Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous


Tiny Thoughts

Shake Us by Fits

Some time had passed since we gave my stepson his DNA kit. But my wife was adamant that he come over and complete the DNA test. So, we resorted to bribing him with a Mexican dinner and Jell-O cake. He eventually wore down.

When I came from work on the agreed upon day, my wife was already coaching him on how to correctly spittle. It took him awhile, but he persevered and finished. Sealing up his vial of spit and forever binding himself to even his most primitive ancestors.

To memorialize the event, we made good on our promise of a Mexican dinner. The rest of the night was a straightforward proposition: to enjoy ourselves sans drama. A dinner free from the dreary business of business itself and politics. We spent quite a bit of time at the restaurant idly chatting the night away.

After dinner, we returned home to generous portions of Jell-O cake or, as some people call it poke coke. A delicious dessert made with red raspberry Jell-O and some lemon juice-based frosting. Towards the end of the evening when we were coming off our sugar highs and running out of our words, there was a moderate pause in our conversation and that’s when I took the opportunity to softly and slowly sing an old Danish lullaby— Hej nu, graed du ikke…

Once the family figured out I wasn’t joking the evening quickly turned awkward. By the second verse— Baby, lad mig tor dine ojne— family members started to come up with some lame excuses for leaving or going upstairs. I was slightly taken aback but then again I was getting sleepy and it had already been a good evening. And, like my Dad always used to remind us, nothing good ever happens after midnight.


“When neither incompetency, nor intentional wrong, nor real injury to the service is imputed—in such cases it is both cruel and impolitic , to crush the man and make him and his friends permanent enemies…”—Abraham Lincoln

Beyond the Locust Hedge

Last Friday as I was leaving work, I ran into a former colleague, a large and powerful man, who was on the verge of retiring. At first, we chatted about the small stuff like who got voted off The Bachelor. But after we exhausted that subject, we ended up talking about a deeper topic: our families.

As I propped my back against the wall and turned sideways so I could see the Exit sign, we joked about how much easier it was to manage employees than it was raise kids, a feat akin to herding feral cats. That was the sad truth and neither of us could at that point feign otherwise. A truth, that I could tell, pained us equally. Raising kids is and will always remain one of life’s biggest mysteries.

And as long as Hoosier Hill remains the tallest point in Indiana, this is one area that science will never conquer. Even if scientists one day learn how to genetically-edit children in their basements. I, myself, am not so sure I am in favor of a race of 7-foot tall Einsteins who can dunk, but have no souls. How do you genetically engineer a soul that is so unique that there is never another one like among the billions and billions of people who have lived on this earth?

It does seem though that more and more, as we expand our knowledge about genes, that science has come to accept a broader view on the influence of environment in genetics. Scientist are discovering genetics is not a closed system. A fact that any parent from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu could have told them. Once you have kids you can toss out any mechanical views you have about life. Going through the parenting process over time makes you, whether you like or not, more philosophical.

Through parenting you discover that this imperfect world full of imperfect people is a messy one. There is an obvious fallenness to this world. Life no longer is the fantasy world of dragon’s teeth and giant’s bones that you once knew. Life, come to find out, is full of scarcity, conflict and suffering. And none of this can be successfully dealt with without faith, hope, forgiveness, mercy, work and last but not least unconditional love.

When you become a parent, you sign yourself up for a lifetime of caring, pain, and joy, with no guarantees. Congratulations! There is no more hiding in the shadow and there are no limits on how much pain you might have to go through, but again there are no limits on how much joy you might have.

As a parent, you find through sober calculation that virtue is neither old or new, but timeless. Just as your parents told you in the car while they were listening to John Denver and you had your Walkman on listening to the B-52’s. Your parents who in your younger days you thought were clueless now seem like geniuses. Overnight, they have become a regular pair of Stephen Hawkings for having successfully navigated what you are now wallowing in.

There is no sugar-coating it having kids exposes you and makes you vulnerable. Being exposed and vulnerable is not cool. You have now become as cool as Dick Haymes eatin’ a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair.

