Well, that’s not MY dad


Just a little over a week ago was Father's Day. (Seriously? Then why the hell is my Hai Karate jug still on empty?)


And this Father's Day, as most Father's Days, I found myself questioning my adequacy as a father.


I went to church and it didn't get any better. Pastor Doug spoke pretty passionately about all the things a good father is and all the things a good father does. He quoted scripture and he wove in some great anecdotes and, with every word, I was more convinced that I have completely missed the boat on this fatherhood thing.


Then they played this video. 


Now I know Trevor a little bit and he's a wonderful guy. I really respect him. So, if you believe me when I tell you what a good guy Trevor is today, and you know the frame of mind I was in (see paragraphs above), then you would assume that this video would have sent me over the edge and left me wallowing in a depressing soup of guilt and parental inadequacy.


Actually though, I went a different direction with it. I'm not sure how or when during this video I shifted my point of view, but at some point I quit thinking about myself as a father and started thinking about my own father.


Every point Trevor would make, I would tick off on a mental tally sheet. "Nope. That doesn't sound like my dad." Pretty soon, that mental tally sheet was looking pretty messy.


And that's what made me feel better. See, Trevor has his criteria for what constitutes a great dad. And Doug has his. And the Bible has its take as well.


But none of them know my dad. My dad's grumpy. And he used profanity when I was young. And sometimes he would get frustrated (with Mom, or Christine, or the dog, or whatever) and raise his voice. He's pretty smart, but he certainly doesn't know everything (though you really can't tell him that). He wasn't always absolutely consistent in his discipline.


And through it all, he's been awesome. He had prepackaged little bits of wisdom that I never thought were applicable. He would try and tell stories from "when he was my age" and I never related to any of them in the least. But through all my eye rolling, I totally loved him (even at the time) for trying. I loved that he was in there swinging and doing his best.


Those are the things I catch myself doing. And those are the eye rolls I get. So maybe, just maybe, I'm not doing so badly after all?




Not sure what to make of this


I'm sort of numb right now about the Bin Laden news. I'm not sure how I thought I'd feel when this day came (I'd actually doubted it would ever come), but this sure wasn't it.


The man was the architect, the inspiration and the key driver behind so may pointless, tragic civilian deaths. (And I do make a bit of a distinction between non-combatants killed in the legitimate pursuit of a combatant objective and pure, civilian-targeted terrorism.)


I've never questioned for a second our need to pursue this man and bring him to justice. And, as details start to come out about this operation, I'm amazed, overwhelmed and totally impressed with…



  • Our President's commitment to pulling this off in spite of the Pakistanis and his ability to say, "No, we didn't say a word to them about this op we were about to pull off in the suburbs of their capital… But geez, they're still great allies and some of the stuff we worked with them on helped us get to this place." A few years ago I had my doubts about Obama and his international relations experience – and especially how he would handle counterterrorism. But, in this instance, it certainly looks like he played his hand as well as that creepy guy in the hoodie and sunglasses who's always on those poker tournaments on TV.

  • Our intelligence community. I love the patience and the ability to work a source. I love the little ironies like the fact that OBL was so paranoid he wouldn't let anything with an electron get close to him for fear of being tracked… And that's one of the things that led to us finding him. (Hmm… Huge compound. Luxurious. Eight-times bigger than anything else in the neighborhood. With no internet connection, no phone lines, and no cellular activity? Let's check this place out.)

  • Our special ops troops. Two choppers in, without hassle from Pakistani air defenses, boots on the ground, firefight, target eliminated, up and out – no U.S. casualties. As much as it pains me to compliment the Navy, "Nicely done, SEALs."


But, and here's the rub, a human being is dead, A life has been ended. None of the 3,000 have been brought back to life. We just found the guy who masterminded it and "avenged" them.


I can be satisfied with that. But not jubilant. I can't see myself stumbling around Ground Zero in a drunken stupor chanting U.S.A., because a man has been killed. If we, as Americans, feel comfortable with this behavior, my question is, Are these the same Americans who shook their heads and mumbled about barbarism when disaffected Arabs were similarly jubilant about deaths in the United States?


Let me know if you think I'm wrong, but I just can't dance about a dead man.


Maybe that's it. Maybe I'd feel more jubilant if we'd brought him in alive. I remember being much more upbeat about Hussein's capture. It was easy, as a smug American, to see the humor in him being captured, ragged, dirty, scruffy, half-naked, hiding in a hold in the ground. Yea! We got him!


Then we put him on trial and we hung him. (Oh, wait, I mean the legitimately elected Iraqi government put him on trial and hung him.) Come to think of it, the day they hung Saddam I felt just about like this.


