Even The Losers

There is nothing wrong with losing. A loss is like a mistake – they happen so we can learn from them. Duh. Of course with boys, or more like – my boys in particular, they’ll repeat the same mistake about fifty times before they have me wondering if they might possibly be insane.

When the boys were five and three, we used to play a memory game. The first to get the correct answer would get a point – five points to win a round. Although we played several rounds and there was no prize, neither of the boys could stand losing. The loser would throw a complete tantrum in the fashion of John McEnroe minus the tennis racquet, and entirely miss the point of the game, which was to exercise their feeble memory. They needed to learn how to cope with disappointment.

So I took them to Toys R Us, spent an hour there testing out a bunch of cool toys and didn’t buy them anything. Afterwards, we went to Dunkin’ Donuts and came out with nothing but an ice coffee for mommy. Nope – no donuts either.

It seemed like a reasonable plan to teach them that they don’t always get what they want. Ultimately, however, they learned that it’s better to go to Toys R Us with daddy – he’s a sucker. While to this day, they’re still rather sore losers. It’s all daddy’s fault.

At the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby, my husband was so irate that nobody from our pack won anything that he rallied up all the other dads and determined that next year, we were doing our own derby race. “Screw them!” He yelled, as we gathered up our losing derby cars. Knowing that Samu would mimic his dad and say, “screw you,” instead of thank you on the way out, I told them right then and there that there was no way in Hell I would organize a Pinewood Derby race. Not without beer, anyway.

Honestly though, the boys weren’t upset, they knew it wasn’t all about winning. But daddy?

In the movie, Searching For Bobby Fischer, the chess coach (played by the tea horking Ben Kingsley) says a quotable line, “To put a child in a position to care about winning and not to prepare him is wrong.”

I should’ve listened to Gandhi and prepared the big guy. My bad. I’m not joking when I say he’s the biggest child in our house. There are times the three of them go at it – calling each other names, smacking heads, punching blubber and kicking each other’s butt, like literally – that I have yell, “Daddy! Really?”

In my opinion, girls are better at losing. I’d like to believe it’s because we’re patient, positive thinkers but the truth is, we’re scornful. We never forget, as opposed to boys and their single cell memory. Go ahead, ask a boy any question about school, what they did, what they ate, their mom’s name – and 80 percent of them will say, “I dunno.”

So given the resiliency of children, it’s befuddling to see parents protecting their kids from the pain of losing. You can’t lose without getting hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t worth it – not everyone can be happy. Not everyone can be the winner.

But what’s important to remember is, there’s a difference between being The loser and being A loser. And even those, get lucky sometimes.

 

Little child, Medium Child, Big child

Little child, Medium Child, Man child

 

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Practice Fight

“You can only fight the way you practice”
― Miyamoto MusashiA Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

At the same time, you realize what a person practices in the way they fight. Headstrong and reckless? Cold and calculating? Honest and admirable. We all encounter foes and obstacles – it will never cease. No matter what preventive measures you take, life is about fight.

If it’s not people, it’s disease. If it’s not the government, it’s the weather. And should you be fine with all of the above, you still have to contend with supermarket cashiers. Plus their supervisors. Don’t even bother with Wendy’s. It makes you wonder how this nation has an obesity problem when you can’t buy food without stress.

But you can’t fix insolence. You can’t “fix” anything, really. You just have to keep on going. While people grow less ambitious and more aggressive, curb their compassion and become unbearably imposing, you realize to your despair, that you can’t change the scenery, only the way you see it. It becomes what you make of it – that’s how the quote translates to me.

There was a pivotal time in my life when I started saying yes to everything. Jobs, outings, committees, meetings – you name it, their invitation was accepted. Of course, a lot of them were a waste of time, but my father used to tell me over and over, “do more research” and I figured that’s what he meant. In actuality, he was referring to my dates, but whatever.

In the end, the research paid off. After saying yes to everything, it became clear what work was worth the effort; which person would stand with you; what beer would give you the squirts. Now, I can tell what a person is conveying – despite what they’re saying. Sounds deep, but it’s easy because it’s usually bullshit.

