Archive for the 'Family' Category

May 27 2013

Memorial Day

Published by under Empty Nest,Family

I am finally settling down from a busy Memorial morning, lots of friends coming over and  Tami and I have been running around being busy. Forgetting that it has only been a few years since our son Aaron was in Iraq for a Memorial Day. It is easy to forget what that felt like because he is home, healthy and has just given us our first grandchild. Busyness makes that possible. If I can get busy enough, the day becomes a blur and passes without any conscious thought of what our country has set this day aside for. I promised myself when Aaron was gone for that year in Iraq that I never would do that again. This day is an opportunity for an entire nation to silently give thanks to the countless millions of young men and women who selflessly gave of themselves at a time in life when the rest of us were selfishly pursuing our heart’s desires. Today I will have a privilege that so many other parents will not have, to hug my son and tell him how much I appreciate his sacrifice for not only me, but for an entire nation. I will not take that lightly.  Many parents today will be eating across from an empty chair. It is a sobering thought not knowing where your child is and even worse to know that he is in a war zone and in potential harm’s way. Our prayer before dinner tonight will be a simple one, to thank God for our soldiers.

Blessings on this day to you and yours.

God’s Peace be with you,
Jeff

Jeff and Son

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May 10 2013

Ruing the Day

Published by under Family,Teenagers

One of my mother’s favorite sayings was “you will live to rue the day…” and you can fill in the blank as to what it was that I would rue. I had no clue as to what rue meant and, of course, I didn’t interrupt her with details such as what the heck was she talking about. All I knew was that if I asked, chances were I would get rued, or be rued, or maybe it was just plain rude to ask. I digress.

You see, looking back on my life as a teen, it seemed like every stupid thing I did was something that I would “rue.” For instance, the time I threw a pack of firecrackers under my brothers’ bed while he was sleeping and burned the carpet. While mom was scrubbing up the powder burns, she was livid and talking to anyone who would listen. “This is going to come back to haunt you, you will rue….” And so it went. Every time I did something equally as dumb, it was followed by Mom cleaning up the mess and telling me how I was going to rue that I did it.

I believe it is connected to every parents’ prayer, “I hope you have a child just like you. Amen.” It’s almost as if Mom was implanting in my DNA that everything I did to annoy her was going to be replayed out with my own children, therefore causing me to “rue.”

This all came full circle last Fourth of July when my youngest threw a pack of firecrackers under his brothers’ bed while he was sleeping. I was scrubbing up the powder burns and screaming at him, “WHAT would compel you to do something so stupid!?!” That’s when it hit me; I did the same thing and was told I would rue it.

I needed to know what the heck rue meant.

After looking it up, I sat on the end of my son’s bed and laughed so hard it hurt. Thinking of my Mom and how hard she would have laughed at how long it took me to “get it” made me miss her and her laugh. With tears streaming down my face, in between fits of my own laughter, my son asked me if he was in trouble. I barely got it out, but said to him, “From the grave, to me and back to you, son, the time will come when you will rue the day this happened.”

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Dec 19 2012

Is There Paper In Heaven?

My Life As A Bystander Cover

An inspirational story from Jeff’s book, My Life As A Bystander that has particular relevance given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

I once read that the ultimate sign of love and respect is to listen to another human being.  I love my children and respect them.  They know they’re in my act and love hearing the stories I tell about them.  But years ago I made another one of my mental notes that I was going to listen, really listen, to them.

Like a lot of things in life, that is a lot easier said than done.  If you hung on every word your three-year-old said, your head would literally explode by noon.  In my case, that might not be too large of an explosion; but I’m sure you might have a lot more brains left in your head than I do.

A nice balance needs to be achieved.  It is important to listen to our kids, but if we allow them to blather on endlessly without ever being checked, they can keep us from getting our work done and putting food on the table, and they can also begin to believe that the universe really does revolve around them, and them alone.  In other words, children need to learn manners.

I once read an article about parenting that said teaching children manners is abusive, because it goes against their basic “nature.”  Can you believe that?  What does this writer feel the act of unleashing rude and obnoxious children on an unsuspecting world is?  And merely teaching a child the words, “Excuse me,” isn’t a panacea either.  On the surface, it’s polite, but sometimes kids feel the words “Excuse me” gives them a right to interrupt as often as they please. After about the nine hundredth “Excuse me,” it might be time for us parents to rethink our strategy on this.

Whenever my sons interupt me with an “Excuse me,” I always gave them the stock parental answer, “In a minute,”  This only works after they actually know what minute is over.  My son, Aaron, and I once had a twenty minute conversation while I was on the telephone, covering the receiver and asking him to give me a minute to finish my conversation.

