The Prodigal Father

A lot of people have been sharing articles by Matt Walsh lately and I totally understand why. After reading a few of his blog entries, I find myself, more often than not, agreeing with him. I even subscribe to his blog so he shows up in my Feedly blog reader.

However, I have always felt a little uneasy when I read his blog and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until recently. Walsh’s writing taps into that part of myself that I try to tamp down because it is hyper critical, scathing, and lacking in grace. This not a knock against Walsh. I think many of his entries are truthful and true and at any rate, I don’t think he is a cruel or graceless person. In fact, I think he is like many of us, frustrated with “the way things are,” intelligent, a good writer, and generally, a good person. (Not that it really matters what I think of him anyway.) Really, it is likely just me and my own personal hang ups.

You see, Walsh’s writing reminds me of the elder son from the parable, The Prodigal Son.

My college Christian Fellowship was obsessed with this parable. We heard months worth of talks on the parable. Did numerous Bible studies on it. We even referred to it by a way cooler name: The Prodigal Father. Most of it was cribbed from The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen.

Here’s the tl;dr version: A rich man had two sons. One day the younger son goes to his father, and says, “Hey, let’s pretend you’re dead and you can give me my inheritance now, ok?” The father agrees and the younger son goes whoring it up and spends all his money. He finds himself eating from a pig trough and realizes that even the servants in his father’s house eat better than that so he decides to go home and beg to be a servant.

When he nears his home, his father sees him from a great distance and comes running out, rolling out the red carpet, rejoicing that his son has returned to him. The man throws a huge party and kills a fatted calf.

The older son, who had stayed behind is super pissed off when he hears of his brother’s return (especially when he finds out about the party). He goes off and sulks and when his father chases him down and asks him why, he answers:

“Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

– Luke 15:29-32 NIV

Look, I’m not saying Walsh is the elder son in real life. I have no idea! I don’t know the guy and really, his spiritual state is between himself and God. All I know is that Walsh’s writing pushes a button inside of me and that button says, “Elder Son Alert!”

It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but there it is. I’m a lot mellower about it now, but I’m still a stickler to the rules at heart. I’m a douche bag extraordinaire when it comes to finding fault with EVERYTHING and I get pissed when I think people are getting away with stuff. (Of course, I conveniently forget when I get a free pass, but details, details, people!)

Anyhow, not sure what my point with this post is, but ultimately, I don’t want to be either son. I want to be like the father, who is prodigal (ie: wastefully extravagant) to both his ungrateful children. The father lavishes love and resources on both his kids even though the older son seems to think his father is a horrible slave master and the younger son only comes home because he is hungry. I can only hope to love my own children this way – let alone random people.

I leave you with some shameless self promotion. Back when I was a senior at UCLA, I wrote a song from the elder son’s point of view and my awesome and talented composer friend, Chris Wong, made it sound much better. If you don’t want to sit through the video for the lyrics, I’ve posted them at the end.

I spent too many hours figuring out how to make a lyrics video for YouTube last night so I am not only proud of this song but of the video. I’m surprised I could even make it happen considering it takes me at least ten times longer to learn anything new nowadays – let alone succeed at it. But hey, old dog and new tricks.

Also, this recording is more than fourteen years old! WHAT?!

The Elder Song

Oh, God
What has become of my system?
What has become of my life?
It has fallen down.

Oh, God
What will become of my faith?
What will become of me now?
I am down.

Free falling
down
down
down

Oh, God
How could you allow this to happen?
How could you stand by and watch
Me break down?

Why did you do this?
Why have you made me fall?
Was I not faithful?
Did I not follow your call?

Why won’t you give me?
Why won’t you bless me?
What a miserly God

Did I slave for you?
Did I slave for you?
All these years?

Oh, my God
Where have I pushed you away to?
When did I leave home behind?
I was slaving away.

Oh, God
I see you embracing my brother
I hear you choke on his name
and I wonder

Would you do the same for me?
Would you do the same for me?

– Mandarin Mama

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Just Call Me a Late Adopter

I know I may be the only one, but I really don’t get Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. (Now, get off my lawn!) I mean, I understand the theory behind them; I just can’t see myself using them. I remember I used to beg my younger brother to send me invitations to the latest internet crazes (eg: Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, etc.) and took pride in being, if not the earliest adopter, at least an early-ish adopter. No more. 

Let me air my grievances.