Since it’s my turn as a parent, the practice I’ve been trying to instill is – not quitting. If it were up to my boys, they’d quit everything in an hour. Initially, when it’s fun, they’ll fight each other over it, but when it becomes a procedure – they’d rather pick their nose. To their defense, they do have some monumental boogers.

So, when they ask me, “How long do I have to do this?”

The answer is, “Forever.” And then they’ll gasp and I’ll add, “Or until I die,” to which they appear hopeful. Totally void of remorse. It’s disturbing.

With time, maybe they’ll get the big picture. If they learn one thing out of being tenacious, I hope it’s commitment. It seems to be a fading characteristic these days. I give them the whole shpeel, good things come to those who don’t quit, when the going gets tough, the tough get enemas, and they look at me like, “huh?”

They are confused for the moment. For instance, all the lavish weddings they’ve been to, they think that the only couples who actually marry for love – are gay. “That’s why they’re on the news – because they’re so happy.”

Might have a point there. Or they could be confusing the word gay. Either way, I should give them credit because they are genuinely children – and fight like ones, too.

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Beating up Daddy. Again.

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Lucky Number Seven

Well, seven – times eleven, actually. Apparently, in Japanese custom, turning 77 is a milestone age that should be celebrated with grand fanfare. My mother, however, a typical Aquarian eccentric, threatened to disown me if I planned any kind of birthday bash for her 77th. She is too humble, you see, to be the center of attention. So, I’ll honor her here, and spare her the embarrassment and she can smack me upside the head the next time she sees me in the street.

Seriously, in New York, you’re better off fighting in the street. If you fight in your own home, neighbors call the cops on you.

Then again, I hardly fight with my mom. It’s not because we’re gal pals or I’m that good Asian daughter. No, it’s because I know I’ll never win. Never. My mom has a sharp tongue, a very rogue sense of humor and unbounded energy that seems to get more out of control the older she gets. The woman walks a minimum of three miles a day and when she was snowed in she climbed up and down the stairs of her apartment building.

Who does that, right?

While I can’t claim that her charm is nurturing or supportive – she has been responsible for presenting the truth in life changing ways. If you don’t deserve praise, you’re definitely not going to get it from her. My mom rode the same elevator as Mick Jagger once and when he doubted she knew who he was, her response was “Sure I know who you are, you were in The Beatles.”

Only she could stump a Rolling Stone.

She’s not a big woman, she’s not a loud woman but she does have presence. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish. She taught me everything about being a performer – about respecting the stage and your audience and your art. Most importantly, she taught me not to insist. In the land of pushy Americans, that’s a tough thing to teach.

Finally, she’s an American herself. Yes folks, she went back to school and became a Naturalized Citizen. Her classmates are young enough to be my children (if I were a teenage mom). I’m proud of her and deeply respect her persevering character. Hopefully, she’ll read this post because if I told her this in person, she’d ask me if I’d been drinking and smack me upside the head.

Asian moms.

Humble Happy Birthday.

My mom with my sister

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A Hyped Up Dud

We don’t watch football – but we do have a Superbowl ritual. We’re suckers for game food – hot wings, nachos and guacamole and if there’s an unofficial day to officially serve them, well, why the Hell not. Plus, the Superbowl is one shot. One game. I can handle one game.

Unlike the past Superbowl games, with the Jets and Giants, I didn’t really care who won Superbowl 2014. But I expected two teams to play, at least. This game was like watching a live suicide. Oh, die already. Now I know how Vikings fans feel.

All week, I thought about taking the boys to Times Square’s Superbowl alley after school. As the game progressed, I was glad I didn’t. All the fanfare and the event was nothing but a hyped up dud.

My boys were sent to bed right after the half time show. They were reluctant as usual and whining, “we wanna see the Broncos score something!” 

I told them, if and when they do, it’ll be too little, too late. Was I right, huh? Huh?

