Tag Archives: children

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


Send Them an Angel: The Less Fortunate at Christmas

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I was driving through a neighborhood street on my way to church about a month ago. I noticed a house that seemed deserted: The garage door was up, revealing torn and battered walls. At one time, the front door was open, revealing an empty living room with battered, torn-up walls.

I thought nothing of it. Just another foreclosure. And I continued passing the house on my way to and from Mass every week.

Recently, though, there was a mountain of stuff (rather, junk) piled in front of the house, taking up the whole front part of the driveway and side yards. What a friggin’ mess, I thought. This is a complete eyesore! Where is HOA when you need them?

On my way back from Mass a couple weeks ago, something made me turn my car around and go back to the house. I saw a Dora the Explorer pink kids’ suitcase sticking out of the rubble of broken furniture, scraps of wood, and old papers and files. I even saw an old battered photo. (I couldn’t bring myself to look more closely at it; it was heartbreaking enough to know that someone’s memory was among this.)

While surveying the destruction, I noticed a stuffed animal and a pink play kitchen. Obviously a little girl had lived here. Where was she now? Where was her family?

One time in college, when I was a Bible study leader for a non-denominational church, I contemplated quitting because I felt I didn’t have what it took to “lead” others spiritually. One young guy in my group, a former Satanist and drug addict, told me I belonged with them as their leader because I “felt.”

I felt.

In other words, I had a gift of seeing people for how they are and accepting them. However, that has come to be my curse. I feel so much for others that it consumes me like a fire.

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What I was seeing in the pile of a family’s discarded life affected me like nothing else. My heart began hurting for the family, especially for the poor little girl who was probably forced to uproot suddenly with her family.

I guess my point to all this is that, had I not stopped my car, I would never have seen those mounds of “junk” as anything other than junk. By stepping outside of my own selfishness, I entered a spiritual state that, I believe, showed me a glimpse of what Jesus sees.

Even if it were .00000001% of the beatific vision of heaven, it was enough to make me lose sleep and to be preoccupied day after day about this poor family.

So, during this holiday season, whether you’re surrounded by family, friends, presents, and tables of food; or whether you’re alone in an empty house with no Christmas warmth, please pray for those whose lives aren’t as blessed as yours.

And please pray for that family wherever they may be.

~t

Photos by Topaz


Remembering Thanksgiving Past

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. It’s a holiday known for gorging oneself with turkey and pumpkin pie, but, more importantly, it’s a time when families reunite.

For most of my life, we all celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandma’s house. It was special in that we got to see extended family members again. For me and my sister, however, it was a time to be with our grandma. Her home was always so warm and loving just like she was. She would spend the whole morning in the kitchen preparing the huge feast. When it was time to eat, grandma was the last person to fill her plate because she wanted to be sure everyone was taken care of first. Still, we often had to coax her into sitting down to eat and rest.

A few years ago, after grandma passed away, my little niece wrote a school essay about her which I have included below.

Grandma’s death greatly impacted all of us. She is dearly missed, and Thanksgiving and Christmas will never quite be the same without her.

(click on images to enlarge)

~t


I’m Not Dangerous, Folks

Credit: morguefile

This past Sunday was my first time as lead teacher for Children’s Liturgy of the Word at my parish. I’m pretty sure I’m the first male to volunteer as lead teacher. In my diocese, there must always be two adults in the classroom (or one adult and two teens — according to the diocese, 2 teens = 1 adult).

I felt the calling to join this important ministry, mainly because I am an educator by trade, and what better way to teach children about Christ and His Church than to be involved in CLW.

As I led the children out of the sanctuary and into the classroom, I noticed no adults or teens in our single-file line. I felt uncomfortable enough having to stand up in front of hundreds of parishioners, so there was no way I was going to yell out for help.

When we got to the classroom, there wasn’t one adult waiting, nor were there two teens waiting for me. Rather, two teens and five adults, including one sister (nun), stood against the back wall, all seven sets of eyes staring right at me. My paranoia and anxiety immediately went into overdrive: They think I’m a big, mean pervert, and all seven of them are waiting to pounce on me the moment I make a sudden move. Sister is here so she can strangle me with her thick rosary beads.

It turned out, of course, that I had nothing to worry about. I still wonder why there were so many “chaperones” there on my first day, though. I mean, I know that my gender and size can be intimidating (6’5″/192 cm and 220 pounds/100 kg), but it doesn’t mean I’m dangerous.

I remember reading an account of an African American father who was teaching his young son about growing up in the United States. One thing he said really stuck with me: “Son, when you get older, be sure not to run into an open elevator, especially if there is a lone white woman in it.”

I am digressing a bit, but I can relate to what the father said. While I am Caucasian, I often startle people with my presence — especially when I lived in Japan.

One time I was walking briskly from a train station in a residential part of Tokyo at night. I was trying to find a friend’s apartment. However, a young Japanese lady happened to be about 25 yards (23 meters) in front of me. She took one look back, screamed, and did her best to sprint in her high heels.

