Friday, July 31, 2015

Frat Boy: Gracie - The Gala Part 1


This wasn’t any ordinary Formal, this was a Gala. This was a celebration of our SAI chapter as the oldest running chapter in existence. We were at The Drake Hotel, one of Chicago’s most beloved landmarks on the North section of the Magnificent Mile.

I was graduated at this point from my undergrad but continued at Northwestern for my graduate studies. Diana, my girlfriend (and my future wife) is two years younger than me, so she was still an active undergrad member of SAI.

Most people finish their time as an officer of PMA or SAI at the end of winter quarter and only have the spring to deal with watching younger people take over and than they leave. This is a difficult transition because for years you work at making an organization better and then you pass on these jobs to younger members.

No one is really in office for more than two or three years so sometimes the institutional memory doesn’t get passed on and young officers. This is a very inefficient way to run an organization if constant growth was a goal. However, the goal of PMA and SAI wasn’t for the organization to be in a constant upwards trajectory. Instead these organizations existed to help people bond and learn how to run an organization. The rotating officers, and having older people let go, was a great way to accomplish this task.

I did let go, but I was still a presence. I came to PMA and SAI events and I was often asked for my help and advice when dealing with issues. It was hard after being the music director watching the new music director try to figure out the gig, but it was okay and anyways, I had other priorities.

As this big SAI Gala started to come to together, the girls in SAI asked if the PMA guys would sing at this event. This was unusual as the PMA would usually only sing at their Formal and SAI would sing at their own. However, this was a special event and SAI extended the invitation. The current music director didn’t get invited to the SAI Gala, so I was asked to conduct the PMA as they sang a couple songs, and I happily agreed to help out.

The Gala was huge. Usually only undergrads showed up to Formals, but many SAI alumni showed up. There were much older people who had graduated before I was born who came and then there were those SAI members who took care of me when I was a freshmen, since graduated, who came back for the celebration.

It was such a great feeling to see all of these people again, introduce them to Diana and show tell them about how I had “grown up.” I remember seeing Gracie walk in. It had been more than two years since she graduated and we last talked. During that time, my resentment towards her had built. Not because of anything she had done during this time but because of how I felt that I had been mislead by her.

Gracie had her way of doing things, and her view on the way that SAI and PMA should run. I found that many of her opinions didn’t hold true now that my class was in power. For some reason this felt like a power grab and a way for her to manipulate me. Of course, this is silly. She had graduated and of course her views would be different than mine. As much as our organizations stayed the same, they also changed a lot. My negative feelings towards her, were more about my own insecurities and my inability to let go, more than it was about any bad things she really did to me.

When I saw her, I made every effort to avoid her (I know, reeeeal mature). This wasn’t really difficult since we had different crowds that we hung out with at this event. So everything went really smoothly.

I was so excited as I tried to settle down the PMA guys to sing. I gave them the pitch of our first song and we joined together in song. As we sang, I felt the positive energy coming from the guys and the girls behind me cheering us on. It had been almost a year since I last conducted these guys and it was a great feeling performing with them once again.

After the set, I left the ballroom to go to the bathroom, still feeling the adrenaline high from the performance. As I walked down the hall back to the ballroom, Jessica came running up to me. She was distressed and out of breath.  Jessica told me about what had happened in detail while I was gone, but all I heard was “Gracie,” “Diana,” and “fight.” The positive adrenaline and energy in my body, immediately turned into anger and without responding to Jessica, I pushed into ballroom.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Parenthood: Week 111 – Screen Time

The first time Ollie had screen time was when he was six days old. We settled down to watch The Expendables.  He slept through the entire film but it was some high quality daddy-son screen time.

There’s a lot of concern about the amount of “screen time” our children are getting. The pervasiveness of smart phone has made access to screen time omnipresent. There’s articles linking screen time to all kinds of disorders and dysfunctions, which have made some parents illogically concerned about screen time while other parents don’t seem to notice at all that letting their kid stare at a screen for most of that kid’s waking hours is a bad idea.

I’m not a psychologist or a sociologist. Nothing I’m saying here is based on any research. Like most things on this blog, my thoughts on screen time and children are based on my experiences.

Screen time has been a very important way for my family to acquire cultural knowledge. Like I discussed in this blog post about Bill Cosby, television helped my parents learn and understand what it meant to be American. Television and film opened the world to me and helped me become a more empathetic and understanding human being while video games helped create some of my favorite memories with my brother.