I am annoyed, TO THIS DAY, that Hapa Papa convinced me to sign up for Twitter. He said it would help promote my blog. I suppose it would if I tweeted anything other than my blog posts. Or, had conversations with people back and forth. Here’s the thing, though. Why would I have a public conversation? If I wanted to talk to someone, I would just text/email/IM (does anyone still do this?) them IN REAL LIFE. Oh, I don’t really know them? THEN WHY AM I HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH THEM?

Ok, I guess I have “conversations” with people I don’t know already when I participate in forums or comment on articles, but there usually is a huge separation in time. Versus in my mind, Twitter is more like a real time conversation. I don’t know, people. I don’t really use it correctly.

What also annoys me is that Hapa Papa is all proud of the fact that he has amassed a decent Twitter following. He has goals for how many followers he gets and how many tweets he tweets/twits/twitters. This would be great if not for the fact that OMG HIS TWEETS ARE SO FUCKING BORING. He even admits it. They are 99.9% work related and that means he’s tweeting or re-tweeting articles on web testing and optimization. OMG I KNOW THIS IS HIS JOB BUT WHY? I WANT TO STAB MY EYES OUT THEY ARE SO BORED BY HIS TWEETS. Sorry. My capslock got stuck.

I mean, it’s great that he’s got all these followers, but unless one of these “followers” makes him a sandwich, I’m not impressed.

Furthermore, I really can’t imagine anyone wanting to read what I tweet/twit/twitter. Hapa Papa‘s tweets may be boring, but at least they serve a purpose and are useful. Who in their right mind is going to want to read drivel such as, “Gamera just peed in the potty! YAY! #pottytraining #nocharts #barebottom #iliveontheedge.”

Granted, I post such drivel on Facebook, but that’s only blasted out to 557 of my closest friends. (Ok, the actual number is much smaller than that since most of the people on my Friends list are shunted into Acquaintances and therefore cannot see most of my posts. But you get my drift.) It isn’t blasted across the interwebz so that any schmuck can read it for all of posterity. Plus, this 140 character count would require too much thinking, clarity and lack of wordiness – all of which I try to avoid in my life. I very much enjoy my non-thinking, opaque verbosity, thank you.

As for Pinterest, when I first got on Pinterest, I pinned quite a few things on boards and stuff, but after a day or two of that, I just stopped caring. I have no desire to see endless pictures of people who organize, cook, dress, DIY, craft, and EVERYTHING better than I could ever possibly on my best day. I suppose since I never cared for physical magazines in these genres, it makes sense that I don’t care about them in their online forms.

And Instagram? I don’t get it. How is it different than posting a pic to Facebook? Or Flikr? Or Picasa? And now, because I just typed that sentence, I actually went to Instagram’s site to read what it was about. (How mortifying. Not the seeking out knowledge part. Just the fact that I really didn’t know what Instagram was but still don’t care and insulted it.) Bah. Even after reading what Instagram does, I don’t care.

Clearly, because I don’t care about these products, they’re not geared towards me. I’m sure you’ll all tell me in the comments what an idiot I am for not doing XYZ and that I totally don’t understand social media or puppies or ANYTHING THAT IS AWESOME AND GOOD. I accept. I am totally OK with this. What I am MORE interested in, however, is what things everyone you know likes and uses but you think is just dumber than a bag of hammers. Don’t be shy now.

The Power of Unfriending

When I first joined Facebook, I fully admit I tried to get as many friends as possible. I liberally friended people – even if they were people I didn’t know but somehow, were included on a mass Gmail mailing list once upon a time. In fact, there are a few of my friends on Facebook that I don’t actually remembering meeting in college but because they post so much and we know so many of the same people, I consider them my friends. Then, there are the many people I friended because we went to high school or middle school or even elementary school together. I friended everyone.

However, after the novelty of Facebook wore off and I started having children, I began to regret having so many people as friends. The more I thought of it, the more I realized that just because I recognized their names from school didn’t mean I knew these people. They were mostly strangers and could be crazy serial killers. So I started unfriending people or putting them in “acquaintance” categories.

The problem is that Facebook makes it really hard to unfriend a lot of people at the same time. Any time you unfriend someone, Facebook reloads all your friends but in a different order than before. It becomes really frustrating. (I realize that the mobile app for Facebook makes it easier, but I didn’t know that until recently.)

So, what I decided to do sounds really mean, but is very useful. Every day, Facebook tells me which people have birthdays that day. On their birthday, I take a good look at these people and decide one of several things:

1) Keep as a friend/status quo

2) Unfriend

3) Move to “Acquaintance” category

It seems mean because I’m making this judgment on their birthday. Whatever. I’m assuming they will be so inundated with happy birthday wishes that if I do happen to unfriend them, they won’t even notice. If I move them to “Acquaintance,” they won’t really notice either (since Facebook thankfully doesn’t inform them of this) and will likely just think I stopped posting as much in general. (Most of my posts are “Friend only except Acquaintances.”)

