Family nights.
-Going to dinner somewhere other than McDonalds.
-Sending out Christmas cards from the four of us.
-Knowing certain little things/quirks about him that no else knows.
-Reminiscing about the 25 years we spent together.
-His friends and family.
-His sense of humor.
-Countless numbers of ‘inside jokes’.
-Being silly and immature together.
-The smell of his cologne.
-His back rubs.
-Having an adult conversation with someone in the house.
-Helping the kids with homework while I do house chores.
-Our own language/lingo.
-Spending 7 days a week with my kids.
-Having someone to share my good and bad news with.
-His muscles to lift heavy objects and move furniture.
-When I’m sick or injured (I’m clumsy), having someone to run errands, make dinner,    take the kids to their activities and laundry.
-Knowing that I have someone to grow old with.
-Our family summer vacations.
-Having someone ask how my day was and hearing about his.
-The security of a two-income household.
-Both of us watching the kids open presents on Christmas.
-Decorating the Christmas tree and talking about the significance of each ornament.
-The kids having both of us together at their birthday parties.
-How easy it was to get things done and being a ‘team’.
-His health insurance.
-Having someone clean out the vacuum cleaner (ha ha).
-Having someone to help with car maintenance.
-Fixing things around the house.
-Helping me take care of the dogs and their vet appointments.
-Sitting down as a family at dinner and hearing about the kids’ day
-Sitting on the deck and drinking a beer on nice summer evenings
-And most of all: Missing him.

~t


Not-So-Holy Family

Wikimedia Commons

In the Catholic tradition, today is the Solemnity of the Holy Family. This morning at Mass, the homily really struck me; the Spirit called me higher in my own life: fatherhood, marriage, my responsibility as the head of the family, and so on.

During the homily and after, not once did I try and justify myself. Normally I would only pick and choose what to apply to my own situation, in my mind knowing that my wife is a non-believer and that’s why my kids are not being raised in the Catholic faith.

On the contrary.

Amen, I was saying to myself, listening to the points that were being driven home by the priest. I’m gonna start getting my kids involved in my parish. I’m gonna live out my faith to the very best of my ability so my wife will see the Holy Spirit in me.

All these are good things, right?

Well, before I even walked through the door after getting home from Mass, my wife blurted, “You need to fix the refrigerator ASAP. It’s not cooling properly. Call your brother.”

I always go to my younger brother for any handyman-related problem. A firefighter/paramedic, he has that manly “gift” that somehow bypassed me.

Before I called him, I took a drink of bottled water from the fridge. It seemed cold enough. Then I opened the freezer and took out one of those plastic bricks that substitutes for ice in our cooler when we go on picnics. “It looks like it’s working.”

That set my wife off the deep end.

So there I was in a yelling match with her while the kids were in the very next room playing. You’re really putting today’s homily into practice, I kept thinking to myself.

Without playing the blame game, let’s just say that I could have prevented the huge argument.

A heart check from God? Probably. It really sucks, though. What sucks most is that I haven’t seemed to learn anything from our 12+ years together.

Like the rock band Extreme lamented in the 90s: “Am I ever gonna change?”

~t

 


Picture-Perfect Catholic Couples

I’m sitting here in front of the computer feeling dejected. How did this happen? Probably being confined to bed rest for the past four days hasn’t helped.

But what about the nice family dinner we had tonight? There we go. It’s balanced out now.

No, wait. the picture-perfect Catholic families who I unfriended on Facebook. It’s their fault, attending every parish function in their Sunday finest; praying the Rosary out loud on the living room floor every. Single. Night.

Happily.

Unified.

Yuck.

What I wouldn’t give to have a Catholic wife. One that wouldn’t dismiss images of the crucifix with the wave of a hand: I just don’t understand that, she utters, passing my bloody and pathetic God on the cross. How gross. They should ban those things.

The kids were “christened” in a Shinto shrine. They cannot go through catechism classes at my parish because it’s “too weird.”

Picture-perfect Catholic families: Count your blessings.

Picture-perfect single Catholics: Don’t you dare marry anyone other than a faithful Catholic.

Lukewarm pew-warmers who show up for cultural reasons: Get your heads out of your rectal cavities and get with the program. There’s more. Lots more.

Don’t end up like Topaz: carrying a full-grown paralyzed woman on my back while trying to survive The Hunger Games. (You’re comparing your wife to a paralyzed deadweight? That’s not very Catholic.)

Shut up and go back inside your glass house.

Oh, back to my introduction.

What about the Xanax I took to make me feel alive like living? That went straight out the window as soon as you caught hell for giving the kids an after-dinner snack. I hate it when she stares me down.