That’s why being a sports fan sucks. These athletes are worshipped and paid a shit load of money and what do they do – choke at the Superbowl. Peyton Manning just wasn’t hungry enough. An unfortunate drawback of being a rich athlete – having the chops and no game. He lost it and never got it back. Not like Michael Phelps who used his loss to come back like a bat out of hell. I have no problem with him – he nice boy.

That’s what the average schmuck is waiting for in a superstar – for them to dig deep and find the spirit that whimsically pranced over to the opponent. That hefty paycheck is impressive, yes – but complacency is just boring. Nobody respects that crap. If you’re going to get soft and happy, build a state of the art Karaoke room and lock yourself away. Otherwise, go bankrupt if you have to but don’t show up for battle with manicured hands. Or sell out to a car commercial…Bob.

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It’s Not Okay But Who Cares?

Will we ever stop obsessing? We’re either too fat, too poor, too crazy or too stupid but in the end, nobody cares. We all wind up in the same place. Yes, this post has philosophical tendencies. It’s not because I had an introspective moment, it’s because Samu’s fish died and I was wondering how to get rid of it.

“Should we put it in the compost?” I asked my husband.

He’s a sick guy so he just laughed and said,”Yeah!”

Seriously, no – we didn’t put the dead pet in the compost. We took the traditional route of flushing the thing down the toilet. He had a mini-funeral and everything. I even cleaned the fish bowl in the dishwasher for the next tenant. Then we analyzed what could’ve killed the fish besides the overall neglect.

“I think it’s because you changed his name.” Samu said to his daddy.

Initially, Samu named it something ridiculous, then he changed it to Rex. Nobody called the fish “Rex”. Then, about a week ago, my husband decided that the fish didn’t look like a “Rex” so he changed the fish’s name to Fishy-poo. The name stuck and a week later – the fish died.

Coincidence? I think so. Still, I’m not going to ask my husband to name any pets in the future – unless I want them to go away.

What I wasn’t expecting was Samu’s mourning. Unlike the deaths of the previous pet fish and the hermit crab, Fishy-poo’s passing brought Samu to tears. He was sad and mopey for a while and he didn’t ask me right away if the void could be filled with another pet. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to him about appreciating life and living for the moment and all that good stuff that I often fail to practice myself.

As of late, I confess I’m a writer who hasn’t written. Every day that passed without writing a word, I used to convince myself that it was okay, there was life threatening laundry and classes to get to. But in reflecting, seeing Samu take our talk to heart, it’s clear that it is not okay.

“It’s okay” is just an excuse and who can do anything with those? Even the best excuse is still just an excuse, I tell my boys. When their homework is taking too long or there’s wads of toilet paper in the sink and I ask why, they know not to give me excuses. If they do for lack of memory, they are made to simply apologize – then do 10 plank push-ups. You’d think they’d look like Mr. Incredible by now instead of the scrawny chickens that they are.

So I’m writing again. And hating it. But love having written. My ass is getting bigger as are the dust bunnies and various other messes that would normally take up writing time to maintain. Certainly, it’s not okay but who cares? Otherwise, I’d have to name my life Fishy-poo.

Fishypoo copy

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Roots, Radicals, Reese’s Pieces

As a full time mom, I get to chaperone a lot of the school field trips for my boys’ class. I get a kick out of them. While getting to know my son’s classmates and teachers is a huge perk, the real bonus is in watching them act like monkeys who escaped from the zoo.

Recently, we went to the Queens County farm, where they took a “Colonial Kitchen” workshop in a farmhouse. During the presentation, these 4th graders learned about life in the Colonial days – how children did chores all day, ate after all the adults were finished, married early, caught on fire easily and hardly had sugar.

No sugar?!

Kids and their priorities. They were put to work during the workshop, cutting the farm’s fresh vegetables, making cornbread with molasses (remember, no sugar), churning butter from cream. When it was all done, only two kids actually finished their cups of soup – the rest preferred to finish off their 30 oz bottle of Gatorade and barbecue flavored chips.