I agree that we need monitor much screen time our children have, but cutting out screen time or setting time limits doesn’t really address this issue. First off, as we’ve seen in the realm of sex education, abstinence education doesn’t work. Teaching our children to abstain from sex, alcohol, fatty foods, video games, and television and internet creates narrow-minded individuals who don’t have the tools to control life’s pleasures and interact with society.

Yes, it’s easier to simply cut things out of your children’s lives but that doesn’t mean that it’s better. I hate it when Ollie has meltdowns when we turn off the television, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up helping him learn how to watch television in appropriate doses. It is essential that we help our children learn to moderate the pleasures in their lives.

Not all screen time is created equal. Watching Sesame Street with your child and encouraging your kid to answer the questions asked by the characters is very different than sitting you kid in front of a show, not meant for their age and leaving them alone. I would rather watch an hour of an appropriate show with Ollie than let him zone out for 15 minutes watching a show like South Park (I love South Park btw, I just don’t think it’s right for Ollie).

As a parent, I am so grateful for the pervasiveness of screen time. Have you ever had to go to the bathroom when you are alone with a child and needed to use a grocery store bathroom? If it wasn’t for Elmo on youtube, I have no idea how I would have got Ollie to stand in that bathroom while I did my business.  Plane rides without iPhones would make a difficult experience with Ollie, excruciating. Besides these more difficult situations, I’ve had a lot of joyous moments watching television with Ollie.

I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to watch reruns of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and have him hear the same message of emotional acceptance and the importance of loving yourself that I did as a child. Hearing him giggle uncontrollably when watching monkeys on Planet Earth was adorable (they don’t want to get their paws wet, sooo cute).

Also, there's Peter, Paul and Mary concert footage with Ollie that I remember watching with my brother. There’s also seeing pictures of his family on the iPad and regular FaceTime conversations with his Popo (my mom), which are highlights of our day whenever they occur. Screen time has not only relieved stress as a parent but has helped Ollie connect with the world around him and his family.

Don’t get me wrong, Diana and I are very conscientious about the amount of screen time and we are not going to let Ollie become a zombie. However, it’s important that acknowledge screen time and all the technology that it includes for how it can enrich our children’s lives.

The screen time thing is really tough to manage.  Right now, Ollie is off of anything that has Elmo.  For some reason when Elmo gets turned off, he melts down worse than when he's watching something else.  I know I will battle Ollie with screen time, and I'm not looking forward to those fights but they are going to be worth it in the long run.

We as a society will continue to struggle manage the way screen time impacts our lives.  The negative consequences of our failure, allowing screen time to cut us off from each other is looming but the way technology can bring us together and make our face to face interactions more meaningful is a possibility that our children deserve.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Frat Boy: Formal

In high school, except for one exception, I didn’t really like dances, but in college I loved formal dances, which we simply called Formals.

If you want to read about me learning to love dancing in college check out this post.  This story also has a related this related link to a story about a how, a current New Yorker editor helped me learn to embrace what I loved about music and myself. 

In high school, dances consisted of making dinner reservations at some fancy restaurant, somehow making our way to the school, taking a picture, awkwardly standing around for a dance or two and then sometimes going to an after-party. When you were an underclassmen, transportation consisted of parents or older siblings.  When you were older you could drive or because of peer pressure you rented a limo.

I didn’t like dancing and the effort put into being seen and doing things a certain way felt disingenuous and kind of silly.

After the ladies of SAI taught me how to dance and the gentlemen of PMA helped me embrace the fun and silliness of dance parties, I looked forward to any opportunity to dance. It was liberating, fun and one of the best ways to relieve the stress of academics.  In my group of friends there was nothing sketchy about what we were doing on the dance floor and anything that seemed to approach more risqué dancing moves were more silly than sexual.

My frat had a Formal every spring. Our Formals looked like this. We walk over and get our dates (most of which were in SAI) and present a bouquet of flowers (not a corsage).  We would make our way to PMA and all pile into a rented school bus. The bus would take us to some kind of banquet hall in a hotel. Everyone would eat dinner in the room, like in a wedding reception. And after dinner we would dance. Then the formal would end, we would all climb into the school bus, which would drive us back to the frat house.

The guys would suit up and the girls would were nice dresses. However, unlike in high school the girls wouldn’t buy a new dress for each formal. More often than not they would reuse a dress or trade dresses with their sorority sisters for variety.

