Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mr. Optimist Predicts 2010 Will Be A GREAT Year!

Recently, the "Lexington" column in The Economist opined about the virtues of pessimism and the role of optimism in America. To provide outside support, Lexington included information found in two recent books: one by a "left-leaning" American woman, the other by a "right-leaning" British man. Regardless of their individual political beliefs, they both, "confront optimists and beat them down."

With all due respect, in my opinion, both of those authors are dead wrong.

Today I received a (late) holiday card from my friend Anne. She and I have known each other literally our entire lives. We grew up just three houses from each other. Our grandparents had been friends in Bingham Canyon.

A couple of years back, Anne emailed to tell me that her daughter had just been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrom. She was paralyzed from the waist down. Anne and her husband turned to their deep LDS faith and believed with all of their hearts that one day their girl would walk again.

This year their positive attitude paid off: She's walking with braces! WALKING!!!

Eight years ago, my brother Ted was on the wrong side of an auto - train accident. The doctors told our parents he'd never make it. But he did. When I saw him a few weeks later, he was still in a coma, and I tried desperately to make my parents understand that this was it for my brother, and they needed to start planning for his long-term care. I remember telling Kelly I felt like the ancient Greek prophet Cassandra: doomed to tell the truth but be believed by no one.

When I made my impassioned, reasoned, educated arguments, Dad would just smile at me and patiently remind me that Ted would be fine.

Dad was right. Ted came out of the coma and now leads a life pretty much like any one else.

It made me wonder: were the esteemed authors quoted by Lexington parents?

Nothing has changed my world view for the positive more than becoming a father. Two little boys moved me from seeing the doom to seeing the hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for my family. Hope for, well, everything.

The economy still stinks - but it WILL get better.
The president has let me down - but he IS trying.
The environment is threatened - but we ARE doing something to change it.
Everything WILL be alright.

I'm so glad my parents patiently smirked at my predictions about my brother. I'm so glad that Anne always knew that the Lord would take care of her daughter. I'm so glad Gus and Niko have shown me that it's better to hope than despair.

2010 is going to be a great year, trust me, I can just tell.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Present Ever

Sometimes I remember weird events from the past. I suppose some of them stuck with me because they're associated with really good or not so good events in my life: like when my best friend growing up, Russ, accidentally hit me in the knee with a shovel one afternoon when we were sledding down the little hill in his backyard; or the time my yia yia, mom and theia "Mimi" came to my Kindergarten class to make Greek cookies for us. (Um, I was the "ethnic" kid in school growing up, LOL.)

A couple of Christmas events are also burned into my memory. Like the Christmas Eve when I was 5 and I got to open the doctor's kit my brother John gave me. Or when I was a teenager and we thought we were so smart because we could tell that the package from Santa was a VCR...only to open it up and discover the box contained 3 Duralogs - placed there by Dad, convinced to teach us a lesson!

Well, Gus provided me with a wonderful memory this year that I hope I remember the rest of my days. Not just because of the Christmas "message" he provided, but because it was a glimpse that we're doing something right in raising our kids.

We had spent Christmas Eve with our families - lots of fun, lots of food, lots of sweets. It was well past the boys' bed times when we left our last stop at Kelly's nephew's, and both Gus and Niko had fallen asleep on the drive home.

As I laid Gus on the couch, he popped one eye open, looked at me and said, "Hey, you guys said I could open one present tonight!" (He had made his pitch earlier in the day, too. Much earlier...6:15 a.m.!)

Well, we had indeed made that promise, so when Kelly finished putting Niko to bed, we directed Gus to small box under the tree, which he ripped open in record time. At first, he thought the camera box was holding something else, but the look on his face when we realized that we'd gotten him a small point-and-shoot was priceless.

He looked at the camera, turning it around and around, smiling from ear-to-ear.
Almost meekly, he said we could open our present from him if we wanted. Earlier in the week he'd placed his small treasure chest under the tree - shooing away anyone who went near it: mostly Niko.

I hadn't paid much attention to the treasure chest. Hearing it contained a present for us took me completely by surprise since we had both individually taken the boys shopping in order for them to pick something out for us.

Kelly popped the lid and held the chest up to me. There nestled in the red felt lining were a dozen or so different colored crystals his Nouna had bought him at Clark Planetarium a few weeks ago. They are his most prized possession.

When asked why he was giving them to us, he kept looking at his new camera and almost embarrassed said, "I couldn't think of anything else to get you."

My kid couldn't think of anything else to give us, so he gave us his most prized possession.
We thanked him profusely but told him it wasn't necessary, he had after all gotten us presents.

He took another look at his camera, smiled from ear-to-ear and said, "I love you guys!" and threw himself into our arms before heading to bed.

The amazingly touching moment was fleeting, giving way to the morning chaos resulting from a visit from Santa. And his focus moved from the camera to the real tool set St. Nick brought. But that's OK. He's a kid, beyond the birth of Christ, the magic they believe in is what the holiday is all about.

In 10, 20, 50 years, I don't know if he'll remember the camera or not. But I know I'll remember the amazing present he gave me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Theater of the Absurd

I think it's fair to say that I've seen a lot of theater in my life. When I was in college, my friend Greg and I were subscribers to Salt Lake Acting Company. Kelly and I enjoyed season tickets to American Conservatory Theater and Theater Rhinoceros when we lived in San Francisco.

I've seen Patty Lupone play Evita, been to all 8 hours of Angels in America (I and II), and witnessed a lot of experimental theater -- including a one man show the finale of which consisted of that one man stripping naked and putting clothes pins all over his body...his entire body.

But this weekend I may have had the strangest theatrical experience of my life. We took the boys to see the Salt Lake Acting Company's first-ever play for children: Go, Dog. Go! Based on the children's book by PD Eastman.

Now to be fair the actors were all very, very good, and the sets were fun. Gus loved it (he saw it with his school earlier in the week as well). Niko watched whole thing with a suspicious, confused look on his face and then deemed it simply too loud.

I sat through the entire 50 minutes wondering if the whole thing had been hatched when a group of artsy types stumbled across the book while on an acid trip. As a matter of fact, I bet a few adults in the audience wondered if they'd unintentionally dropped some acid themselves before the curtain went up.

As we left SLAC, it dawned on me: it didn't need to be great theater. Shakespeare in the Park is seldom great theater. But it introduces many people to The Bard's work in an easily accessible manner: I mean seeing Romeo and his buddies dressed in gang colors certainly makes one rethink the play's relevance in our lives far better than fumbling through it in Freshmen English class.

Go, Dog. Go! Didn't need to be great theater either. It just needed to be theater.

My job as a parent is to introduce my kids to new ideas and activities. It's why we've taken them to college basketball and minor league baseball games. It's why we're members of the Natural History Museum and visit the Fine Arts Museum. It's why we take them hiking, and why we see popular movies.

It's not about what we enjoy; it's all about what they might enjoy.

And for what's it worth, as strange as Go, Dog. Go! was. It was still a much more enjoyable theatrical experience than the week's earlier event: Niko's pre-school holiday program. He took one look at the stage and let out a scream that could be heard three counties over. Before a single note was sung, I had to rush the stage and rescue him.

Pity none of the parents of the fine actors in Go, Dog. Go! thought of doing the same for their kids ;-)

(By the way, I in no way meant to disparage high school English teachers. The three very wonderful women who taught me Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and Hamlet did a great job and helped instill in me a love of his work.)

Be sure to check out my column, Who's Your Daddy, in the current issue of QSaltLake (found at