Weird. I don't THINK I'm an anti-death-penalty guy. I never have been before. And I guess I'm not now. I'm not sad that Osama Bin Laden is dead. I just don't think it's an excuse for cracking open a 12-pack of Red, White & Blue.




Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a tattoo?


WARNING: I'm probably going to be dropping some borderline sacrilegious stuff here before this post is finished. But I want to make it clear from the start that I have great big giant slabs of respect for the Mormon Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Assemblies of God, and all faithful practitioners thereof.


 


Adolescence is all about discovering yourself. And part of discovering yourself is trying on things that you’re pretty sure are going to freak your parents out. For me it was boxers that hung down below the end of my soccer shorts. For Corinne it was thermal long johns under her cheerleading uniform. And for Josie, evidently, it’s magic underwear.


No, I’m kidding. (They’re nowhere close to letting her wear temple garments yet.) Josie was baptized this past weekend into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


Okay, that was flippant and rude. I mean, like I said, I really do have respect for the LDS Church. I grew up with (and still hold) a reverent fear of the Catholic Church. And aside from the no booze thing, I think I'm getting along pretty well so far with the Assemblies of God.


Seriously.


I do have trouble with some of the doctrines, principles and practices of each. But each is an honest, passionate, faith-based route toward God. And, in the end, I think that’s the important thing. You gotta believe in something. As the brilliant Walter Sobchak put it, “Nihilists?! F*ck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”


I know that makes me sound kind of theologically wishy-washy. I guess my views on structured religion are influenced by my own fallible humanity. See, I’m an idiot. And I know I’m not alone in that. To one degree or another, we’re all idiots.


Soooo, while I do believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God*…I also believe that it was transcribed by humans. Passionate, reverent, faithful humans – but humans nonetheless.


I’m confident that God has spoken to quite a few humans (and probably a few dinosaurs too). And some of those humans probably got their parts right. Others probably garbled the translations a bit. Humans mess things up.


Problem is, we don’t know which parts are which. So the safest course is to assume it’s all divinely inspired and accurate but that some parts are just a little wacky. And where there’s wacky, you’ll get “smart” people who’ll insist on explaining things. And that’s where competing theologies begin to develop.


Given that, do I worry that Josie has chosen a church other than the one her mom and I attend? Honestly, no. (At least she’s choosing a church! I would love to see Erin come to the same conclusion.)


I do worry a little about her reasoning and her timing. Is she joining the church now in a star-crossed effort to hold onto her boyfriend as he packs for his mission trip? Seems likely to me.


But so what if she is? If it doesn’t work out with her boyfriend, she’s “wasted” many hours in church developing her own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Beats the heck out of squandering that same number of hours in front of the PS3 like her brothers would.


So congratulations, Josie! Your mom and I are both proud of you for expressing an interest in exploring faith. Just a word of advice though: don’t let this youthful rebellion thing off the hook quite so simply. As youthful rebellions go, I know you can (and you should) do better.


Being 19 should mean doing some stupid, fun stuff. I’m not requesting that you start dabbling in chemicals and prancing about promiscuously. I’d love it if your stupid fun stuff happened to also be safe and legal.


Dye your hair purple. Try Jeep skiing this winter. Cut classes and road trip to Chicago with friends for a long weekend. Find something so fun that you know you’re going to get yelled at for it…but it’s still worth doing.


As Gardner Barnes so eloquently put it, “Here’s to [you], and the privileges of youth!”


 


*I have respect for faithful followers of religions outside Christianity as well. I believe what I believe – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a good person who honestly lives by another creed will be damned to eternal misery for picking wrong.




Thank God for better offers


On the evening of Friday, June 16, 1994, my friend Scott Hyland stopped by the house. I don't remember if it was an unannounced drop in or just a quickly planned visit. I just remember it turned into a fantastic evening filled with good conversation, laughter, music and a couple of beers. And at the end of the evening, I was very glad he'd come.


The next day I was even more glad.


Because, for those of you who don't remember, June 16, 1994, was the evening when Al Cowlings drove his friend Orenthal James Simpson very slowly around the greater Los Angeles area for about two hours, followed by about 20 police cars and the eyeballs of every sad loser in the world who didn't have anything better to do on a Friday night than watch "breaking news" on TV.


If Scott hadn't come by, I'm pretty sure I would have been one of those losers. So thank you, God, for presenting better offers.


Last night was a similar deal. Some friends had a get together. Corinne (my completely insane wife…but that's a different story) and I attended and enjoyed a wonderful evening of talking, laughing, eating, drinking and enjoying weather that can't accurately be described as fall.