The school bus seemed weird at first but it was actually a really nice way for us to have some fun on the way to the location and take away the issue of driving. We’d hire a DJ and photographer. There would usually be a cash bar, and the food varied in quality depending on the location. A nice view was a plus, but in general, no one really cared. We just wanted an excuse to dress and get down with our “family.”

That was the main reason that these Formals were so much fun. It really felt like a family event. Most of the people who came were people from marching band, SAI and PMA. These were people we lived with, ate our meals with in Saga and defined the community that made our social group feel like a family.

At Formals we had our traditions. Being a music fraternity we had a way of singing grace and performing as a men’s choir toward the end of the night, which was a highlight for everyone involved. SAI had their formal within a couple weeks of ours and that was also a really fun event that had a similar format and vibe. I loved those events as well.

Formals are really a unique event. Getting together with a large group of friends for the purpose of being together and dancing just doesn’t happen in adulthood past college. The only thing that approaches Formals is wedding receptions. I’ve been to some really fun ones that are really meaningful but they are different. It’s just a different energy with multiple generations and the focus on one couple celebrating their union.

This lack of a focus on celebrating a specific event but rather purely celebrating life is what made these events so wonderful. Formals taught me that its worth putting in time and energy simply for the sake of getting friends together to have a good time. You don’t need a major life event to party; you just need good friends. Th Formals were a reminder of this fact and its something I forget when I feel too tired to call up friends or feel like I need an excuse to have fun.

A Formal may seem like just a bunch of college kids getting their party on, but it's so much more.  It's the feeling of losing yourself in dance, surrounded by friends, feeling no embarrassment, only freedom.  It's a feeling of energy, of love and of life.  It is the expression of the human spirit and most importantly a damn good time.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Parenthood: Week 110 – Ollie Do It

One of the proudest moments I’ve had as a parent was about two months ago, when I was showing Ollie how to open a water bottle. Instead of taking my help, he pushed my hand away and insisted “Ollie do it.”

Since then, “Ollie do it,” has become a common phrase in our household. Sometimes it’s from Ollie telling Diana and me that he wants to figure out something by himself. Other times it’s Diana and I reminding Ollie that he can do something with out her helping. The best is after Ollie accomplishes something like putting together a puzzle and proudly exclaiming “Ollie do it!”

As parents, it’s wonderful to feel needed. This unique sense of responsibility and the knowledge that your child wants you to comfort her more than anyone else in the world is really special.  However it’s important that we help instill a sense of independence and the sense of pride that only comes from doing something without assistance.

We aren’t tough parents when it comes to pushing Ollie to gain independence. We didn’t push Ollie to learn how to walk.  There’s really been no “tough love,” that I can remember with Ollie. Teaching children to be independent isn’t about being demonstrative or creating traumatic situations for children to struggle through.

Helping our kids become more independent is about teaching through small playful tasks. Teaching Ollie how to undress and dress himself has been a lot of fun. It started with him helping me take off my shirt. Then I showed him where to put his hands and how to maneuver his arms. He doesn’t get it all of the time, but when he does he’s really proud of himself.

We show Ollie how to clean things up around the house.  He’s not really good at it, but he tries and enjoys the activity. That’s something that you need to keep in mind with toddlers. When we teach them these tasks, we need to accept that fact that by our standards, they are doing a really poor job. But that’s okay, because when Ollie sweeps the floor, it’s not about cleaning the floor but rather Ollie learning how to contribute to the family household and becoming more independent.

At times “Ollie do it,” can become a cry of annoyance when Ollie refuses help for something he’s not able to do (mostly because of safety reasons). This kind of "independence" can be difficult to deal with but it pales to the joy that comes from the growing number of things that Ollie can do without our assistance.

As parents we want to be loved by our children.  Some parents think that if they remain needed by their children and don't teach them how to be independent, then their kids will always be around, and that  may feel like love.  However, if we teach our kids to be their own people, they will come back to us not to ask us to do things for them but rather to share in the joys of life.  Their love will be based on the pride we have given them, not the things we do for them.

As Ollie learns how to do for himself, we learn how to do for Ollie, helping him to be his own person and face the world with us, not because he needs our help but rather because he wants to share the joys of future adventures.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Frat Boy: Gracie - The Bad

When Gracie told me that she approved of my first girlfriend I had in college, I was really annoyed.

I was a sophomore and while I still saw Gracie around and thought of her as a friend I didn’t need her like I did the previous year. It was Gracie and a group of girls that made me feel welcome at Phi Mu Alpha parties. For this and many other instances in which she made an effort to bring me into the fold, I was grateful.

