Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parable of the Mustard Dog

“Dad, where does mustard come from?”

I chuckled at my younger son’s question, coming after Sunday school last weekend. “So let me guess. Did you talk about the parable of the mustard seed in class?”

My son acknowledged it and then asked the something else. “So what’s the mustard seed about?”

“Well,” I said, feeling a teaching moment, “the mustard seed is small. However, after you plant it, it grows into a huge plant. It means with a little faith, you can do big things. Jesus once said that if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed you could move a mountain.”

He tilted his head. “Well, if you get a big plant do you get a lot more seeds?”

I mulled it over. It made sense. “I think so. We can look it up when we get home?”

“Okay. What’s for lunch?”

“How about hot dogs?”

He nodded with a grin. “Can I have mustard on them?” “Sure,” I said and it was my turn to smile. My boys love a lot of different foods, but neither of them has ever put mustard on anything. They eat their hot dogs with chili and their hamburgers with ketchup. I’ve always wondered why they didn’t like mustard. As a kid, I loved the basic kind of mustard. I used to mix it with ketchup, calling it “muschup,” and put it on French fries. As an adult, I grew to enjoy more traditional, spicy types. Still, up until that morning, both my kids avoided it and nothing I could do would change their mind. If a parable was enough to make one of them try it, I would forever think “The Lord does work in mysterious ways.”

When lunchtime arrived, I quickly prepared hot dogs for both my kids. We squirted some mustard on my younger son’s plate so he could dip the dogs into it. He took one taste.

His face told the story. I hoped I was wrong. “Do you like it?”

He shook his head and I sighed. He’d tried it. No go. He did finish his hot dogs. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t give it a second taste.

I thought it was over until he asked. “Dad, did people in the Bible eat mustard?”

“Probably.” He nodded again and I said nothing more. It wasn’t the time to push it. I knew the seed had been planted for another day.

On Japan
A good friend of ours, Noriko Okubo, has co-founded a charity that targets helping children hurt by the devastating events in Japan. If you have a moment, please click here to be taken to that website. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thinking of Japan

I don’t remember much of that morning. I do remember turning on the TV and seeing the news. When the headlines flashed, I immediately ran upstairs to wake up my wife and tell her what happened.

“Honey, a magnitude 8.9 quake struck northeast Japan.”

My wife was already rolling out of bed. “Yes, I know. I could hear the TV up here.”

I don’t know how much time we spent watching TV that day. We were glued to it with every moment we had. And as the evening drew on, we stayed up late watching the news.

Over the course of the next few days we were able to contact friends and family. We also received well wishes from many friends here, hoping that everyone we knew was okay. We were sure family members were fine. We don't know anyone in the area in the area that was hardest hit. My wife does have an uncle in Tokyo and we have friends there as well. No one injured. We have other family and friends in Osaka (west southwest of Tokyo) on the main island, and in Fukuoka, on the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands.
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Still, our hearts went out to those enduring the suffering. For me, I kept thinking about the passenger trains that were washed out to sea. Riding along the Pacific coastline of Japan is a beautiful ride. I can’t imagine what people went through as they watched the tsunami coming toward them and realized there was no way out.

I’ve added a few links for donations, if anyone is interested. Below that, I’ve set up links of my family’s trip to Japan back in 2008. I hope you enjoy the beauty of the place I once called home for four years.

For the Japanese embassy’s website, click here.

My good friend, Jeannie Lin, has self-published a Japan-related short story titled "Pieces of Paper." Proceeds will go to relief efforts. Click here to go to Jeannie's website.

For an auction from Children’s Authors and Illustrators, click here.

For a Time news article that offers various suggestions for giving, click here.

If you can, please give.

Below is Day-by-Day review of our trip in 2008. As I've combined two blogs into one, there are other columns in between. I hope it's not confusing.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Not to Throw Out Ham

“Dad, you made me a ham sandwich.”

I slapped my hand to my forehead as I realized the implication of what my nine-year old son had just said. It’s not that he doesn’t like ham sandwiches. He eats them all the time. But when I made his lunch that Friday morning, I’d forgotten that it’s Lent.

My younger son is preparing for his First Holy Communion. For those of you who aren’t Catholic, that’s when you can accept bread and wine in church. (Actually, there’s a lot more to it than that, but this isn’t meant to be a religious dissertation.) He’s been preparing for two years and he will be able to finally take communion in May. So, he’s been learning a lot.

One of the things he’s been focused on is the “no meat on Fridays rule” for Lent. So, with a baseball game last Friday night and knowing we would be ordering pizza for dinner, he knew there was only one option. My sausage and pepperoni loving son split the toppings with his brother, half pineapple and half extra cheese.

I was immediately embarrassed when I realized what had happened. However, my wife had a different reaction. “What did you do with the ham?”