But the tradeoff for losing your coolness is that by having kids you begin to see life more deeply. Life is so much more complex and richer than what we can ever empirically observe. It’s hard to behold with our natural eyes those beautiful bonds that tie us to others— past, present and future.

By having children, you get wind of the fact that Homo sapiens aren’t an abstract problem to be solved, but a calling for each of us to care for each other. There are no government programs or systems that can make us problem-free. Because of our fallen state the phrase “problem solved” is only a temporary thing. Learning itself is a gradual process. At best, the process is one step backwards for every two steps forward. The fact that we are bad at learning and gaining wisdom; however, should not deter us from trying.

The reality is that on Earth we need humans and we need a lot of them. Without them the richness of life goes away, things lose their meaning and their proper order. In a world without kids, we lose hope. Life becomes just “meh”. The doggone truth is, despite all the times our kids play out in street, stay up late, eat with their hands, talk back, curse, and never answer their phones (even though they just responded to your text), we need our kids as much as they need us to get through this journey we call life.


In my short lifetime, I have never once received an invite to any political struggle. Nor have I been radicalized nor have I become a slave to any “liberation” group or philosophy. I think I am too domestic for all of that. I have lived long enough to know that I should put more faith in God than any political movement or revolution. But, I still bumble when it comes to faith.

For the better part of my life, I have bumbled. Bumbling a little here; bumbling a little there. My bumbling has been for the most part harmless, requiring some do-overs and mild forgiveness from loved ones. Painstakingly, I tried to just keep to bumbling and adhere to more temperate habits and minor peccadillos. However, I have teared up a pea patch or two along the way.

There have been more than a few times during my life when I’ve done much more than just bumbling. During those times, my problem-solving skills have been akin to Godzilla descending on Tokyo (the first Godzilla movie). And it’s when looking over the aftermath of my destruction that I have frequently found help from the Matthew 11:28-30, a scripture Christ delivered when he was out preaching to the cities in the area of Galilee:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And even though like most bumblers I am slow to penetrate life’s deeper mysteries, I’ve learned that the Lord takes a long-term view to problem-solving. These principles of divine problem-solving require one to hone in on the virtues of patience, kindness, long-suffering, gratitude, and thinking about consequences (what I like to think of as third-level thinking). Pretty much the opposite of every first instinct I have had in life.

Godzilla teaches orphans in Tokyo to read and write

This scripture has taught me, more than once, that I don’t have to destroy a Tokyo in order to solve my problems, deal with adversity, or find some peace.


Here in Mortality

“…here in mortality, we cannot always tell who is carrying what burdens; limited intelligence, chemical depression, compulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, dysfunctional or abusive family background, poor health, physical or psychological handicaps—no one chooses these things.”— Stephen E. Robinson

Applied to myself: You don’t know jack! You probably to some degree suffer from all the burdens listed above. More than likely you have been one of those burdens that others suffer from. A little less talking, and a little more patience, a little more mercy, a little more forgiveness, and a little more long-suffering might make you less of a burden to others.

4-1-17 Burdens

My Tiny Thoughts: This is not a declaration of permissiveness or a free pass to tolerate evil, but I think it underscores the importance of developing patience, mercy, long-suffering, and forgiveness in our judgement of others. The Lord has never told us to not judge because being our own moral agent is key to becoming like him. Thinking and acting is key to the His Plan of Happiness. To think and to act requires judgement. But our understanding of each other is severely limited. Our judgements of our fellow imperfect human beings will be in of itself imperfect and can never be final or eternal.

We may be able to discover planets in distant galaxies, process complex algorithms in a matter of minutes, and communicate instantaneously with our loved ones thousands of miles of away, but this knowledge does not make us experts in the matters of the heart. It doesn’t mean we understand each other any better, no matter how much we force the issue, or meddle in other people’s private lives.

Fortunately, you don’t need a Phd to become more patient, merciful and forgiving and achieve a better understanding of others. Development of these qualities is no less demanding but requires a different discipline and a lot of divine help.