But I wasn’t a kid anymore.

Over time, I had overheard people complaining about Gracie. People would say that she was controlling and was a know-it-all. Yes, Gracie did like things to go a certain way, but that way was to be inclusive and yes she did talk authoritatively about PMA, SAI and NUMB but the reality was that more often than not she knew what she was talking about.

So I played by Gracie’s rules. I took her advice during my first election at PMA, which I won. We talked about the politics of our fraternities often and she never stopped standing up for me.

The more I grew into my own person, the more I became a leader in the organization, the more distance there was between Gracie and me. She would always give me an enthusiastic hug when she saw me, especially at parties, but we had less and less to talk about.

I was walking on campus on a beautiful spring day and Gracie saw me and we stopped to talk. She told me that she heard about this girl I was with, who was a new member of SAI,  I wasn’t surprised that she had heard the gossip, but I was taken aback when she told me that she “approved” of me going out with this girl.

Yes, Gracie once upon a time really was my “college-mom” but in a year, I had grown up and out of needing her to take care of me. While I did care about what she thought, the fact that she felt that her approval was important to me didn’t feel right.

We have people who look out for us at points in our life when we need help and Gracie was really there for me.  But I couldn’t help shake the feeling that while I grew up, she didn’t see that in me. Later I would understand how hard it is to let go of being in a place of influence in an organization and watch the younger crowd take over. But at the moment, I felt like she was being condescending. Maybe this was simply the way that Gracie showed that she cared, and I just took it the wrong way.

Some relationships take decades to develop and be fully explored. Other relationships take years to pan out while some arch in even shorter periods of time. At the end of that year, when Gracie graduated, I knew we were done. Towards the end, Gracie and I had gotten in some disagreements and there was tension surrounding her from others as well. Most of us just brushed it as her just being herself.

Sometimes in life we decide a fight isn’t worth it, but sometimes the battles we let go lead to even bigger conflicts. And telling myself “Gracie was just being Gracie” came back in a way that I never expected.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Frat Boy: Gracie - The Good

"What I've got they used to call the blues Nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don't belong. . ."

As the sound of Karen Carpenter’s voice mournfully singing these words from “Rainy Days And Mondays,” filled my dorm room the steady patter of rain accompanied my feelings of loneliness.

The rush and excitement of freshmen year band camp was over. Classes had started and everyone seemed to settle into the rhythm of the year. Everyone seemed to have a place, and a group of friend except for me.

Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB) had welcomed me with open arms a couple weeks earlier. I spent all my free time hanging out with NUMB'ers during band camp and in the first couple weeks of school. Because I had spent so much time with NUMB people, I never got to know the other freshmen in my dorm and there really weren’t that many people in NUMB that lived in my dorm.

NUMB was great but after rehearsals ended I wasn’t sure what to do. People talked about hanging out but I didn’t know how to reach out and get myself involved. I knew of Phi Mu Alpha (which I discuss getting into in this post), but I wasn’t quite ready to knock on their door.

For those first couple weeks, after eating dinner, I would do some homework in my dorm room (which was a single) and watch a DVD by myself. This seemed okay but the loneliness built up. Every freshman has that night when they hit the bottom and don’t feel like they belong at college. For me that night sitting n my room and listening to the Carpenters.

Then a got a message over Instant Messenger (old-school online texting).

     Gracie: Do you want to go out for ice cream?
     Me: Not really, I got a bunch of stuff to do . .
     Gracie: That’s fine, we’re coming over anyways, be ready in 10 minutes
     Me: Wait, who is coming, what?
     Gracie: Later

Gracie wasn’t our section leader in NUMB, she was our mom. Like the prison mom’s in Orange Is The New Black, she took care of people in her section and took young ones like me under her wing. During band camp, she kept tabs on me and made sure I knew what was going on. She never let me eat at a table by myself if she was around and if anyone even thought to give me a hard time she got up in their face without hesitation.

At first when she referred to me as one of her kids, I was kind of put off. I was still getting used to switching from being a older person who had “kids” of my own in high school marching band. However, by the end of band camp, I was took comfort being under her care.

For Gracie, being a section mom was an instinct. Her warmth embodied the best parts of Midwest hospitality. Even though, I had yet to open up to her, she gave to me, simply because she chose to care.

The knock on my door startled me because I hadn’t really had any visitors to my dorm. I opened the door to Gracie and a collection of about ten NUMB’ers and associated friends. They were all soaking wet, some in raincoats and some in just shorts and t-shirts. Before I could say anything they all entered my small room and started complementing the posters I had up in my room.