And one of the key advantages of this particular gathering on this particular evening was that it included no baseball fans. So it saved me the weeping anguish (or, even worse, resigned apathy) of watching this.


(sigh)


I just need to let go. I need to revise my expectations and clarify what baseball should mean to me. I should define the value that I find in baseball and eliminate the excesses that can evidently only lead to heartache.


Moving forward, baseball to me will be:



  • An optimistic and eagerly anticipated sign that; when spring training starts, spring is on its way.

  • An enjoyable radio soundtrack to a summer Friday evening barbecue or a Sunday afternoon garage project.

  • A beautiful way to blow a bunch of money at least once a year on tickets, parking and overpriced concessions.

  • Something to fill the sports scene until the NFL season has a chance to get into full swing.


I won't have any October expectations from Minnesota baseball in the future. I won't. I can't.


So thank you, Gina and Eric, for offering me a distraction last night. And thank you, Twins, for helping to make my summer great…but my fall miserable. (Don't you know that last part is supposed to be the Vikings' job?)




Dream on


It's going to be a long 8 weeks at church. Pastor Doug just launched a whole sermon series on dreams. And, while I'm sure it's going to be fascinating and spiritually valuable, it's going to be a pain in my ass.


See, I'm married to a dreamer. A visionary. A big-picture thinker who has the fantastic ability to see possibilities and potential.


Pick one

It's a gift I truly don't have. I really don't. I'm just not a dreamer – either literally or figuratively.


So I'll very rarely remember what I dream about at night. I know I dream. I just can't remember them – even right after I wake up. It's all gone.


But, beyond that, I'm just not that guy who latches onto a goal or an aspiration. I'm more the guy who can't get out of his own way long enough to see the possibilities.


I spend all my time dwelling on why that idea won't work. I spend way too much energy worrying about the things I don't know or the skills I don't have, rather than looking for ways to apply the assets that I do have.


I spent 10 years as an Army logistician. And even I can see the irony in the fact that, rather than being empowered by that experience, I'm more likely to be dragged down by it. "Oh, there's no way we could put together something like that. Do you have any idea all the details involved?…"


What I really should be doing is shutting my negative mouth and just doing what I do well…and let the possibilities open up from there. Just do one thing – my thing – and let that be the beginning. Don't worry about where it's going to take us. (Hell, Corinne'll figure that part out!) Just realize that nothing's going to happen till I start the ball rolling.


Wake up and start dreaming, Greg.




If anyone could appreciate the importance of a good drink, it was that fish


Gravestone
Okay, here's your ethical dilemma for the day.

On a fantastically sunny, calm summer evening, with a crackling fire burning cheerfully and the beloved warmth of family all around, which is the more virtuous path:

• Should one risk the accidental spillage of a cold, hoppy, well-deserved beer by placing it precariously in the grass?

• Or should one reach over to the pet graveyard tree and metaphorically invite a fallen friend to join in the revelry?

Molly was thoroughly offended. ("That's Rainbow's tombstone!") But I'm not sure she understands that this was a good beer. (I want to say Fat Tire, but it looks a little dark. Let's just say not PBR.)

Plus, I think I knew Rainbow pretty well. He and I shared more than a few laughs while I'd give him fresh water and scrub out his little glass fishbowl. That was a fish who liked to unwind and who appreciated the value of a refreshing drink now and again. Not like that uptight jerk, Mr. Wiggles. Boy, did that guy have a stick up his gill.




Click here. My kids’ happiness depends on it.


When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’*

So this is my channeling of Demosthenes. This is my call to action. This is my stirring, ‘Win one for the Gipper’ speech.

Ready?

Please invest three minutes of your life into watching the embedded video below.

Pretty please?




What’s that? What the heck are you watching? It’s a church youth group project starring Molly, Claudia, and cousin Alyssa. It was shot and directed by our very own Josie. (Please don’t ask me what the Glee version of Safety Dance has to do with church youth group. Just go with it.)

There are four teams locked in mortal combat right now for the highest total number of views. (Hey, that’s quite enough of the depressingly cynical comments on mortal combat in the name of religion, jerks. It’s just a youth group video contest.)

So thanks for watching. You’ve made our girls very happy. Want to make them even happier? Watch it again.


I think the kids have until Friday, Aug. 20. So watch it early and watch it often. (It makes a wonderful stretch break at work. Seriously. If your boss gets after you over three lousy minutes, give me a call and I’ll go to bat for you.)


 


 


 


*Love this line from Ogilvy on Advertising. Classic.