Music I liked this Week

1. Yellow Rose of Texas by Mitch Miller
2. Solfeggieto by Shir Nash
3. Crazy for You by Michael Franti and Spearhead
4. The Foggy Dew by Young Dubliners
5. The Hungry Wolf by X

4-1-17 Old West Point Nebraska Pic 2

Family Stories from the Quiet Past

My wife’s sister recently shared some family history with us. She found a profile of Manoch (Mano) Frey (1854-1923)—my wife’s 3rd Great Uncle on her mother’s side—in the Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Nebraska. Mano’s father, Edward Frey (1819-1887) moved his family from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to Omaha, Nebraska where they filed on a homestead in 1868. Once granted he moved his wife, Susanna Reinhard (1818-1880), and his family to West Point, Nebraska.

At this point in time, the area of West Point had been settled for almost a decade and Nebraska had gone from a territory to becoming the 37th State of this blessed Union. The Elkhorn Valley where West Point sits was a Pawnee and Omaha tribe hunting ground, and in 1859 these tribes were surprised and upset when they discovered during their hunting expedition that homesteaders had begun to settle on the land. To drive out the settlers, the tribes burnt several of the homes down. This skirmish lead to what was is referred to as the “so-called Pawnee War”, but this “war” had very few casualties on either side and lasted a little less than year after it started.

4-1-17 Mano Frey


Despite the peace between the homesteaders and the Pawnee, Ponca and Omaha tribes, the Frey family nevertheless experienced many hardships at the hands of Mother Nature during their first several years on their homestead. In March of 1869, less than a year after settling in West Point, they experienced one of the worst blizzards Nebraska had ever known, the family having “to bring the chickens in the house and to put the pigs in the cellar to save them.” In the blizzard of 1873, a great number of their cattle perished. The Frey family also experienced the grasshopper raids in 1873, 1874, and 1875 and lost all of their crops during each grasshopper raid.

In West Point, Mano’s father opened up a store. In order to keep the store stocked with goods, the Frey family on a regular basis had to haul items from Omaha to West Point, a distance of 70 miles. Hauling these items by wagon was not always easy, especially when the trail’s prairie pot holes turned into mudholes during the Spring rains. As Mano relates “at many of the mudholes the loads in the wagons were carried piece by piece on the heads of the men then the empty wagons were drawn over by long chains.”

He also describes one winter where he (Mano) and his brother hauled 88 cords of wood from the Missouri River, a distance of 35 miles from their farm. Mano notes oftentimes their feet were frozen to their boots and that they frequently slept in open barns. But Mano notes that “mother always had coffee and warm food waiting for them not matter what hour of the night they might return.”

History again proves, how awesome Moms are.

3-30-17 Absurd


Cheese and Pepper Sandwiches

1 cup of cottage cheese
1 onion, minced fine
2 peppers, chopped fine
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika

Place in a bowl and beat to mix. Butter the bread and cut in thin slices. Place a layer of cheese mixture and then cover and cut in half.

The Burden of Expectations

It was harvest season again when the apples had turned red and yellow, round and juicy and sweet and mellow. And it had been a busy and exhausting Fall day. When I finally got to my room. I knelt down and said a quick prayer, asked for a little grace, asked for some deliverance from evil, and then I flopped onto my bed, clothes and all, and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

It was in the wee hours of the morning when I heard the sound of a piano being played from the other side of my bedroom wall. I was easily able to pick out the tune penetrating through my walls as a determined and forthright version of Scott Joplin’s ragtime great The Entertainer.

I’ll admit there are worse ways to be woken up to in the morning. The piano playing was coming along just fine until about two-thirds of the way through when the aspiring pianist stumbled. He (I assumed it was he because of the manly way he handled that piano) promptly returned to the beginning and started to methodically play the song all over again. Fair enough, you make a mistake once, maybe even twice, and you want start all over. I get that. But when the piano player did this a third time, a fourth time and so forth, I began to feel like my sleep was being abused. What had started out as a pleasant night’s sleep was now turning into a nightmare. Just play the dad gum song all the way through!