I had never been so insulted. Could I blame her, though? Should I have placed myself in her situation? I guess so. But still

The Children’s Liturgy went well. The children, between 4 and 9 years old, weren’t the least bit afraid of me. I taught them about the parable of the mustard seed from that Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 17:5-6):

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

I probably learned just as much about this passage as the children did. Children’s Liturgy of the Word is great because it’s broken down in a way in which kids can relate. I talked about how faith is a gift from God, and that faith enables us to believe in Jesus and in His Church.

If we start out with just a tiny bit of faith, we can ask God to make our faith grow, and He will do it. Our faith can also grow when we obey our parents and teachers, and when we help others who are in need.

As I led the children back into the sanctuary after the priest’s homily, I stood proudly as I waited for the children to disperse and find their parents in the pews.

I was happy, but mainly I was relieved: not because it was over, but because everyone was assured that I was not a menace to their children.

I’m just a giant teddy bear on steroids.

~t


Celebrate Life

During dinner last night, my wife, Ayako, suddenly asked, “Do you want to celebrate life tomorrow?”

I was taken by surprise. “You remembered?!”

“Of course! You think I would forget?”

How could she not forget? I put her through hell nearly one year ago. My attempt was on August 24, and I never came home that night. I had fallen asleep in my car and awoke the next morning after totaling my car.

Ayako had no idea where I was or what had happened to me. For all she knew, I was dead somewhere. I always called her when I would be late or if I had to stop somewhere. For her not to hear from me at all, and then having to go to bed with all those questions and fear in her mind must have been excruciating.

It turned out that she and my two little boys went driving around looking for my car on the side of the road all night Friday. Ayako called every hospital on the route between our home and my campus. On Saturday, still without hearing from me, and without a word from the police or hospital, she kept the appointment that we had made for the Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshop. My sons love going to the free clinic where kids can build their own wooden toys. She even took the kids to the park afterwards which was what we always did. Later, I learned that Ayako didn’t want to break up the routine and risk upsetting our boys.

The thing is, after she knew that I was alive (I had answered the phone in my drugged state without saying much), it pained her even more that she didn’t have any details whatsoever.

Anyway, I never expected Ayako to bring up the anniversary of my suicide attempt. This weekend, we refer to it as Celebrate Life Day after she had coined the phrase the night before.

We were at Lowe’s again this morning for another Build and Grow Workshop. The Halloween displays were out, probably just like last year when Ayako brought the kids by herself. Since my oldest son is now seven and able to express himself more, I asked him a question. “Do you remember last year when the Halloween stuff was out and daddy wasn’t with you when you built that Shrek onion carriage?” None of us ever spoke about that tragic time; we just wanted to put it behind us and move on.

“Yes, I remember.”

“Did mommy cry at all?”

He thought about it for a moment. “No, but she didn’t feel good because she didn’t know where you were.”

That was all I needed to know.

We celebrated life by having lunch at my favorite sushi restaurant. Again, out of the blue, my wife turned to me during lunch and said with a smile, “I’m really glad you’re still with us.”

“Oh, I am, too. I’m sorry for putting you through all that. I wasn’t in my right mind.”

I don’t know if we’ll continue the tradition of Celebrate Life Day. Maybe not, I would guess. But we sure had a great time today.

~t

(photos by Topaz)


The Downside of Being Holy

Credit: Creative Commons

Living a life fully devoted to God is difficult. In a previous post, I mentioned that, since I had nowhere else to go, I decided to step it up a few notches from being a lukewarm pew-warmer to someone who totally surrendered himself to God (Revelation 3:16).

I have also written about my Josephite marriage with my wife. Basically we are friendly roommates who are raising our two kids together — nothing more. I met with my therapist this past weekend, and I told her that I came across this phrase on a Catholic radio program. Trying to justify the reason that my wife and I have been celibate for nearly five years, I told my therapist that my wife and I have this Josephite kind of marriage — end of discussion.

I even told my therapist that I was okay with this type of arrangement. Actually… I’m not sure if I am; that’s just what I tell myself in order to try and overcome the frustration and emptiness. Five years is a long time. Since it was basically my wife’s decision (a Josephite marriage needs to be mutual), I just got plain worn out and tired of harping on the subject of sex with my wife. I really would like to think that it is God’s will, and I pray and cry out to Him all the time to show me, but the only response I get is… nothing. Just continued abstinence.

My previous therapist used to spend half of each session drilling it into my head that we were not normal, and he actually gave me homework: to have sex with my wife and report back to him about it. I soon left him and found another therapist that I felt more comfortable with and who didn’t keep pressing the issue. However, my new therapist does say that it’s not normal. Duh. I already knew that. I’ve tried everything: talking with my wife, asking her if there’s something about me she doesn’t like, asking if there’s something about her that she doesn’t like, telling her that we are not being a normal married couple, etc. It is to no avail.