“Excuse me, Dad,” he said.

“In a minute, son.  I’m on phone.”

“Is it a minute yet?”

“No.”

“Is it now?”

“No.”

“Now?”

“No.”

This went on and on until it finally hit me.  The kid has no idea what a minute is!           Aren’t epiphanies wonderful?

Ignoring a child’s prattling isn’t the answer either.

Not long ago, I was at a mall with my wife and our three-year-old.  Trying to keep up with the latest parental technology, our son was on a leash that my wife had attached to her belt loop.  That’s right.  My wife had actually paid good money for one of those things.  Actually, I kind of like the idea of a leash, and as I see it, there is nothing wrong with it if you are just walking through the mall.  The kid just kind of flops around behind you like a long board behind a downed surfer.  As long as we were in motion, everything was fine.  The problems began when we stopped in the middle of the mall to briefly converse about which store to visit next.

Jeff Allen with wife, TamiAs we were talking, our little one began to wrap himself around his mother’s leg.  Eventually, he ran out of leash, and like a dog that’s wrapped himself around a tree, he couldn’t figure out how to turn around and go back the other way.  Now, literally pinned to his mother’s thigh, the lad began to chant the chant.  We all know what “the chant” is, don’t we?  We’ve heard it a thousand times in malls, grocery stores, and restaurants all over the globe.  “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, ma, ma, ma, ma, mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy…”

I believe you get the point.  In case you didn’t, feel free to throw in a few dozen more mommies for your own reference.  The chant is relentless.  The words never change, but like an old campfire song, the verses can go on forever. What my wife failed to recognize that day is that there is not a three-year-old alive who will say to themselves, “Gee, Mom looks a little busy.  Maybe I’ll give it another minute and let her to finish what she’s doing, then we can properly focus on my request.”

Three-year-olds don’t process information like that.  Sometimes, husbands don’t either, but that’s a different chapter.  So the chanting just kept going, and through all this, my wife continued to try to hold a conversation with me. But did she honestly think I could hear her over “the chant”?  Apparently so, because her lips were moving.  Now, both of their voices just sort of blended together and this is what I heard:

“Mommy, mommy, mommy….food court….mommy, mommy….credit card limit….mommy, mommy. mommmmmmmmy.”

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating this was for me.  I was beginning to get information overload.  At one point, I started vibrating, and blood began to trickle out of my ears. Thankfully, at this point some guy came to my aid and got on the public address system in the mall and announced, “Please, lady, answer your child!  Please answer your child!”

There was even a mime in the mall that came over and slapped my wife with his padded white glove.  Then he asked, “Is your name Mommy?” (I pause at this point to explain the severity of this mime’s actions.  You see, mimes are dedicated artists.  It takes a tremendous amount of angst to get them to break character.)

Even though he’s a fellow artist, I do feel that my painted little friend was way out of line when he mimed an attempt to maim my son’s mom.  So as a man, a father, and a husband, and I might add, totally against my bystander lifestyle, I went after that mime.

It was the oddest thing, too.  I started to run, but it was as if I was running against a strong wind. I was stalled, but not completely.  Then, just as I began to gain ground and was closing in on him, he somehow locked himself in a box (how do they do that!!!?).  I couldn’t see the box, of course, but I knew where the four walls were because he was showing me.  From off in the distance I could hear the Mommy chant again.  As the vibrations resumed, I  tried to climb in the box with him, hoping it was soundproof, but he wouldn’t let me in!  I thought mimes by nature were compassionate, caring human beings.  But apparently I was wrong.  One more myth destroyed.

Knowing what I had to do, I left the scene of the mime and returned to the scene of the chant.  And this is where I come to the point of my story—the importance of listening to those you love.

As Tami continued to talk over the chant, I finally stopped her in mid-sentence.

“I believe our son would like to talk to you,” I said.

Tami, looked a little annoyed at me, as if she were saying “Okay, let me show you something, Dad.”

Being the loving mother that she is, stooped down and asked the little lad what it was that he wanted to say.

He put his chant on pause for a moment, then said, “I forgot.”

With that, Tami just smiled, looked at me, and winked triumphantly. She knew this

was going to happen long before he ever said it.  Women know instinctively when a child needs to ask something important and when he is merely enjoying the melodious sound of his own voice.  It’s called “selective listening.”