3-24-17 Cute-Kitten-Playing-Piano

Now, I don’t remember how long my Dad took piano lessons but I don’t ever remember hearing him making it to the end of Joplin’s The Entertainer even though he was a dedicated student of the piano. Despite his limitations, you could always count on Dad giving it 100%. Legend has it that my Mom once heard my Dad play it all the way through, but I think that’s was just fake news so that we would move on to something less painful.

The piano wasn’t the only instrument my Dad tried playing, he noodled a bit on the guitar and the mandolin. But like the piano, I never heard him finish a song on either one of those instruments. He’d always tease us with a few chords but never give us a song. This habit even applied to his whistling. I don’t remember a day going by when my Dad didn’t whistle. I remember how he’d come home from work, deep in abstract thought—deep in Plato’s cave, whistling the same unrecognizable rambling tune in no hurry to have it become an actual song.

Now my Dad wasn’t the only one who tried his hand at music in our family. My parents made a conscious and concerted effort to get us to tap in our own musical talents. My sister tried by played the snare drum in Middle School, a la Karen Carpenter, although I think she was more into Cher back then. Later on, I witnessed her efforts to play the Star Wars theme song by ear on the piano, but beyond that I am not sure where her musical talents took her. But her talents lied elsewhere and I think my parents just accepted the fact that her journey in life would always be preternatural.

My older brother had more success. He was a regular Ian Anderson during Middle School. He even soloed a few times at Church, including a stirring rendition of What Child is This?  Man, could he toot that flute back in the day. But then basketball took over his life and his desire to be the next “Downtown” Freddie Brown took precedence over being the next great jazz flutist.

3-27-17 Fred Brown

I too briefly flirted with aspirations of being a musician. At a young age, I dreamed about composing a double horn concerto like Rosetti.  Then there were other times when my dreams were more subdued and I desired to compose something a little more simple like a short sacred vocal composition. When I wasn’t killing it on the piano, I was playing the alto saxophone. Through zero effort, zero discipline and tiny bit of talent, I got what I deserved and often ended up being last chair during my first two years in band. However, in the eighth grade I did finally make first chair in the Jazz Band. I can’t really explain the sudden success after struggling for so long, other than the fact that a lot of my bandmates had just started the sixth grade.

But after a while my interest in music waned. I remember I had just finished playing Hot Cross Buns and I was sitting there all alone in the basement on the piano bench, snacking on a ball of wheat bread I had recently rolled up. And I turned the page and looked up at notes and lyrics to The Song of the Volga Boatmen, and asked myself Is this all there is? It was in that very moment I had lost my appetite to be a musician. I could no longer see a prosperous future in music. It was time to follow my other dreams. And I had, oh, so many other dreams back then.

When I gave up on music the last hope for a musical prodigy in our family fell on the little shoulders of my kid brother. In the beginning, his prospects didn’t look so good. He practiced even less than I did. At least I would sit at the piano for twenty minutes and try to please my parents. He would sit at the piano for like ten minutes and then disappear for an extended bathroom break, which always seemed to end up with him in his room playing with Star Wars figures. Nobody seemed to notice or care. If I had done the same thing, my parents would have been on me like stink on skunk. My little brother had it good back then and he didn’t even know it.

After a while though he stopped taking piano lessons, but then something strange happened. Around twelve or thirteen, he started to play music on the piano by ear. He started by playing movie theme songs just like my sister had, but then expanded to classic rock.  Apparently, the guy had legitimate musical talent. And then I went away on a mission to Mexico and I kept hearing from people back in the “801” about this band called the Roy Hawkins Religious Revival and their lead folk guitarist. People were comparing him to a young Jim Croce. My brother it seemed had become overnight a regular guitar virtuoso while I was out preaching the good news to the good gente of Mazatlan.

