Tag Archives: family

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


Just Before I Go: A Must-See for All of You Who Are Like Me

  

  
I was at Target recently with my sons to look for a Lego Batmobile set (which, my youngest learned in horror, had since been discontinued). While the kids were playing games on iPad demos in the store (How they quickly forgot about Batman), I took a look at the newest DVDs on a nearby shelf.

Not surprisingly, none of the titles rang a bell since I practically live under a rock. However, one title caught my eye: Just Before I Go. The actor’s melancholy expression and the tag line, Ending It All Was Only The Beginning, led me to believe that it dealt with suicide. Sure enough, I flipped the DVD over and read the synopsis. Sounded intriguing.

There was only one problem: Seann William Scott. Really?! He plays a total idiot in all his movies. Nevertheless, I jotted down the title in my iNotes (or whatever it’s called) to watch it at some point.

Tonight was the night. Friday after work. Wife and kids gone. Amazon rental. A nice bowl of Lucky Charms for dinner. I was set. I can always turn it off when the flick gets juvenile, I thought.

But… It didn’t.

Not an Oscar contender by any means, but it was GOOD. All the poignancy that I was hoping for.

**SPOILER ALERT**

I even started blubbering like a baby when Scott’s character met his deceased father on the lake during a near-death experience. 

**SPOILER OVER**

The movie is about a man who, before committing suicide, goes back to his hometown to confront some painful childhood memories “just before he goes.” I don’t want to reveal too much, except that this is not a screwball comedy. It tackles several thorny issues effectively I think.

Bottom line: If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Do it for me even. Screw what the film critics say about the film. They get paid to tear things apart. 

I loved the Emerson quote at the end:

When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars.

Just look up and they will always be there.

~t


Laughter is the Best Medicine

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I recently read this article about a type of OCD called scrupulosity. It’s basically the fear of sin or punishment from God. The article is definitely worth the read.

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s suddenly okay to throw caution to the wind and start sinning. Far from it. However, the article got me thinking about how uptight I may be; I tend to be a living example of the ironic process theory: If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you are automatically going to (like you did just now).

While I continue to deal with habitual sin, I’m learning to make an effort to enjoy life and trust God as I go. For instance, my two young sons and I have been playing soccer in the backyard after dinner each night, and it’s so much fun! I have also come across some comics and memes on the Internet that make me smile.

Laughter and fun times are a welcome reprieve from the daily spiritual battles that we face.

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Last night, my sons and I were trying to steal the ball from each other in our scrimmage. As we battled against each other, my kids were giggling like crazy. Afterwards, my oldest, who is quite serious and emotional, suddenly asked me, “Daddy, why is laughing good for us?”

Taken aback, I replied, “Well, because it makes us feel good. Plus, we forget our problems while we’re laughing.” It was one of those moments where I inadvertently taught myself something.

So, in the spirit of all this, I have posted some comics and things that I’ve run across in the past few weeks. They are entertaining to me, but, after all, my sense of humor is a bit twisted. 😉

 

 

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If you’re a fan of this series, I apologize!

 

 

Since I’m an English teacher, I particularly like this one:

 

 

This one isn’t a comic, but it has really spoken to me during the past week. My dear sister in Christ, Jet, recently posted it on her blog:

 

 

Have a great week, and remember to laugh periodically.

 

~t

 


I Should Be Happy

I should be happy with my life because I’ve found God and His Church, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have two healthy, happy sons, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have a wife who is honest and loves our family, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I have a full-time job, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I am healthy, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because my family and I aren’t homeless or starving, but I’m not.

I should be happy with my life because I can just change my thinking and be positive, but I can’t.

I should be happy with my life because I can make changes and please my wife, but I can’t.

I shouldn’t be happy without my life because all my pain and suffering can end right here and now, but I am.

 


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


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)


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