Now, all parents need certain tools to raise children—patience, tolerance, love and understanding are in the basic kit, but one tool that a parent must have is selective listening.  For women, this is standard equipment in their tool box.  I had to earn my selective listening tool, and every tool in my box for that matter, the hard way.

One day not long ago, I was working in my garage, minding my own business, “pretending” to be building something.  I do this so I won’t have to go inside the house and do the chores my wife wants me to do.  In other words, I was enjoying the day in true bystander form.

My three-year-old, who happened to be sitting at my feet just chatting away about everything and nothing, not a care in the world, said something that sounded like a complete sentence.  All morning long, I had been occasionally nodding at him at regular intervals, or saying “That’s nice, son,” giving the appearance that I was listening when I really wasn’t.   To tell you the truth, my mind had drifted off to golf courses unknown.  But at one interval it drifted back just in time to hear, “And kitty was all sticky, Daddy.”

Now a sentence like that can make the hair on the back of your neck rise to attention.

Sticky kitty?  Those two words could have a myriad of meanings, so I stopped, turned around to face him, then calmly asked him to repeat the last thing he said.

“What about Kitty?” I asked

I waited for his answer.  Talk about a lesson in futility.  Children rarely listen to themselves, so asking one to hit the rewind button in his brain is like asking a border collie to program your VCR.  (They can do it, but they’re their timing is all off due to the dog years factor).  So I continued to try to help my son retrace his verbal steps and repeat his statement word for word.

“It sounded like you said, ‘sticky kitty.’  What about the sticky kitty?” I pressed.

“Sticky kitty?”

It’s the confused look on his little mug that always makes me laugh.  It’s a lot like the look a politician gets when a reporter reminds him of something he himself had said a week earlier.  Had my son been quicker on his feet, and bilingual, he would have thrown out a “No comprende, padre.”

I now have no other choice than to continue with my fatherly interrogation.

“What about Kitty?”

“I had to.” he said.

Don’t you just love that?  Everything a child does is a “had to.”   There is never any other choice.  So I delved into the matter a little further, “What did you ‘have to’ do?” I asked

“I had to pour milk all over the kitty,” he said, satisfied the inquisition would finally be over.  But I couldn’t close out the case just yet.  I was becoming far too intrigued at this point.  And besides, since Kitty was no where in sight, it was probably a good idea I get to the bottom on this.  It was hot, and Kitty’s fur could be curdling at that very moment.

I put down the hammer that I was pretending to use, and continued to pursue my line of questioning.  Now adults have been known to do stupid things for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  But small children usually have very sound reasons for everything they do.  It’s toddler logic.  You just have to keep pressing and they’ll eventually explain themselves.  So I kept pressing.

“Why did you ‘have to’ pour milk all over the kitty?”

“Because he was hot and thirsty,” he said, smiling proudly.

Satisfied he went back to working on his bench.  I, on the other hand, was still a little perplexed, and still had a few questions.

“Why did you pour the milk on kitty and not in his bowl?”

Without hesitation, he said, “Because kitty likes to lick himself.”

Now, I have to tell you, it took a few seconds for that to make sense to me.  But then, the light went on in my head.  Kitty was hot and thirsty, and he likes to lick himself. Hence, it was my son’s way of delivering the milk.  It makes sense in a three year old kinda way.

So now I’m stuck trying to figure out how, and whether or not I even should, punish logic like that ?  The cat may have wanted to punish my son, but I had to admire my kid’s resourcefulness. I did suggest to him that in the future he might want to run any new ideas about the feeding the household pets by his mother or me beforehand. He assured me that he would. Then we both went back to pretending to be busy.

I have told you all of this in order to illustrate my point, that listening to those you love is not always easy.  Sometimes you hear what you don’t want to hear.  That is why some have called “listening” the ultimate act of love.

Since that day, I have tried to work a little harder at being a good listener.  But I’m still learning.  Daily.

One afternoon, while driving this same son to one of his soccer games, I heard another one of those lines that make the hair on the back of a dad’s neck stand up.  Now, you would think that I had learned my lesson from the sticky kitty incident, but I didn’t.  I was once again visiting faraway golf ranges in my mind, and not paying much attention to his chattering away in the seat next to me, when all of a sudden I happened to hear the words “Dad” and “God” in the same sentence.  Now that will usually make a father sit up and give his child his undivided attention.  After all, you don’t know whether he’s praying to God for you, complaining to God about you, or using the Lord’s name in vain and needs correcting.  So I figured I should pay attention.

“Well, dad?” he said, awaiting my answer, to what question I didn’t have a clue.