Gracie came up to me and began to speak, but put her finger up, motioning for me to wait a minute. She took off her glasses and attempted to wipe the beads of rainwater off with her soaked sweatshirt. After realizing that it was not going to do any good, she giggled at herself, put on her smeared glasses and said, “let’s go.”

“Look, Gracie, I got this thing due . . .”

“Kevin, find his jacket, let’s go. . .”

Before I knew it, I was walking in through the inky blackness of the night to the local ice cream shop. The crowd was giggling making jokes while Gracie walked next to me casually putting her arm around my shoulder, “c’mon Kings, this will be fun, relax.”

As puddles of water collected under our seats, we all ate ice cream. I didn’t have a lot to add to the conversations but everyone was being patient with me, explaining jokes and unpacking background for the stories they were telling.

After we all finished up the group walked me back to my dorm. As they said goodbye, Gracie squeezed my arm and gave me a wink. I brushed my hand through my soaking hair and watched Gracie gleefully skip through a rain puddle to catch up with the group. Then for the first time that day, I smiled.

The world can pour everything it’s got down onto you, and Gracie showed me that you don’t have to let to get it down.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Parenthood: Week 109 – Inside Out

I know that Ollie will not have any memories of the first two years of his life, but when I saw Joy, holding a little orb of a memory from Riley’s toddlerhood, I broke down crying for the like the 100th time while watching Inside Out.

Inside Out didn’t make me love Ollie more but it made me feel that love more acutely. Since watching this film last week, I’ve put more effort into our time together. Watching each memory form into a little globe and be placed into long term-storage, disappear or become a core memory was an important reminder of the impact that I have on Ollie’s memories, personality and his life.

Pixar is no stranger to making films about parenthood. The Toy Story trilogy is told in the context of big family changes (some theorize a divorce). Then there’s Finding Nemo, which is about every parent’s ultimate nightmare of loosing a spouse and unborn children and becoming the sole caretaker. And Up is about Carl taking on the role of Russell’s absent father, which is made all of the more poignant with the knowledge that Carl and his late wife desired children but were unable to have children of their own.

Since becoming a father I actually haven’t watched any of these films, because I’m not really sure how I can handle dealing with these topics now that I have a son of my own. So when I watched Inside Out, I wasn’t sure how this film would affect me. And as I expected I was a mess crying through most of this film.

Inside Out nails the emotional development of children through adolescence perfectly. From the newborn that only has Joy and Sadness in her head, through the emotional shutdown later in the film and finally the emotional complexity at the end, we see the emotional journey of the human experience. It’s a beautiful and sometimes very difficult path, but this film helps us through it with humor and grace.

What got to me the most was that, this film showed that every moment as a parent matters and that you never know what moments is going to become a core memory and what is going to be easily and quickly forgotten. It’s also a reminder to us as parents and teachers that all kids even seemingly happy and well-adjusted children struggle with their emotions. These moments aren’t something to dread, but something to embrace as they lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful connections with other people.

Probably the saddest part of the film for me was when Goofball Island collapsed into the abyss. One the things I love about Ollie is his goofiness. I feel like I was goofy when I was really young but I lost it in adolescence and it wasn’t until college that this part of me came back. When I see Ollie being a goofball, it’s the greatest thing ever and imagining him loosing that, was almost too much to bear. I came home determined to get as many core memories into his Goofball Island. But I know that it doesn’t work that way and I know that at some point things may fall apart.  What Inside Out reminds us though is what we end up with is something even better. In Riley’s mother we see that sadness evolves into compassion and is a leader.

Ollie may loose some of his goofball-ness at some point, but I need to remind myself that it'll be okay and like Riley's dad and with myself, that goofiness has a way of coming back.

I love art that expresses what its about like a song that is about how much fun it is to dance to music that is really fun to dance to.  Inside Out is a film that is about understanding that the most powerful and meaningful emotions in our lives are not simply happy or sad.  Every time the film hit me hard and I cried, it was swirl of emotions and memories, something indescribable and beautiful.

Go see Inside Out y'all.  If you have kids, make sure to schedule some quality time with them after you watch the film.  You are going to want to visit Goofball Island with them.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bill Cosby: Rape, The Court of Public Opinion and How Dr. Huxtable Let My Father Down

My dad just put his head down in silence.

He had nothing to say about Bill Cosby.