So, I chalk it up to being God’s will. I have thought about being a priest since I love my faith and I love helping people, but (another duh), I’m married. Unless my wife passes away or we become divorced, it ain’t gonna happen.

I get extremely guilty when the thought crosses my mind of her dying early. Sometimes I have thought about our getting a divorce, but I couldn’t live without seeing my kids every day; plus, I can’t bear the thought of another man raising my kids. Yes, they will always be my kids, as my therapist says, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Well, it looks like you’re stuck, Topaz.

By the grace and power of God, I have overcome pornography and masturbation and no longer have any inclination for either. However, lust and impure thoughts constantly haunt me. Most of the time I don’t allow myself to dwell on these, but sometimes I do.

The bottom line is that I’m lonely. I live with a slim, attractive woman and I literally can’t touch her. It’s torture. I see women at church and long for a marriage with a good, faithful Catholic to share my life with. I see images on Facebook and other sites of a man and woman holding hands or hugging, and my heart aches so much. Oh, how I desire affection and intimacy.

I used to fall asleep at night imagining my soul mate curled up next to me. All that did was incite temptation, though. Now, I imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary, my mother in the order of grace, sitting in a chair beside my bed, her arm around my shoulders, whispering to me that everything will be all right. It always helps me drift off to sleep.

I’ve been a Catholic for three years, but I’ve only been a faithful, practicing one for the past 12 months. Since my mindset has become more in line with God’s, I no longer look at a woman’s chest, backside, or legs. Instead, I notice qualities like hairstyle, personality, and a sincere smile, and it makes my heart race just as quickly. My point is that I’m still struggling; it’s just in a different, non-sinful (?) way.

I refuse to give in to impurity. God has taught me how to channel my stubbornness into my battle with spiritual darkness. Instead of taking cold showers when I’m hit with lust — because that would be a lot of showering — I literally brace myself and pray until my hormones die down.

Some Christian leaders say that the only way to overcome pornography and masturbation is to get an accountability partner. I think that is very wise. However, I overcame by my sheer hatred of always sliding down the mountain after nearly reaching the top every time. I was sick and tired of not growing in Christ. I longed for a better life, one that I read about in the Bible over and over again but just couldn’t believe was possible for me. I’m not saying my “do it alone” method will work for everyone, but it did for me.

I would never consider infidelity. I love God too much and am faithful to my marriage vows. Maybe God is preparing me for the priesthood down the road. I’m in no way saying that I’m a saint, but maybe my celibate marriage will help me focus more on God and His will for my life. I will keep praying that He continues to unfold His plan for me. I guess I’m on a need-to-know basis with the Almighty. It sure would be nice to know, though.

~t


It Was a Good Week

Credit: Stock Free Images

…nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A.

                                                           –Ice Cube, “It Was a Good Day”

I really enjoy reading blogs. Not just the ones on WordPress, but in other regions of the blogosphere as well.

I have to admit, I am drawn to those that are humorous or that cheer me up. No offense to those who have dark, serious content (ahem); it appeals to a part of me for sure. The other part of me, though, really wants to feel good and smile sometimes (Yes, I have been known to smile from time to time.).

I was kicked to the curb recently by yet another psychiatrist who claimed that my particular health insurance was a “headache.” I’ve also been having lots of trouble adjusting to my new medication: I am constantly in a daze, and a few days ago I mistook a red traffic light for a four-way stop. Luckily my wife was beside me; without her scream, something terrible could have happened.

Back to the point of this post. I wanted to write about the positive things that have been going on in my life. God reminds me ever so often to count my blessings.

This was a good week. For one, I was off the whole week, my stretch of R & R before the fall semester begins later this month. My sons are still on summer break, so we’ve had a terrific time. Some of the highlights include: spending the day at a water park, one of the few places that all four of us really gel as a family — and where my wife and I laugh and play like kids; having an afternoon snackfest at Starbucks — another place where my wife and I forget our “problems” and chit-chat endlessly while sipping our Frappuccinos, our kids silent as they wolf down lemon pound cake and double fudge brownies; a trip to the aquarium (My sons are obsessed with sharks, so watching them squeal with delight made my wife and me extremely happy.); and yesterday I was able to attend church for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary since I normally work until late at night on Thursdays.

Sure, there were moments when things weren’t “perfect,” but I chose not to dwell on those times. Plus, the enjoyable family time we had far outweighed the problems. I officially go back to work on Monday, so I still have a few days left of my break. I did have to take some naps in the middle of the day due to my medication, however; but, overall, it was a really good week.

Years ago, I attended a teaching conference in Seattle. The highlight of that weekend was visiting the cemetery where Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, are buried. I went there as an excited tourist, snapping photos of the beautiful headstones, but I left in a much more somber mood after reading the inscription etched on Brandon’s grave:

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

So, even if you’re going through a lot and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, count your blessings. Savor every moment with loved ones. Find things that put a smile on your face. Because, in life, unexpected things happen.

~t