3-24-17 Ilia_Efimovich_Repin_(1844-1930)_-_Volga_Boatmen_(1870-1873)

After all the dashed hopes and dreams, the money my parents spent on instruments and music lessons had at last paid off. The return on their investments was my little brother finally tapping into his God-given guitar playing talent. To this day my brother is still playing, in fact if you are ever in a small coffee house in Twin Falls, Idaho you might come across him. And isn’t that all any parent ever wants is to have at least one of their children discover their talents and potential. It goes a long way in overcoming the sad spectacle of the unfulfilled potential in their other children. Meanwhile I keep stringing my parents along with the promise of potential. They are very patient people. They are saints, dad-gummit.

Let Us Be Kind to Friend and Enemy, Let Us Do Good to All Mankind: Antidote to Bullying

Light A Candle for the Maccabee Children: Pondering On the Afterlife


Every night this week when I go to bed I get to thinking about the afterlife and then I can’t sleep. Sometimes I just lay there for hours until sleep overcomes me and then I don’t sleep well because I am troubled by weird dreams of powerless shame that I can scarcely remember the next day. Other times, I go downstairs, sit in my best thinking underwear, drink a large glass of thick milk, break into a forbidden bag of chocolate chips and get to pondering about whether there is a great beyond or if there is just one great abyss of nothing when this life is over.

When my light finally goes out do I just become a speck of floating cosmic dust traveling to and fro as part of a mostly empty universe with no floating purpose, hence no real hope? Or, when all my labors are done, when I finally stop moving and that last drop of sweat falls from the tip of my big ol’ nose and hits the ground for the final time am I going to have a rebirth and find my soul transmigrated into the body of a calico cat with feline dementia, or even worse a one of those cocky clams, as a just reward for the mediocre life I just lived?

Now I am not so sure about those visions of the afterlife. But, I can’t shake the feeling that there is something a little more to this life. A little more meaning. ‘Pears to me I’ve had somebody has been watching over my whole life despite all my tragic and sometimes comic failures, despite all my dark moods and my moments of insufferable jerkiness (there’s another word for that but I can’t cuss so I’ll leave it alone). There always seems to be an inner hope that things will get better and I know it’s got to be more than just a fool’s hope. Maybe I got me a guardian angel and if I got one of those then there has to be a Heaven ‘cuz that’s where angels live. Right?

And when I think of Heaven, I don’t think of Heaven as a place where Jimi Hendrix (not sure why everyone envisions Jimi Hendrix in heaven), John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, and Frank Sinatra, with a desert oasis and neon sign in the background , are all hanging out at bar alongside all the pets I’ve ever “owned” in this life (assuming I do make it, it would be great to be reunited with some of my pets Cuma? Pippin? And it would be cool if they could talk this time around… just saying).


Where Jimi Hendrix and those other sensitive artistic souls end up, I am guessing that is not my place to say and I wouldn’t dare pass judgment, at least that kind of more permanent-like judgment on anyone, dead or alive. You will hear no curses, oaths or damnations pass my lips. I need all the good karma I can get.

And about those 72 virgins, I am not so sure about that vision either. I mean billions and billions of people have passed by on this earth and I just can’t imagine there would be that many virgins in Heaven unless there is a virgin making machine. But even then why the number 72? And why virgins? I could be off base and I could have it all wrong, but for me I’d be happiest if me, my wife, the kids, parents, siblings and other relations are all able to make it up there.


Based on what brings us the most joy in this life, despite the mild dysfunction all families share, and what we know of families and successful communities, it makes a ton of sense that our family relations would extend into the afterlife. No offense to Jimi Hendrix. Kurt Cobain and the others, that makes the most sense to me as to what Heaven could be. Now I am sure there is more to Heaven than just family, more than what my weak reasoning and feeble faith can imagine. From what I hear God will be more just and merciful than we can ever imagine. For my sake I sure hope He is. Good night and God bless.


  1. More Than Love by Los Lonely Boys
  2. Train Song by Benjamin Gibbard and Feist
  3. Havana Moon by Chuck Berry
  4. The Rocky Road to Dublin by The High Kings
  5. Fireproof by Coleman Hell


“We only become perfect ‘in Christ’ not independently of Him. Simple diligence is required of us in order to obtain mercy in the day of judgment.”