My dad has an opinion about most current events and I really like this about him. He has the ability to synthesize things that are happening in the world and make connections to personal experiences. So when I brought up Bill Cosby last winter, I expected for him to have something to say about him. Instead, he seemed really sad, almost hurt and it was clear that didn’t really want to talk about the accusations.

When my parents came to America in the late 1970s it wasn’t history books that helped my parents what it meant to be American, it was comedians. For my mom, it was Lucile Ball in reruns of I Love Lucy, that helped her understand feminism, the possibility of power dynamics in a marriage and what it meant to face the challenges of being an immigrant in America. For my father, it was Bill Cosby. Through his stand-up routines and television shows showed my dad what it meant to be an American dad.

Great comedians aren’t just people who make jokes. They are sociologist, historians, psychologist and journalists. They reflect thoughts we are afraid to acknowledge and provide important insights. Only through laughter can comedians help us acknowledge the failings of our society with optimism and hope.

Growing up, I remember my dad talking about the superiority of Bill Cosby. To my dad he was better than Richard Pryor because he didn’t use swear words. My dad used Bill Cosby sayings around the house like jokingly calling my brother and I “brain-damaged.” I have fond memories of watching Cosby’s films, stand-up specials and televisions shows with my dad. We even watched the horrendous Leonard Part 6 together and I’ll never forget how much my dad laughing at this classic scene:

It’s because of my dad that every week, I’ve search for updates on Bill Cosby. I feel that I need something, some kind of explanation to help me understand what was really going on. This last week we got sworn testimony that Cosby got drugs with the intention of giving them to woman to rape them.

Cosby defenders hang on to the “innocent until proven guilty” line in the face of this testimony. While I agree that this idea is the cornerstone of our justice system, it needs to be acknowledged that we regularly fail at this idea. Thousands of people in America are serving prison terms, many of them minorities because they were judged guilty without given a chance to prove their innocence. To hold onto this idea for Cosby, without the acknowledgement of how this idea fails so many is naïve.

There is also this idea that the court of public opinion is invalid. Public opinion has continued to shape the way that we interpret law and our constitution. Once upon a time, the courts upheld segregation as constitutional. When it was overturned the court of a public opinion had a significant role in the reinterpretation of this precedent.

Is it wrong that we have a legal system that so often puts innocent people in jail? Yes. Is it wrong that a person can have their reputation ruined simply by court of public opinion? Yes.

However it is even more disturbing that many people’s reactions to rape accusations are blind skepticism “Why didn’t you report this earlier?”

It is counterproductive that we spend more time educating girl how not to get sexually assaulted rather than teach boys not to rape by teaching the nature and dynamics of consent.

It is shameful that if you can run fast enough, and throw a football accurately enough you can rape someone with no consequences.

If you believe that Bill Cosby is guilty then his downfall should be an important reminder to you that must be respectful and always get consent when having sexual relations with another person. Marital rape does exist and a person who consents before a sexual activity can take away this consent during sexual activity.

If you believe that Bill Cosby is innocent let this be a reminder to never put yourself in a situation that could be misconstrued as sexual assault. If you aren’t careful and accusations come up, the court of public opinion will not be kind.

The reason the court of public opinion has such a vicious reaction to rape accusations is because of how much we are failing to address this issue in America. If we knew that rape accusations were taken seriously and just punishments were handed out, then we wouldn’t see this reaction. If it disturbs you that Cosby is being judge so harshly, then do something about it and donate money to one of the many organizations that are bringing awareness to issues surrounding sexual assault.

Rape isn’t like property damage. For many, this damage can never be fixed. This action has the potential to steal from a person one of the most meaningful, spiritual and for some people religious ways that they connect with themselves and other people for the rest of their lives.

We believe, maybe wrongfully so, in public figures. This belief helps us believe in ourselves, and to have that shattered, takes away little part of that belief in humanity that we struggle to hang onto through the years.

I’ll never forgive Cosby for taking a piece of that away from my dad.

I don’t have any faith in Bill Cosby. He’s not going to come out with the truth, and he’s not going to atone for any of his sins. But I do have faith that one day he will move on from this life and face judgment far more righteous than any of us can comprehend.

I’m doing my best to not let Cosby’s actions affect the memories of enjoying his humor with my dad. But it’s hard and part of me wishes like Dr. Huxtable taking the final dollars out of Theo’s hands, that these tarnished memories could simply disappear.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Parenthood: Week 108 – “Cooking” With Ollie

I’ve done a lot of stupid things as parent.