You only live once, I suppose. Fresh food isn’t a novelty to them when we have three supermarkets in a five block radius who all sell organic produce.

Damned kids – I thought the soup was delicious and had two helpings – screw them. Then again, it was a mere five degrees outside and the class voted to go see the frozen cow while the soup cooked. Dumb cow.

In the end, what I learned was – I could never work on a farm. But somebody has to. Somebody has to know how to grow potatoes. I mean out of the 28 kids in the class, only one knew that flint rock and steel was a way to start a fire. And he wasn’t even a scout.

It’s sad when you think about it, how little city folk know about surviving and how even less they can pass on to their kids. I could teach my kids how to get anywhere by subway but outdoors, I couldn’t guide them to the North Star unless there was a huge white arrow pointed to it. But at least I know it’s crucial to find it if you’re lost.

These kids? Well, the instructor asked the students what sweeter they thought replaced sugar in Colonial days, as a hint she said it starts with an M and rhymes with glasses. All the kids searched the furthest corner of their 4’x5′ brain and one kid stuck up his arm like he was having a stroke.

“Peanut butter!”

I clawed at my face and thought, we’re all gonna die.

See - Men do belong in the kitchen

See – Men do belong in the kitchen

 

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Gathered Here Today

My good friend, I heard of your loss and I’m deeply sorry. Sometimes we see it coming – many times we don’t but either way, we’re never quite prepared. It is the ultimate Suck.

How do people carry on, you ask yourself. Don’t they know who they’ve lost?

It is strange – to see life continue when for you, it has split between the time with and the time thereafter. But if anything is to be gained, it’s the awakening. That by departing, they illuminate everyone else. All those who are still here. And it makes you want to remind them that every, single day is important.

Cherish it and replace the sorrow with it for now. The void will inevitably come.

I remember, weeks after I lost my sister, you called me up and coaxed me out of my cave. Gathering the dregs that we tooled around with, we poured our memories into our beers and drank until we ran out of money. That’s what I remember of thirteen years ago – not the tears, but the laughter that fought them and the friends who were there when the dust settled.

There hasn’t been a day gone by that I don’t think of her – and I suspect the same fate awaits you with your brother.

He was the backbone to your uniqueness – the bolt in that swan on your bowler hat. He supported your gigs, even when everyone else was at home watching the season premiere of Sex In The City. He scared off your trick or treaters as the scary Cat in the Hat.

What a guy.

You and your family are in our thoughts, bro.

Here is the light, and there you go…

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Derailed

Recently, I read this article that instructed me to find a correlation with a random event to a problem in my life. “For example,” they said, “passing by a shattered window and relating it to your spouse’s flatulence.”

Well, that’s how I interpreted it anyway.

I can get obsessed with signs. If I hear a crow cackling a mad cry, I’ll walk the opposite direction to avoid the oncoming zombie it’s obviously warning me about.

So, when news filtered in about the Metro North train derailment, it occurred to me that this was it – a sign that described my current discontentment to a tee. Sure, trains derail all the time – but this one was big. It killed four people. Very rarely do I hear of a train derailment resulting in fatalities in New York. Other places are a different story and all I can say is, that’s what happens when you try to save a cow.

Of course, derailment as a metaphor is broad. So broad you might say I should go out and seek mad cackling crows to find a better direction. But for now, I’ll correlate every action. Get back on track like the derailed train. Get things moving again, like the rest of Metro North’s service. Lastly, lay to rest what’s gone.

What’s your shattered window?

 

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Encouragement vs. Rewards

I need to put a sign around Samu’s neck that says, “Do Not Give”. Either that or dress him up like Shrek’s Puss n’ Boots so folks know that his pleading eyes and innocent smile are just his conning devices to get over on them. If he’s offered a reward – he’ll do anything. As a matter of fact, he’s actively searching for Avonte Oquendo, the missing autistic teen, not because he’s worried about the child but because he wants the reward money.

My son – the six-year old bounty hunter.