“What was that?” I asked, hoping he’d repeat himself without my having to confess that I hadn’t heard him the first three or four times.

“Does God know what I’m going to be when I get bigger?”

Not really giving it a whole lot of thought, I said, “Yeah, son, I believe he does.  He created each one of us with a purpose.  So yes, he knows.”

My answer seemed to satisfy him.

“Okay,” he nodded.

He was quiet for a while, then…

“Dad…”

“Yes, son?”

“Is there paper in heaven?”

Again, not really knowing where he was going with this particular line of questioning, I said, “If there’s a need for paper, I’m sure God will provide it.”

“Okay.”

Ryan got pensive for a moment.  It took a while for the more laid back part of my brain to catch up with the frontal lobe and realize there was something a little deeper on his mind.  Now it was my turn to ask the next question.

“What are you thinking about, son?”

He continued to look out the window, then almost as if he were talking to the sky, he said, “I don’t know. I guess I was just wondering if someone came into my school and shot me dead, when I got to heaven would God be able to write out on paper all the things that I was going to be when I got big?”

Wow.  I need to repeat that.  Wow.  In all the conversations that I’ve had with my sons, this one continues to have the most profound effect on me.  This was around the time of the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shootings.  I’m sure my son, and every school-aged kid in America, had a lot on their minds during those dark hours.

As a rule, bystanders don’t like to think about tragic things like this in depth.  We

turn the channel on our television sets, or turn off the car radio.  In the particular case of the Jonesboro shootings, and later the Columbine shootings, I never allowed myself to empathize too much with the victims and their families.  The whole subject was too painful to even think about, so I wouldn’t allow my mind to go there.  Understand, I felt for them, but not on a deep level, not on the only level that true empathy can live—in the soul.

My wife, Tami absorbs herself in life, taking the painful right along with the good, and so she cried for days thinking what it must have been like to be a parent of one the victims.  She would ask me, as she reached for another tissue, “Can you imagine what it must be like for those parents?”

“Yeah,” I would reply, closely guarding that vulnerable side of me.  Then I’d open another piece of junk mail.  I think I thought if I ignored the painful reality of the situation, or at least shielded myself from it, it would somehow make me stronger than her.

But Ryan’s question wouldn’t let me ignore it.  Children have a way of bringing us to places that most of us don’t want to go.  While we’re trying our hardest to figure out how to properly raise them, they’re propelling us into our own maturity.  It’s almost as if God used Ryan that day to tell me that it was time to start looking, and really seeing, the events of life.  It was time to shed some of my bystander ways, and begin my journey on the path to becoming one of life’s participants.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and just looked at Ryan.  I don’t think he even realized what he had said and why it had affected me so much. I was overwhelmed immediately by a tremendous sense of loss, grief for this generation of kids that even has to think about such things.

For a brief moment, an image of Ryan meeting with a tragic end flashed in my mind.  It wasn’t a vision or anything spiritual like that.  It was just a parent’s fears seeming all too real.  That was all it took to open the floodgates of my soul. That part of me that I had been so good at protecting me from hurt, the part I had hidden through my humor, suddenly burst open. I broke down and wept, not just for me and for him, but for all the parents who have lost children in these violent times, and for the rest of our youth who have lost their childhoods.

I am so thankful that I was listening and heard what a ten-year-old was thinking about on his way to the soccer field.  I answered him as best I could, but I don’t think I was totally honest with him that day.  I told him that he doesn’t have to worry about all that.  I told him that I wasn’t about to let anything bad happen to him.  I didn’t want him to worry.  But who am I?  I’m just his dad.  I’m not a superhero.  I can’t be with him twenty-four hours a day.  I can’t even be 100 percent sure that I can protect him when he’s in my own car.  No matter how safely I’m driving, another driver can pull out in front of us and put both our lives in jeopardy. We live in an imperfect world, and so much of what happens in life is out of our control.  But how could I tell him that?  All he needed at that moment was a hug from his dad and the reassurance that he was going to be all right.

Kids and their questions, huh?  It makes me wonder if while we parents are doing all this selective listening, how much of what our kids are saying is going unheard?

I continue to learn the importance of listening to those we love.  But we’re busy, the television is blaring, there are a dozen other things that we need to be doing.  It’s easy to tune them out.  Especially for bystanders.  We see their lips moving and we tell ourselves that whatever they have to say, we’ve heard a thousand times.  We hope that kind of thinking will get us off the hook.  It doesn’t.  My wife has heard about my athletic youth over and over and over again, but she still listens anyway.  She’ll sit and listen to my latest golf tale as if it really matters to her.  To me, that’s love.  The kind of love that requires involvement.