I’m not talking about actions that put Ollie in danger. I’m talking about doing things that no reasonable person should do because of the stress and potential trauma involved in the experience.

There is the over a dozen plane rides I’ve taken Ollie on, continuing to take Ollie on road trips of ever-increasing lengths, and attempting to have Ollie “help” me fold the laundry before he could crawl. One of the most challenging and stupid things that I continue to do with Ollie is cooking dinner while watching Ollie.

I freely admit that there are times that I plunk Ollie in front of the television so I can cook dinner, but I do my best to avoid this (in a future blog post, I’ll talk about screen time and parenting).

This choice combined with the fact that I prioritize cooking “real food” for my family makes my life needlessly. I always have frozen pizza, frozen chicken tenders, and frozen vegetables in my freezer. Also I always have box mac and cheeses and instant ramen in my pantry. These staples come into use at least once a week. My wife and I both work, and we live modern lives, so cooking a home cook meal every day, simply doesn’t happen. However more often than not I manage to cook “real food” for my family.

I define real food as cooking meat from raw (not simply heating pre-cooked meat), preparing fresh veggies and eating some kind of starch that isn’t Stove Top stuffing (which I love btw).

This is something that I’ve made a priority in my life. Not everybody does and that’s fine, we all make different choices in how we take care of our family and ourselves. I hardly ever iron my clothing (sometimes after I clean a pair of khakis in my laundry machine, I send it to the dry cleaners so I don’t have to iron them). Forget, making or altering clothes for my family. Ollie had disposable diapers, partially because I would rather spend my time cooking than laundering dirty diapers.

Making cooking a priority in my life mostly has to do with the fact that I love cooking. One of the ways that my mom shows love is through cooking. She taught me how to cook and also how to teach myself to master recipes. I full credit her with my ability and interest to watch over thirty different youtube instructional videos on how to cook and omelet and figure out the techniques that work the best for my cooking style and my family.

Now once upon a time, I could put Ollie in a bouncer or in his Pack & Play and I could cook dinner. He grew out of his bouncer and he felt too constricted in his Pack & Play so I had to figure something else out. Our kitchen is a galley kitchen so I can’t really see much of the house from the stove or the sink (I don't have a big enough kitchen or enough counter space for a learning tower).  In order for Ollie to be safe, I need him in the kitchen while I cook.

There’s a gate at one end of the kitchen and the stove is at the other end, so I basically just need to keep Ollie to the left of me.

So how do I keep Ollie entertained while I cook?

There’s a variety of strategies that I utilize and cycle through. Sometimes I just feed him things that I’m prepping and cooking. This works if he’s interesting in the ingredients that I’m using but isn’t idea because this strategy has the potential to fill him up before dinner. I bring toys into the kitchen. This sometimes helps and we have some magnetic toddler toys on the refrigerator, but these toys never seem to occupy his attention for very long.

What I’ve found that work is having Ollie “cook.” For Ollie cooking is a variety of activities. There’s taking out all of the pots and pans and their lids and trying to match them up. Sometimes I take out all of the Tupperware for him to stack and organize. Ollie has learned how to prep string beans, (though for some reason he feels a need to bite every bean after he snaps them in two).

The most fun Ollie has is cooking pasta. I give him a small pot, a handful of uncooked pasta, a colander, a bowl with some water, tongs, a spatula and a ladle. Most days, this will keep Ollie occupied for twenty minutes, sometimes longer. When I first tried this with Ollie I had to teach him how to use the tongs. We went over how he could mix water in the pasta and use the colander to get the water out of the pasta.

Inevitably the kitchen floor gets covered with water, and Ollie needs a change of socks at the very least and an entire outfit change if he’s being really silly with the water.

Periodically I’ll show him what’s in the oven or what’s in the pan. I almost always let Ollie take a smell of whatever spices I’m using which he really  enjoys.  And with some of my favorite music always playing in the kitchen, impromptu dance parties often happen while we cook.

I’ve started teaching Ollie some knife skills and he’s doing well with that, and he’s getting the concepts of the different tools of the kitchen. The tools that make things smaller like graters and things we use to mix.  Also he's really good at figuring out what utensils make the loudest noises when hit against pans.

It’s really intense trying to cook when Ollie is in the kitchen. I’m trying to focus on the food, and the process, while also keeping Ollie safe and engaged. If you cook with toddler in your care, you have to be flexible. Maybe a dish that was supposed to be pan-fried is simply going to have to be baked in the oven and pasta will inevitably get overcooked.