“I tossed it.”

“You just ate bread?”

My wife and I were both a little perplexed. I appreciated his dedication, but I didn’t want him to starve in school. However, my little guy was determined. He also must have noticed the expression on our faces.

“Well, I ate half of the ham.”

The updated response brought a mixture of relief and guilt, but my wife and I have been discussing it since. What meatless entrée could he take? Peanut butter sandwiches are out. He has allergies. We could try it with a grilled cheese but it might not be good by lunch time. A cheese sandwich on its own is dull.

We know we have until Friday to figure this out. However, my little guy is focused on bigger things.

Like dinner.

Realizing that fish can be on the menu, he's asking for sushi every Friday until after Easter. We told him that defeats the purpose. To him, sushi is like steak. It’s a way to celebrate. And it makes no sense to abstain from meat, only to substitute it with something that makes your mouth water anyway.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Teenage Gentleman

I have the pleasure of working from home several times during the week. I have to admit I enjoy this perk, especially in times of skyrocketing gas prices.

However, I also enjoy it for another reason. I get to take my kids to school.

For my younger son, I usually find myself dropping him off at a normal time. This means I line up with the other parents, climbing that small hill to the zone where a couple of teachers wait at the side entrance to make sure that the kids who are let off make it into the building.

For my older son, though, it’s a different story.

My older son, a music lover, goes to school early to participate. This means when I take my 13-year old to school, there isn’t any faculty around. On those days I wait until he gets inside the school before I leave. I notice I’m not the only parent who does this. Sometimes, he waves me away and tells me to get going. Most of the time he just puts up with me.

Last Friday, though. I noticed something else. As my son approached the school door, there were two girls coming up behind him. I guessed they were 8th graders. (They were both taller than my son and they looked older.) Then I realized my son noticed them, too. At the door, my son stopped, pulled open the door, and held it open so the two girls could walk through first.

I got a little pride at this at first and I didn’t know why. I was watching my teenage son show manners. It’s not like I haven’t seen him do it before. At church each week, he holds the door open for his Mom and me. (Showing respect for one’s elders. Always a plus.) But to watch him do that at school, it struck me as being a little different.

So, being the typical Dad, I do what any Dad would do, I told my wife.

“Honey, you’ll never guess what our son did.”

My wife’s response.

“That’s amazing. I wonder where he learned it from.”

And of course, I Tweeted it and posted it on Facebook. And the people who grew up with me wondered where my son got it from, too.

And of course, I mentioned it to my son. His response to say that it was no big deal.

And then he asked me not to post it on my blog.

Oh well. He probably won’t read this post anyway.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Can You "Do" Dinner?

I’m writing this from the McDonald’s on Indian Trail just off of I-85. The storm is coming down hard and instead of trying to wing it all the way home when my radio keeps beeping in with warnings from the Emergency Broadcast System, I thought I would pull over and wait it out.

Leave it to me pick a Mickey D’s with its cappuccino machine undergoing a cleaning at the wrong time.

And while getting home at a reasonable hour is now up there somewhere with the hope of winning some contest where I get free Super Bowl tickets for the rest of my life, I do know that I’ll get home eventually.

However, I won’t get to share any dinner time with my kids.

Granted, it was going to be short anyway. My older son was supposed to go to practice tonight to pick up his uniform so they could confirm the sizes. (I say supposed to as I checked my e-mail and practice has been cancelled. His first game is this weekend. I know he can’t wait.) Short dinners happen sometimes. I get home from work, get a few minutes to sit with my kids, and then they’re off to practice or a Scout meeting. Most of the time, though, we get a nice sit-down meal. And after a hard day at work, having that dinner meal with my family takes on special meaning.

A couple of weeks ago, my pastor brought up in his sermons about how the family meal he had growing up was a time to chat and reconnect with family. Dinner was always at 5:00 for his family. Nobody was late and nobody was ever done in 15 minutes. His mother worked hard to prepare good meals and everyone sat down and enjoyed it and then they talked. My wife works hard to provide great meals for us every day, too. (My nine-year old has begged her to open a restaurant.) And though we’re not at the table for two hours like my pastor said he used to be, dinner is still a time for my family to be together. A time to chill. A time to relax.

I really enjoy those moments with family. Some of the most special dinners I’ve had though are on evenings when I was late. Atlanta traffic can be challenging at times. And on nights when I’m thankful that I’m not the one caught in the accident that’s slowing things down, the commute is so bad that dinner goes cold. It’s on those nights I’m often greeted with a smiling face at the garage entrance door, and the sight of happy, starving kids who told their Mom that they wanted to wait for Dad to get home.

Dinner may be something people do every day. (Yes, I know that means people “do” dinner as opposed to “eat” dinner.) But sometimes it is the best meal of the day.