At first, I was really leery of this policy. After all, doesn’t everyone want MORE friends? But once I started doing that, I realized there was immense freedom in unfriending. Having all these people on my friend list that I either didn’t actually know or interact with was a lot like all the junk I shove in my closets or under my bed. Stuff I kept because I thought, “One day, I may need this/they may become a good friend.” Well, I rarely touch the stuff I think I need – and it is unlikely that I will deepen my friendships with people I knew briefly in high school.

Turns out, I kept a lot of people on as Facebook friends because I liked the idea of knowing what happens to people without the hassle of actually maintaining a real relationship. However, if I didn’t really know these people AND they weren’t posting on a regular basis, what benefit did I derive from having them as a friend in the first place? In addition, I would worry that too many people would know what was going on in my life or see too many pictures of my kids. (Ironic since I totally blog about way more private things but whatever.) The worry was gone if they were no longer my friend!

Furthermore, I realized that in actuality, it was the fear of missing out that was driving me to have so many friends. Missing out on pictures, updates, and gossip. In fact, this was just like my addiction to celebrity gossip except these people were not famous! They did not touch my life in any way, shape, or form! Why did I care what happened to them except on a cursory level? The truth is, I don’t care. So if I don’t care, why am I their “friend”?

It seems like such a silly thing, this “friend/unfriend” business on Facebook. But I see it more and more as becoming my more authentic self. I don’t want a massive number of “friends” online. It’s not a virtual popularity contest. What I really want are real, interactive, and meaningful relationships.

Whether it manifests in the online equivalent of “office cooler talk” about TV shows/current events or deeper conversations about articles and issues, I look forward to my daily “chats” with my Facebook friends. What I want is a community of people who are interesting to me and interested in me. Unfriending people who do not contribute to the life that I want is simply good housekeeping.

 

 

I’m Afraid of Twilight

I have never read the Twilight or 50 Shades series – not because I think they’re stupid (which from what I’ve gathered from Wikipedia and generally being alive, I do), but because I am afraid I will secretly like them.

I pride myself in being able to detect good from bad writing and the thought of me liking books that allegedly contain such horrible writing – well, I find it wounds my self-image. In addition, I want to be special and an arbiter of good taste. How can I maintain this falsehood if I should actually *gasp* like mediocre books that millions of fangirls and fanmoms adore?

How ridiculous is this? Who cares if I like these books? Or don’t? Who is this arbitrary Gatekeeper of Coolness that I am trying to appease?

Never mind that I read plenty of Regency romance novels (although I do toss the poorly written ones to the side – I have standards, people). I have slogged through plenty of crappy fan fiction (I have a low tolerance for that, too). I even made it through two books of The Vampire Diaries and they were awful! Why should it matter if I like or dislike Twilight?

For some reason, I seem to have a perverse need to seem “rebellious” or anti-mainstream. A hipster-like mentality without actually being a hipster. In college, I steadfastly refused to like *NSYNC or Britney Spears or Harry Potter not for any valid reason, but because so many people liked them. The irony being that once I got over myself, I absolutely LOVED all three. ABSOLUTELY LOVED.

All you careful readers out there might be starting to notice a trend with me. I constantly avoid or deny activities, hobbies, even careers that I don’t think I should enjoy. As a result, I have often lived a fake life, including what I like and dislike, in a pathetic attempt to appease a non-existent Gatekeeper. That’s just sad, people.

The most ironic thing is that until recently, I had prided myself in being such an authentic person! It is only through writing this blog that I’ve come to recognize just how much of myself and my life was for building an image vs actually living. Only in the last five or six years have I become more and more comfortable with who I am as a person, gradually shedding the affectations of a person I thought I should be.

I am thirty-five years old.

How mortifying.

I don’t necessarily think the solution is just to read more Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. (Although, I’m not as opposed to the idea as I once was.) It’s more that I can unabashedly claim the things I enjoy without shame. It also helps that geek culture seems to be on the rise in both popularity and acceptance.

Sidenote: Do you know that it was at least five or six years into our relationship before Hapa Papa realized how much I LURVED Batman and dinosaurs? (Separately, not together – although that would also be awesome.) HOW COULD HE NOT KNOW I LOVED BATMAN? THE MOST AWESOMEST SUPER HERO EVAR?!? Or dinosaurs? I mean, what’s not to love about dinosaurs?