Sometimes you just need to give up and stick frozen food in the over and the kid in front of the television. There’s no shame in that. Food is not always art, and after a long day at work with a kid in a bad mood, you got to make something work.

Sometimes, on the hard days, I find something left inside of me and I push myself to make a meal that expresses something about who I am. I bring Ollie into the kitchen and in his own way he’s part of this process. He’s trying ingredients, he’s hearing the sounds of the kitchen, and smelling the magic of aromas mixing and tasting flavors come together. While it’s more stressful for me, like other stupid things I do in my life with Ollie, I’d rather cook with Ollie than without him.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Frat Boy: Consequences of Long Showers

More stories from fraternity life.  Here's the into.  

Larry took the long showers.

I mean really long. He would be in the shower stall for literally 45 minutes sometimes longer. This didn’t really bother any of us because he usually took these extended showers in the early afternoons while the rest of us took morning or evening showers. However Ric took notice of this, and he couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The afternoon was a pretty chill time in the frat house. People would either be in class or doing homework.  And it always seemed that Ric was around during this time of day.

Now Ric was a great guy and unique in really cool ways. He was in a great shape, worked out a lot. Like me, he was also one of the only one of my frat brothers who was as into professional wrestling and comics books. He was loud, brash and put on this professional wrestling style cartoonish perona. At the same time he was very intelligent, sensitive and a good friend.

My room was right across from the bathrooms and my door was open, which was the custom for most of us when we were in our rooms. Ric came out of the bathroom and observed, “Larry has been in showering for a while hasn’t he?” I made some comment about how that wasn’t a big deal and that I had to finish the paper I was working on.

About 15 minutes later, Ric came down the hallway, peeked into the bathroom, and appeared in my doorway.

“Dude, he’s still in the shower, let’s mess with him.”

I replied, “Really, man, I got to finish this thing. Let’s hang later.”

 Ric apologized and went back to his room down the hallway.

Another 15 minutes passed, and Ric once again, walked down the hallway, peeked into the bathroom. Then he just stood silently in my door with a mischievous grin on this his face.

“Sigh, ok fine, Ric, let’s do this.”

We ran down to Ric’s room and grabbed his trashcan and emptied it out into the hallway trash. We went to the door of the bathroom and paused for a second. Ric pointed up, and I immediately knew what he was thinking. We ran up the stairs and filled up the trashcan with cold water in a shower stall on the third floor bathroom.

Together we carried the trash can full of cold water down the stairs. We slowly pushed the bathroom door open, trying not to let Larry hear us coming.  We struggled to carry the trash can through the sauna-like bathroom, while attempting to hold in our laughter.  We made out way shower stall next to Larry’s and Ric hurled the trashcan full of cold water over the partition.

Larry immediately screamed.  As we ran out of the bathroom, Ric grabbed Larry’s towel, and we both rushed into my room.  I closed the door, locked it and we immediately dropped to the floor sitting with our backs against the door with our hands over our mouths trying desperately not to laugh.

I could hear Larry swearing loudly, storming up and down the hallway, soaking wet and naked trying to figure out who had thrown the water on him.

“Who the &#!@ did this? I can’t believe you did this. You &#!@$ I RUINED my book!”

His book?!?

As soon as he said "book," Ric and I looked at each other knowing that we were about to loose it an that we would be dead if Larry heard us.  I quickly grabbed two pillows off my bed, and threw one to Ric.  Then buried our faced in them desperately trying not to laugh out loud.  I have never had to work harder to keep myself from laughing as I did, sitting with Ric and listening to Larry loose it over his ruined book.

Yes, Larry was annoyed at the cold water and that someone had taken away his towel but the thing he was most angry about was that we got his book wet that he was reading in the shower.  I've heard of people reading a book while taking a bath, but who reads a book in the shower?  If you bring a book into the shower, shouldn't you know that there is a risk of it getting wet?  And you live in a fraternity house.  While these kinds of pranks were not an every day occurrence, they weren't that uncommon.

I don’t think Larry ever figured out who dumped the water on him. Was this prank mean? Eh, kind of, but it’s harmless in the sense that in normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have caused any property damage, just a moment of discomfort. But leave it to Larry to make it something more, a case of bibliocide.

Sometime later, I overheard Larry talking when he was in the shower from my room.  It was kind of weird because I didn't hear any other voices.  A couple days later when washing my hands, I saw Larry walk out of his shower with his shower caddy in one hand and a wireless phone in the other.  At least we weren't responsible for ruining his phone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015