A Chest Full of Spanish Gold: Service, Empathy, Cookies, and Twisted Sister


It’s no big secret that the only thing of real value in our lives is the relationships we make as we go through life. They are the only thing that endures in this life and beyond, if you’re inclined to believe that this life does not leave off in one dark abyss of nothing. Some of us understand it early in life and some of us understand it later on in life. Hopefully nobody misses that ship because living only for yourself can only leave you sad, lonely, and bitter; leaving you an empty shell of a person and that would be just a shame.

Recently, I had to give a talk in Church on service and it was a little humbling to do so because I am so bad at it. I am not one of those people who bakes cookies for people when they are ill or when they are going through some tough times. And I should be. Of course, I know that there is nothing magical about baking cookies for someone. Cookies never physically or mentally cured anybody as far as I know. Nobody ever ate a batch of Uncle Jimmy’s snickerdoodles and suddenly overcame Lupus or suddenly found employment. And I know for dang sure no plate of cookies ever cured crazy. It’s a well-known fact that crazy people go bananas for cookies. But I do know a plate of cookies symbolizes well-placed empathy for another human being, it symbolizes time, effort, and thought towards someone else’s needs other than ours. And the world needs a lot more of what it hasn’t got and that is empathy. So bring on the cookies!


My Dad celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday to the man, the myth and the legend! He might as well be turning 60, he has kept himself in such good shape he has hardly aged. He along with my dear mother have quietly led a charmed life and have earned every bit of it.


Whether we end up choosing to be a Democrat or a Republican, we have to face the fact that we are stuck choosing between two sides of the same coin. Sooner or later we are going to find ourselves saying ridiculous things like: “I believe him or her, even though I know they lie.”


Go Warriors! The series between Golden State and the Oklahoma Thunder was great. The series between Cleveland and Toronto was not very good. After watching that series, you have to kind of agree with Charles Barkley when he said the NBA stinks. There are really only a few teams worth watching and even at that you don’t really have to watch a game until the third quarter. In most cases, the first half of an NBA game is meaningless.

On LeBron James. I can’t put my finger on it. I mean I know they guy is a great basketball player both offensively and defensively, but his game has to be the most boring game of any of the “great players” I have witnessed. I’d almost rather watch Adrian Dantley score 30 points a night for the ’81 Utah Jazz than watch LeBron score 30 against the Raptors.


 Give the following songs a try and thank me later:

1. La Gaviota by Mariachi Los Arrieros del Valle
2. Ginza Samba by Vince Guaraldi & Bola Sete
3. Everybody’s Gotta Live by Arthur Lee


Watching the Twisted Sister documentary on Netflix. Dee Snider seems like a good guy and all but if there ever was a guy that should not wear make up it was him. Dee Snider looked like a proboscis monkey tried to put make up on another proboscis monkey. But I do have to admit that the song “We’re Not Going to Take It” and the video were pretty fun when they came out.

Eating too much chocolate chip cookie dough the other night. It kept me up for a while. I should have chosen the blueberries instead, they were right next to the chocolate chip cookie dough.

Blaming my wife for cooking a half batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and putting the other half in the fridge right next to the blueberries. That didn’t go over well.


Very few of us really do believe that this life is all there is and our relationship with our parents and friends end when they pass. There are believers, believing non-believers, and then there are atheists and very few of us fall into that camp. You don’t have to be religious to want to believe something bigger than just yourself. As George Santayana once noted humans are “incorrigible animist”.


As Whijt as Snowe

It was early fall and it was time to harvest blackberries to make our famous blackberry jams and jellies for the winter season. That morning I over-exaggerated my enthusiasm for picking blackberries that morning to make up for the kids’ general lack of enthusiasm for any early Saturday morning activity before 10am. Blurry-eyed and moody, they quietly slurped down their obligatory bowls of Post Shreddies before we piled into our station wagon.

My favorite spot for picking Rubus Fruticosus was about an hour away from our humble home. The ride was quiet as everyone was trying to get some additional sleep. Their silence gave me time to reflect on my relationship with blackberries. Ever since I could remember I had been picking blackberries. I thought of myself as a blackberry connoisseur and I’ll eat pretty much any blackberry put in front of me, but I am especially partial to the Chester Thornless because it has a firm body and is almost never tart.