Anyhow, suffice to say, I’m a dork. A nerd. A geek. Math humor cracks me up. I love science fiction and fantasy novels/books/whatever. I love books. I read CONSTANTLY. I love romance novels. I love YA fiction. I love Batman. (OMGERD, I LOVE BATMAN!!!) I love cartoons. Board games are awesome (especially Puerto Rico). I read fan fiction. I have written fan fiction. (No, you may not read them.) Puns rule. Most crappy pop-music is awesome to me. Star Trek: The Next Generation is the best Star Trek series ever and I LOVE JEAN-LUC PICARD (without apology!). I secretly wish I could code. I constantly find cartoon characters incredibly attractive. (I’m looking at you, Prince Zuko.)

And one day, I just might love Twilight. 

I Want to Punch You in Your Cloud

Warning: This post is quite full of ranting and some lunatic raving (both of which may or may not make any sense). There is no point other than the rant. It’s a silly and shallow post day. On the plus side, there is a video wherein very creative usages of swears and insults abide.

You have been warned! 😉

Does anyone even know what the “Cloud” is? I vaguely do, but ultimately, I don’t know what the Cloud is that all these tech people (and I am including Hapa Papa) talk about all the time. I think it has something to do with storing stuff online instead of on your computer or something or other? I have no clue. Maybe it has something to do with crowd-sourcing? (I realize Google and wikipedia can solve this ignorance for me, but I honestly don’t care.)

All I know is that every time Hapa Papa mentions the Cloud, or Big Data, or whatever industry specific buzz word crap that he uses at these web analytics conferences, I want to punch him in the throat. Of course, he often says these words just to piss me off. It amuses him how quickly I go Hulk Smash on him as soon as he mentions the word, “Cloud.”

I’m not even sure why I am so virulently opposed to this technology or whatever. It’s probably the name. What a stupid name. Cloud. Does it communicate in rainbows and have unicorns and leprechauns, too? It just makes me so ANGRY. SO RIDICULOUSLY ANGRY. My reaction is totally out of sync with reality. I mean, really. There is no reason why I should get so mad when I hear these terms. But I do anyway.

Cloud.

It’s so pretentious. And ultimately, I think that’s what it is. I hate pretension. (It’s ironic since I am quite pretentious and full of myself. But that’s me, and I am awesome, so all my pretension is TRUE and based on FACT so therefore, not pretentious. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

Anyhow, to close out my rant, (and ignorance), a video for you. It is very meta and industry specific, but it is HILARIOUS. Especially for the insults (those kick in around the 1:45 mark). (The insults, I believe, will work in any situation.)

Now That I’m Done Judging, Perhaps I’ll Actually Be Helpful: New Baby Series Pt 4

Alrighty, folks! Lazy post today. (I think I’m allowed. I just had a new baby, after all.) We are finally at the last of the series (and hopefully, you haven’t been bored to tears and found some of the information useful). Here are several sites and books that I found invaluable when I first had Cookie Monster. I referred to them less and less as I had subsequent children (mostly because I stopped caring and worrying about every little thing). Although, the Ferber book has been constantly referenced in the last 3.5+ years since as soon as you get something down, your kids change. (Those bastards!)

Anyhow, thank you for being patient with this series, and rest assured, folks with no kids (and with no intention of ever having them), this is the final section!

Disclaimers: As usual, all the opinions are mine. YMMV. I used Amazon Affiliate links.

Helpful Books:

1) Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – Richard Ferber

2) The Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp

3) The Wonder Weeks – Hetty Van de Rijt

4) NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children – Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman

5) What to Expect: First Year (and Toddler Years) – Sandee Hathaway

Helpful Sites:

1) Babysteals.com – I would sign up for it now because you often see deals ahead of time (eg: Ergo for 50% off). However, very dangerous because they have a lot of cute things!

2) Albeebaby.com – great site for deals on strollers, car seats, etc.

3) craigslist.org – Sounds stupid, but I would buy a LOT of stuff used. I wish I did. Especially for toys. Always search for the RICH areas/neighborhoods. They give things away practically for free.

4) nickisdiapers.com – great for cloth diaper deals and information.

5) amazon.com – Clearly a no-brainer – but also for the amazon Mom function! Like amazon prime but FREE!

6) http://parents.berkeley.edu/ – So much helpful information. A lot is Bay Area specific, but I’m sure the parenting advice can be universal.

7) kellymom.com – Super helpful re: breastfeeding and parenting.

Ok. Now your turn. What were some helpful books and sites that got you through the first years? Let me know in the comments.