If we only listen when it’s convenient, who knows what we might be missing?  And let’s be honest, it’s never convenient.  There will always be things to do, places to go, and favorite television programs to watch.

Maybe all of us should take our cue from our heavenly father who tunes in to us

24-7.  We don’t get a half-hearted “Uh-huh” when we tell him about our day.  He hangs on every word we utter.  Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  God really does enjoy hearing from us. Even when we have doubts.  Even when we’re discouraged.  Even when we’re angry.  And even when we ask those seemingly unanswerable questions.

I wonder how many times we’ve made the hair on the back of His neck stand up.

                        “He who has ears, let him hear.” -Matthew 11:15

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May 20 2011

At Sea, At Peace

Published by under Family

We are at sea in the Mediterranean final day of our vacation. If the truth be known I have not for almost six days checked the news and shockingly I haven’t missed it. So this morning I glanced at my news source, “The Blaze” and lo and behold the world is still the way it was when I left it, falling apart. For six days I have been able to distance myself from the narrative of the news outlets, just be with my fellow man. We are on a sailing vessel in the middle of a large body of water, we are from all different parts of the world, the Captain last night said over thirty different nations are represented on this ship, from passengers to crew and oddly enough the only thing we can all agree on is the beauty that is God’s creation. Italy is a gorgeous country and the people have been amazingly patient with Tami and I as we shred their language.
Nobody seemed to care, for these six days at least, what denomination anyone is, what party they donate to or whom they are looking to lead America in the coming election. It is a lesson that perhaps we can all learn: Take a six-day break from the news narrative and reconnect with all the relationships in your life, whether it be friends or family, finding one thing you can all agree on, whether it be a sumptuous meal, a sunset or a sporting event. Enjoy the day.   Jeff

We are at sea in the Mediterranean final day of our vacation. If the truth be known, I have not, for almost six days, checked the news… and shockingly I haven’t missed it. So this morning I glanced at my news source, “The Blaze,” and lo and behold the world is still the way it was when I left it, falling apart. For six days I have been able to distance myself from the narrative of the news outlets, just be with my fellow man.

We are on a sailing vessel in the middle of a large body of water, we are from all different parts of the world – the Captain last night said over thirty different nations are represented on this ship, from passengers to crew – and oddly enough the only thing we can all agree on is the beauty that is God’s creation. Italy is a gorgeous country and the people have been amazingly patient with Tami and I as we shred their language.

Nobody seemed to care, for these six days at least, what denomination anyone is, what party they donate to or whom they are looking to lead America in the coming election. It is a lesson that perhaps we can all learn: Take a six-day break from the news narrative and reconnect with all the relationships in your life, whether it be friends or family, finding one thing you can all agree on, whether it be a sumptuous meal, a sunset or a sporting event.

Enjoy the day.
Jeff

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May 13 2011

Family Get-Together – After 20 Years

Family Get-Together – After 20 Years
I am the baby of the family. I know it is shocking to find the baby of any family, choosing a profession as an adult that draws attention to himself, you know, like a comedian.
Anyhoo, I am the youngest of four children. I have a brother, Kirk, who is five years older than I, two sisters, Vicki and Lori, in between, and then there is me. As all youngest children think, your parents stopped breeding when they hit perfection!  Truth is, after I was born, Mom told Dad if he touched her again she’d shoot him. Or something like that.
Having four kids in five years will do that to a woman. Not being a woman, I can only guess, of course. But I know what having a stomach ache does to my mood and I can’t imagine how many people would have met their demise if I had a nine-month stomach ache, five years in a row.  Looking back, I am sure it was why my mom insisted on having the lights on all the time. In her mind, bad things happened when the lights were off.
Being the youngest, of course I was Mom’s favorite (don’t worry, my sisters don’t read my blogs and my brother is illiterate). I always thought I was Mom’s favorite because I was just darn special. My wife Tami, who is an oldest child, jealous of me, and a mother, told me, if I was Mom’s favorite it was because I was her last – and being the fourth in five years it probably took her less than two minutes of labor to deliver me.
The reason I bring all this up is that the older I get, the more I want to be around my family.  Truth is, I miss them. We have a lot of laughs when we get together. The problem is that it seems to be only at weddings or funerals that we can see each other. I am fortunate that in my job I travel quite a bit and I am able to sit with my sisters when I am in Dallas or Vegas.
My brother, Kirk, is another issue. We have been estranged for almost two decades. I have missed him the most. The few conversations we have had over the years on the phone have always left me hope that one day God would heal whatever was standing between us. Those of you who have seen me perform know that I have asked for prayer for him as well as me.  Well, I can tell you all Thank You for your prayers; this one has been answered. I sat with my brother over lunch last week in Indiana, when I was in town for a show.
We have both gotten older and balder but the bond between us is the same. We picked up right where we left off twenty years ago. He punched me in the face and I cried like a four year old schoolgirl.
Well, I cried, not because he punched me, but the mere sight of my brother was an answer to a daily prayer for over ten years. I am not naïve. There have been plenty of opportunities over the years for me to reach out, but fear always won the day.  I will not go into any great detail about the get-together other than to say that family bonds are forever – good, bad or indifferent, the bond is huge. One thing I know is that it is never too late to correct and change a course of action.
I would love to hear from you guys on overdue sibling get-togethers.
God ‘s Peace be with you in your journeys, and remember, as hard as it is, we as Christians are to forgive as we too have been forgiven.
Blessings, Jeff.