I put up with seven years of people staring me down in that giant Pachinko hall they call Tokyo.

Husbands, don’t yell at your wife and kids to hurry up in the morning as you’re all getting ready for church. Wives, don’t nag at your husbands for taking too long to get ready for church in the morning.

Just be thankful that you share the same faith. The same religion.

And count your lucky stars that you’re not trying to live out that God-awful “Coexist” bumper sticker.

~t


Sunday Musings: Weekend Campout

 

Credit: Microsoft images

A few weeks ago, my sons and I had the opportunity to go on a weekend father-and-son campout with my parish youth group.

Surprisingly, my wife didn’t object when I asked her if I could start taking our sons to a Sunday afternoon youth group. At first our kids didn’t quite fit in since they’re not being raised in the most Catholic of households. Before bed, my kids and I pray the Hail Mary, and we read a Bible story each night in my oldest son’s My Little Bible.

With this being my very first outdoor Mass, and having to corral my two muddy little boys through the whole thing, I thought that it would make for some Sunday musings.

 

1. Watching Clark Kent Change into Superman

I thought it was cool that the two young priests put on their vestments among us since there was no sacristy at the campgrounds. It was kind of like a behind-the-scenes moment that I probably won’t see very often.

 

2. The “Choir”

Mothers and daughters, how we missed you.

 

3. The Spirit of God Was Alive and Well

Missals being blown off the lectern, altar cloth billowing in the wind, ball caps flying across the seats. Oh, and the now-infamous highlight of the Mass for the kids: watching some poor family’s tent being blown into the lake directly behind the altar.

 

4. A Scary Cave Experience

The homily was really gripping. The Gospel text was John 9:1-41 which was about Jesus healing a man who was born blind. The priest, a native of Arkansas, shared a personal account of exploring some of the state’s many underground caverns.

He described one cave as a five-level maze. Sure enough, his helmet light wasn’t fully charged, and it died at the wrong time. I wouldn’t want to imagine the fright as he tried to find his way out of the total darkness. Eventually, he saw a tiny speck of daylight far off into the distance. Relief flooded over him as he made his way to the light.

Needless to say, it put the Gospel reading into full perspective for me. You know, “blind but now I see” and all that.

 

5. Feeding Frenzy

No tabernacle = nowhere to place the Eucharist after Mass. I suppose the priests erred on the side of caution, because after communion, both of them stood at the altar for a very long time consuming all the leftover hosts. I bet there were a hundred extras that had to be consumed before Mass could continue. Talk about an awkward moment.

~t


And God Said No

Credit: Alexandre Buisse

My wife, who is not a Christian, reluctantly agreed to attend a baptismal class for our youngest son. I figured she would be bored out of her mind: The hour-long class would be full of Catholic terminology regarding a sacrament that Ayako had no clue about.

And there would be praying.

That evening, I found the courage to glance over at Ayako at some point during the class, and, sure enough, her eyes were glazed over. “How are you doing?” I asked meekly.

No response.

I got worried. The whole idea of baptizing our children was mine. I was the reason we were all here on a weeknight instead of at home in our highly-structured routine.

In my mind, I tried to hurry along the class so that I wouldn’t feel like I was keeping my wife hostage inside a Catholic church. Just a few more minutes, right? I kept asking myself nervously.

After 90 minutes, we were dismissed. Leaving Ayako with both kids, who were going stir crazy by then, I went up to the individuals in charge of the baptismal class to ask some questions.

Outside in the parking lot, I expected Ayako to either give me the silent treatment or start complaining about wasting her time. Instead, the first words out of her mouth were: “I liked that prayer.”

“Which one?”

“The one at the beginning. It sounded like a poem.”

This is a very good sign! I thought, shocked that she actually enjoyed something about the class.

I went home and punched in some key words on the computer; I had no idea what the poem was called or anything. That’s why God gave us Google, I reminded myself.

Ayako even wanted me to print a copy for her which she now reads every night before going to bed.

The moral of this story? God is in control. He can work wonders. He changed a big fool such as me, and He can surely convert the heart of a tough little non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist Japanese woman. Just not according to my timetable.

Anyway, here is the poem that I tracked down. It’s called “When God Says No” by Claudia Minden Welsz.

 

I asked God to take away my pride,
and God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away,
but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
and God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is,
while her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.”
He said patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.”
He said He gives blessings,
happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,
and God said, “No.”
He said, “Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow,
and God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own,
but He will prune me to make it fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me,
and God said, “Yes.”
He gave me His only Son, who died for me.
And I will be in Heaven someday
because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others
as much as He loves me,
and God said,
“Ah, finally, you have the idea.”

~t