The Best Advice Cosmo Ever Gave Me

Like many young women, I used to have a Cosmopolitan magazine subscription. Why, I’m no longer sure since it’s really just the same magazine every single month with a different half-naked woman on the cover. However, between the sex advice that was always the same and the make-up tips for white women (with an occasional bone thrown at black women), there was always one or two “hard-hitting” journalistic attempts. Granted, the article that changed my life was not one of those pieces, but whatever.

I don’t remember the name of the article and am too lazy to use my Google-Fu and find it. However, here’s the gist: When you find yourself being jealous over someone, stop and figure out why. If it is something that you, too, can achieve, then stop being jealous. Be happy for that person. And then GO AFTER WHAT YOU WANT. Perhaps even ask that person for help or advice. But don’t just dwell in your jealousy. DO SOMETHING.

The idea was transforming.

I must admit. I never thought I was a jealous person, but I realized that I actually was. I just disguised it by being petty or mean-spirited and tearing down people who went after the things they wanted.

In high school, I was jealous of cheerleaders and dancers and folks in student government. I belittled them to make myself feel better, but really, what good did that do? I still wanted to be them – but I was too scared to try for any of these things. I told myself that it was a waste of time and not practical, but honestly, I was just afraid of trying and then failing.

Would my life have been better if I had been a cheerleader or a dancer or a student leader? Who knows? But how sad that I wasted four years of my youth being bitter and snide, always yearning from the sidelines? How much better would it have been for me to take a beginner’s dance class? Or run for student government? I could have failed miserably, but at least I would’ve tried. After all, to quote a sales line, “If you don’t ask (in this case, try), the answer is always, ‘No.'”

At UCLA, I was jealous of those in the arts and wanted desperately to be in plays and musicals and what not but was ALWAYS too afraid to audition. That way, I could stay in my comfort zone. I always had a good excuse: being involved with InterVarsity (a campus Christian group) or “studying” or pursuing romantic relationships. Worthy pursuits, but again, so sad.

After reading that article from Cosmo, I realized what an idiot I had been. Not to mention, coward! (Although, that’s no surprise, right?)

So I stopped. It was much easier than I thought it would be.

Did I have a stab of envy every time I saw a particular person in their awesome clothes and accessories? Well, what was to stop me from having a better sense of personal style? NOTHING. (After all, wasn’t that what my subscription to Cosmo was for?)

If I saw someone succeed at writing – I no longer stewed in envy or came up with excuses as to why I wasn’t succeeding. If I wanted to write – then I should write. If writing wasn’t worth the sacrifice, then I should stop whining and not worry about it. (I stopped whining.)

If I read my friend’s wife’s blog and saw all their fun pictures, crafts, outings and trips around the Bay Area with their beautiful children, instead of being envious or making remarks such as, “Well, they’re rich so they can do these things!” or other such nonsense, I copied her ideas. Blatantly stole the suggestions. I mean, I live in the Bay Area! I can go visit the Sequoias, or go to Tilden Park and ride steam trains! Who is stopping me from taking my kids to Dolores Park in SF? Or the beach? Or doing silly crafts at home? ONLY ME! And plus, I am rich! Sounds crass to say so, BUT IT’S TRUE.

I tried to turn my potential jealousy into a springboard for action and to turn my life into the life I wanted – or at least, thought I wanted. If after finding out what it takes to “get” something, I didn’t think it was worth it, at least I looked into it and discarded the option vs. always pining after what seemed to be the “greener” grass.

It was incredibly freeing.

Also, I got a better wardrobe, shoes, and accessories.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, the jealousies concerned a simple fix such as shopping. Other times, it required sacrifice such as choosing sleep over TV shows or reading because I was always yelling at my kids due to exhaustion. (If you only talk to little children all day, giving those things up IS a sacrifice!)

Of course, sometimes, it is a little bit more difficult than merely copying someone. Thus far, most of the things I covet are easily resolved. But even if you are jealous of someone who has great relationships or personal skills, that can be learned! (It may take awhile and a lot of behavioral changes, but it is totally possible.) Or if you want to go back to school but it costs a lot, start figuring out and planning how you can afford it. Doing something is usually better than doing nothing.

My point is, stop wasting time on jealousy. If a person has or does something you’re envious of, find out how they do it. Copy them! Who cares? If you end up liking it, great! You now have what you wanted. You are now an object of envy. If you find out you hate it or it isn’t worth it to you, also great! How stupid to covet something you don’t even want? And how amazing is it to live a life where you are happy with your lot?

In closing, I wish to quote the wise Selena Gomez. “If you want it, come and get it!”

Happy hunting!