I am the baby of the family. I know it is shocking to find the baby of any family, choosing a profession as an adult that draws attention to himself, you know, like a comedian.

Anyhoo, I am the youngest of four children. I have a brother, Kirk, who is five years older than I, two sisters, Vicki and Lori, in between, and then there is me. As all youngest children think, your parents stopped breeding when they hit perfection!  Truth is, after I was born, Mom told Dad if he touched her again she’d shoot him. Or something like that.

Having four kids in five years will do that to a woman. Not being a woman, I can only guess, of course. But I know what having a stomach ache does to my mood and I can’t imagine how many people would have met their demise if I had a nine-month stomach ache, five years in a row.  Looking back, I am sure it was why my mom insisted on having the lights on all the time. In her mind, bad things happened when the lights were off.

Being the youngest, of course I was Mom’s favorite (don’t worry, my sisters don’t read my blogs and my brother is illiterate). I always thought I was Mom’s favorite because I was just darn special. My wife Tami, who is an oldest child, jealous of me, and a mother, told me, if I was Mom’s favorite it was because I was her last – and being the fourth in five years it probably took her less than two minutes of labor to deliver me.

The reason I bring all this up is that the older I get, the more I want to be around my family.  Truth is, I miss them. We have a lot of laughs when we get together. The problem is that it seems to be only at weddings or funerals that we can see each other. I am fortunate that in my job I travel quite a bit and I am able to sit with my sisters when I am in Dallas or Vegas.

My brother, Kirk, is another issue. We have been estranged for almost two decades. I have missed him the most. The few conversations we have had over the years on the phone have always left me hope that one day God would heal whatever was standing between us. Those of you who have seen me perform know that I have asked for prayer for him as well as me.  Well, I can tell you all Thank You for your prayers; this one has been answered. I sat with my brother over lunch last week in Indiana, when I was in town for a show.

We have both gotten older and balder but the bond between us is the same. We picked up right where we left off twenty years ago. He punched me in the face and I cried like a four year old schoolgirl.

Well, I cried, not because he punched me, but the mere sight of my brother was an answer to a daily prayer for over ten years. I am not naïve. There have been plenty of opportunities over the years for me to reach out, but fear always won the day.  I will not go into any great detail about the get-together other than to say that family bonds are forever – good, bad or indifferent, the bond is huge. One thing I know is that it is never too late to correct and change a course of action.

I would love to hear from you guys on overdue sibling get-togethers.

God ‘s Peace be with you in your journeys, and remember, as hard as it is, we as Christians are to forgive as we too have been forgiven.

Blessings, Jeff.

8 responses so far

Apr 01 2009

Driving with Teens

There I was, calmly dining on our favorite family cuisine.  I’ve always been a firm believer in families dining together. In the course of a day, it’s hard to get the kids to stop for five minutes and tell you what’s on their minds.

And here it came from my 15-year old, “Hey! I just thought of this! I’ll be driving in a year!”

That innocent remark kept me awake for eight weeks. I couldn’t get out of my head the terrifying prospect of him driving a car. Last Saturday I was looking out my window when, riding by on his bicycle, he popped a wheelie and plowed right into our mail box.

My wife suggested we sign him up for Driver’s Education. I agreed with her that that was a good idea. I made the call and found out they now charge $250 for Driver’s Ed! Are you kidding me! Two hundred and fifty dollars!  No way, I told my wife. I will teach the lad.