Having arrived at my favorite bramble, everyone knew the drill, grabbed their plastic buckets and straightaway began to harvest. As the sun got warmer the kids gradually began to slip out of their morning reverie and their resentment towards me began to melt away beneath the cloudless autumn sky. We were probably about an hour into berry picking when one of the kids asked: “Papa, when is it okay to kiss?” There were about a thousand other questions I’d much rather have been asked that one. Why don’t they ever ask me questions about the Chester Thornless?

Beneath a sturdy oak near the thicket, I began to ponder this unexpected question. Boy, I guess I had never given this question much thought because I had honestly never imagined my kids ever kissing. I guess, or I was hoping, that Mother Nature would perpetually preserve them in their innocence. Plus, I was also one of the worst people to ask that question to. I had my first kiss way too young and got into the whole pairing off thing too young. I caved into the pressure at the time, did what all my friends were doing and gave into most of my crushes.

Of course, a lot of them had the encouragement of their parents. I, however, did not. My parents did not encourage young people kissing and didn’t think it was cute to have their middle school son start kissing on or start pairing off with middle school girls. Back then in my mind I found my parents to be too strict, way out of touch, with their values and questioned (not out loud) their wisdom as the parents of four children. What the cuss did they know about kissing, dating and courtship?


Of course, now standing at the precipice and having to confront the fact that my kids were growing up, I thanked my luck stars they were out of touch, they were freakin’ geniuses as far as I was concerned. Freud (a misanthrope) and Kinsey (a bona fide creep) had nothing on them. My parents weren’t acting out of some heavy handed desire to repress me, I could see they cared about my potential, the welfare of my wee soul and the souls of those poor girls that were subject to my awkward and immature courtin’ skills.

There were good reason they didn’t want to unleash their middle-school son onto the world. For as an addled-headed youth, I was that lethal combination of both physical and emotional immaturity. I had not figured myself out and hadn’t figured out much of anything at that point in my life. More than anything my earlier courting probably retarded and confused the process of knowing myself. I should have been out their learning how to be a friend with the opposite sex, a skill I found out that you desperately need for a successful marriage (not that I haven’t learned, but it hasn’t been painless, gosh, my wife is saint).

So back to the oak tree and the bramble, and that awkward but important question, “When should they kiss?” Finally, I said; “Listen closely you all, I hereby decree and ordain by the fatherly authority invested in me declare that no child in this family shall engage in serious kissing until you are 16. A peck here, a peck there is innocent enough, but kissing that leads to “dating” commitments or exclusiveness that can wait until your 16. Save that stuff for the right time, the right place, and the right person. There is a lot of time to grow up and experience all the jazz that goes into dating, all that making up and breaking up, the heartbreak, the bitter and the sweet, can honestly wait a few more years.”

fairy castles of France - artistic picture in painting style

Loving the sound of my own voice, I continued to drag out the point as I am wont to do, “You are entering a phase where there is so much to discover about yourself and the world (both spiritual and natural). The next 10-15 years are going to determine so much about your future. Don’t mess it up! Learn to be your own kind of beautiful. Don’t let a middle-school “love” and the inevitable pain that follows define you and take over your little lives, unless you happen to love heartaches and tears. I personally despise heartache and am hostile towards tears.”

Afterwards, I crossed my fingers hoping that they would actually follow my advice. We were probably going to have a few more talks like this. But, kids are going to be kids and the pressure and temptations permeate everywhere. Just maybe they’ll have eyes to see through the mirage and the myths being presented out there. They are going to explore their growing freedom as they become teenagers, and I’d be fooling myself to I think I can control them like I once did. But at least, they will know that there is a standard to look to and a reason behind it. It’s not all in vain. Being wiser than I was, my hope is they won’t be stiff-necked and that they will learn that life is sweeter and happiness more lasting when they learn to bear their temptations cheerfully, act bravely, await occasions, and never hurry.

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