Honestly, I don’t know how he got that way – I don’t bribe my kids, even in tough situations. Say if we were invited inside the Bronx Zoo’s monkey house, I still expect them to be well mannered – not climbing the walls and flinging poop at people. Of course, reality is they WOULD be climbing walls and flinging poop and if they didn’t, Samu would surely ask me for two-hundred dollars as a reward for refraining. That’s his going rate right now, two-hundred dollars. If he manages to find the missing teen, he’ll raise his fee, no doubt.

It doesn’t matter because I’m not paying him. One, because I’m broke and two, he’s lucky I don’t beat his ass for extortion.

While I understand the importance of rewards and praise, I have to take into account that achievements also have standards. I’ll tell them it’s great that they finished their homework in a timely manner but if it looks like they wrote it with their left foot, I’ll make them rewrite it. Oh, yes – call me Mommy Dearest, but what’s the point in writing a letter if nobody can read it?

Besides, when they bring home a comment from their teacher how their work has improved, their pride shows and I know it was worth being the handwriting gestapo.

Experience is the best teacher and so in teaching them the value of encouragement vs. rewards, I had them cheer on the runners of the New York City Marathon last Sunday. I explained that the marathon is about the distance between our house and Legoland in Yonkers. They were impressed but what shocked them was the thought that all those people ran the marathon just to do it – and not win a prize.

“Can’t they at least get two dollars?” Samu asked.

Why they get two dollars for running a marathon when he gets two hundred for passing an audition is beyond me. Bounty hunter. Extortionist.

After seeing the marathon runners for themselves, however, I think they see achievement in a less materialistic sense and a better light than before. Perhaps encouraging them to make fart noises through a big plastic trumpet and screaming at the top of their lungs when the runners went by had something to do with it. I just hope somebody finds that missing kid soon.

The Extortionist

The Extortionist

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Zuke, I Am Your Grandfather

Were my dad alive for his birthday today, he’d be eighty years old. I wish he was here just to stump my boys mathematically – they couldn’t fathom it – eighty years. Just the other day, Zuki asked me if I was alive in 1812.

I asked him if he was serious.

Then he asked me if I was almost a hundred years old.

I told him yes just to stop the conversation because I knew he would never do the math.

Although my dad and Samu only spent a year and a half together on Earth, Samu sometimes says he misses him. Since I doubt he has that extraordinary of a memory, I’m assuming he’s missing the potential of pilfering another grandparent out of money.

To Samu’s credit, he does remember something about “Gigi” – that he would lie on the daybed to take a nap. That’s about it. I told him how my dad used to praise him for neatly putting his shoes away before entering the house. It was a rather “obsessive-compulsive” action for a one year old to take and little did I know it would get much, much worse – but that’s another story.

Zuki, of course wanted a story of his grandfather praising him.

So, I recounted a time when Zuki accidentally turned on the oven cleaner and almost set the house on fire. My father clearly called him a little rascal.

How is that praise?

Because since his stroke, he never made any sense. He’d call me “Machi” and he’d call everyone else “Pachi” – but “rascal” – was reserved just for his grandson.

He didn’t look disappointed with that story – he didn’t seem affected at all. In that way, he reminds me of my dad. The punchline was always way over their heads. My dad would laugh at a joke a good ten minutes later, while Zuki made you explain it until he turned into a gay fish.

And there are other ways: the way it takes forever for them to get to the point, the way they are remotely fascinated with the military, the movies and accessories.The way they they take forever to leave, which is how my dad was dubbed “The Prince” by my mom. Naturally, Zuki is “Prince 2.”

Samu is “The Princess” but again – that’s another story.

My mother thinks my comparisons are fixated, delusional bullshit based on a father complex. Perhaps she’s right. We all see what we want to see – or in this case – who we want to see. Maybe Zuki is just like me but I see my father because I don’t want to see myself.

Does that make me Zuki’s grandfather? There has to be a punchline in there somewhere.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 2.07.21 PM

 

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