One hour with him, and I came in the house with a tic on both sides of my face. I hit that imaginary brake so many times, I wore a hole in the carpet. It was as if I had some kind of mantra going, I kept repeating the same thing over and over again: “Tell me you saw the truck, tell me you saw the kid on the bike, tell me you saw the office building!”

When we finally got home, I fell out of the car and kissed the ground. (I imagined this must have been what Columbus felt like finding dry land.)
When I walked in, Tami ran up all excited, “How was it!?”

He ran up to his mom and gave her a hug, and said it was “awesome” and ran to call one of his chums.

She took one look at me and said, “That bad, huh?”

I went and got my checkbook and wrote a check for five hundred dollars to the Driver’s Ed department. Believe me, those people are grossly under paid.

With his Learner’s Permit,  we let him drive us to church on Sunday. We figure that way we could get our prayer time in before we get there.

Sometimes there are so many miracles, we skip church and go straight to Cracker Barrel.

Got any good stories about Driving with Teens?  If so, click on the “responses” link and share them with us!

9 responses so far

Mar 30 2009

Wants and Needs

I remember when my youngest teen stopped me in the hall and asked if we could talk. Not having a whole lot to do, I obliged the lad. Without hesitation, he shoots out, “I think I am old enough to buy my own school clothes.”

I thought about it and replied, “You know, I think you’re right.”

Then we stared at each other for about a minute.  He then broke the silence by saying, “Well?”

To which I replied in kind, “Well, what?” (Scintillating so far, is it not?)

He then says incredulously, as if I am a moron that was missing the obvious, “Well, I need some money!”

I said to him, “I thought you said you wanted to buy your clothes, not run to the mall and pick them out with my money. To be honest you could have done that when you were five.”

He says, “Whatever!”

That is one word that makes the hair on my neck stand up. Every time I hear it, I want to boink him right in the eyes, not hard, you know just like Mo used to do to Larry. I mentioned this because the word “whatever”, is one of the words that he uses that drives me crazy. The other one, and I don’t know why this is, is the word need.

I get tired of hearing that word come out of my children’s’ mouths. I have corrected them a thousand times.  “You don’t neeeeeed the gummy bears, you waaaaant the gummy bears.”

“Whatever!” they reply. And so it goes.

We finally had it out in the mall. We weren’t there five minutes and everything his eyes set upon he needed. The proverbial straw was a pair of gym shoes.

“Oh Dad, I neeeeed these shoes, I really need them!!!! And look, they’re only a hundred dollars.”

“Only?” I said.

“Yeah,” he says.

First of all, let me tell you, I love the word “only,” especially, when it comes from the unemployed.   I also have to tell you there was no way I was spending a hundred dollars for a pair of shoes that this walking hormone would outgrow on the way out of the mall.

So I looked him in the eye and said, “No, let’s go home.” Not thinking for a minute he would accept that.

“But Dad, I neeeeeeed those shoes!”

“You don’t need them, you want them.” I said. “Let me ‘splain’ something to you my little lad. First of all unless your name is Michael Jordan, never in this lifetime will you NEED a hundred dollar pair of gym shoes. But I understand how much you want the shoes, and I have forty dollars for your gym shoes.

Now I can tell you what you neeeeed!” I paused for dramatic effect, and said, “Sixty bucks.”

And for emphasis, I added “only.”

As he melted down in front of me, crying about the unfairness of it all, I strode towards the car and paused just briefly enough to utter,   “Whatever!”

How are all of you holding up against the narcissistic onslaught of teenage needs?  Do you cave in? Have you figured out where to draw the line?

I’d love to know!  Click on the “responses” button and let us all know!

3 responses so far

Mar 27 2009

Suspended!

Published by under Family,Teenagers

My son was guilty of what must be a serious offense. Some kid in the lunch room threw something at him, and well, the lad is one to retaliate. He hurled the Teddy Graham cookie he was holding at the kid.

Unfortunately, the throw sailed on him and it struck an elderly lunch lady (who my son actually likes), in the chest. Apparently she was rushed to the nurse’s office with what can only be diagnosed as “a red mark on her collarbone area.”

Now, I’m not proud of this. I’ve since learned that the Principal himself caught this same son, only two weeks prior, about to throw something meant to be edible in the lunch room and stopped him before he certainly otherwise would have.

The kid is a good kid. You’d be proud to have him as your son. Except for this kind of junk he pulls from time to time. All in good fun. And bad behavior.

Here’s the thing. Guess what his punishment was? I was thinking it would be a day or two of detention. Maybe a one-day suspension.

Shows you how little I know. He was suspended for seven days. They also are citing the lad, which means he must appear before a magistrate (which I believe is some kind of judge) and may have to pay a fine of $400 and or do community service.

Now, my question to you is, “Does this punishment fit the crime?”  Do you have similar stories?

Am I so out of touch? Any idea what I did as a kid?  With this level of justice, I would probably be on Death Row with the junk I pulled. What about you?

3 responses so far

Feb 09 2009

Fitting In

I am writing this on a new computer. I finally broke down, and bought something that didn’t use vacuum tubes. In truth, my other one finally gasped its final breath. I don’t want to say it was a tad slow, but I found it quicker to walk to the library and look up the information I needed in an encyclopedia, than to boot up the poor thing and enter cyber space.

My new computer has all its keys, too. My other one beginning to resemble the grin of Leon Spinks. I only mention this because, my son Ryan saw it and asked, “Is that new?”

When I said indeed it was, he said, “Snaps.” Then turned on his heels and started to walk away.

“Snaps?”  “What the heck does that mean?”

He said, “You know… snaps.” Then he shook his head and walked away.

I have to admit, I was more than a little confused. Then I remembered a similar conversation I had with my father years ago. When I was Ryan’s age, my father said something to me, and my reply was, “Groovy.”

My father said, “Groovy?”

I said, “Yeah, groovy.”

My dad looked me in the eye, smirked and said, “There ain’t no groovy in this house boy, understand?”

I think what bothered me more than not being hip enough to understand today’s slang, was the fact  that I know today’s culture is having an uncertain effect on my children. I not only hear it in their language, but I also see it their choice of music, clothing, and now, in Ryan’s case, his hair.

Like my parents, and their parents, what we see outside of our own upbringing disturbs us.  I talk to a lot of parents after my shows and a common theme is that they are all happy that they don’t have to grow up in today’s teen culture. The pressure to conform is even greater than it was when they were teens. Or is it?  Is it even possible to not remember being 15?

I was a walking hormone and a total teenage clod when I mustered up the courage to ask Ellen Collidge to the homecoming dance. Her reply? “Why would I go to the biggest dance of my life, with you?” Honestly, I had no answer.

“So that would be a no?” I asked sheepishly.  Then I felt a zit sprout on the end of my chin. In an attempt to save face I replied rather feebly, “Groovy.”  I pretended it didn’t bother me, but the fact that I remember it 34 years later says differently.

No, 15 is 15. I don’t care if it is the 21st century or the 1st century. Insecurity and self-doubt drive us to want to fit in. Remember how the kids that didn’t fit in were treated?

When you look behind the bad skin, the baggy pants, the hip lingo and the false bravado, what do you see?  I see a bruised ego.  And just beyond that, a little child who only wants to be well thought of, only wants to make a difference, only wants to love and be loved by their family, especially their parents. The rest is all window dressing.

So I try to look past the wild hair, the pierced body parts and the skull and crossbones tattoos and into their hearts.  And then I see this kindness, and that trumps all that other stuff and puts tears of love and empathy into my eyes.

And that moves me, and moves in my heart and makes me want to reach out to my son and say, “Snapes”, just to hear him laugh at me and say, “Not ‘snapes.’  ‘Snaps.’  You’re such a loser, Dad.”  And here I thought I was the “cat’s meow.”

Some things never change.

I know I’m not alone here.  What about you and your kids?  What kinds of strange things do they do to fit in?

Do you sometimes struggle to see the little angel buried in all that teenage malaise (or mayonnaise)?

I’d really love to know. If you’d like to tell me, please click on the Comments link above.

5 responses so far

Jan 14 2009

WELCOME: “Teenagers: God’s Revenge on Mankind”

Hello all!  Welcome to the inaugural (I just looked up “inaugural” and I’m astonished to see that it means just what I intended! Namely: “serving to set in motion”) post of my new blog, Teenagers: God’s Revenge on Mankind.  Anyone who has seen my act knows that I pursue the lighter (and heavier) side of being married with teenagers. It’s true that I’ve been quoted as saying that I believe God created teenagers to punish us so we would know what it felt like to have someone created in our own image that denied our existence.

The purpose of this blog is to explore issues related to being married, raising children, even wandering around in the “empty nest” – that state of grace that many dread, only to come to appreciate, or long for, only to come to dread.

However, I’d like this to be different from my normal gigs – the ones where I do all the talking and you do all the laughing.  I’d like this to be more of a dialogue – a community conversation.  My hope is that we’ll all learn something, and have fun in the process.

Are you in?

12 responses so far