“there is a side to each of us that we don’t always talk about.”

I think there is a side to each of us that we don’t always talk about. Maybe not purposely, or maybe purposely. For me, I don’t often talk about our Hispanic heritage. It’s not purposely. But the reality of most Natives in the US, is that we are multiethnic. And identity to me, is more of a reflection of one’s experience than their citizenship or lack of tribal citizenship, and I didn’t have as much experience as a hispanic person compared to my cousins; partly because our parents raised us as Natives. But there are a few other reasons I don’t always write or share from these perspectives. One because, my Mom told us that our Native heritage needs to be counted for tests and if we mark multiracial we would be left out of statistics (which I understand more now, as a researcher). Two, my Mom told me that her classmates used to tease her about being the milk man’s daughter. Those classmates would later become councilmembers and challenged her membership in our tribe. Of course they were unable to prove anything because her birth certificate indicates she is 4/4 Quechan, but she wanted us to be cognizant of rumors. And finally, the Hispanic heritage from my Dad’s side is a mix of Indigenous people from Mexico, descendants of Yaqui and Cocopah, German, and Spanish. For simplicity sake, because I consider our Hispanic heritage Indigenous, I just say I’m Native. It is obviously a little more complicated than that, nonetheless, it is an important side of who I am.

I used to sit with my Tata when I was in middle school. Mostly because I was fascinated with the Army and even more so, with music. My Tata played in a mariachi band for most of his life into his 70s. He never really showed me how to play anything. I’ll put it straight, he wasn’t a teacher. He was a musician. If I played something wrong he let me know. He played, played really well, and if you just had to try to keep up.

But my fascination with music was because all our family played. My sisters somewhat played, my cousins, a few of my uncles, my Tata, my great grandpa. And I love that about our family. But I like the stories just as much as the music they played.

I remember sitting with my Tata one time. He was telling me about how he learned jazz chords. He said, “I was heading to World War II, and was shipping out from the south.” The south at this point still had segregation. Something that my Nana or Tata wasn’t accustomed to coming from a Mexican border town, but soon found the realities. The restaurants in the south wouldn’t serve my Nana or my Tata despite him heading to fight in America’s war.

At the same time, the Black speakeasies weren’t always accepting of my Tata either because he wasn’t Black. But occasionally his army buddies would sneak him into the club. He told me, “that’s where I learned jazz chords.” And listening to the mariachi music, you can seem glimpses into those notes.

Later on during the war he was shot, got a Purple Heart, and was allowed to recover and travel with the Army band in Europe. But every time I play music, I always remember part of that influence and legacy of what we play. And it’s also a reminder of the other side of me.

 

“how much do you charge to landscape the front yard?”

I was 12 when my Dad became president of American Indian College. He wouldn’t get any type of raise for a few years. The board at the time knew that he would need supplemental income because the president would have to raise money for the college as opposed to personal finances, since he was under a mission’s appointment. The board failed to act until a few years after he took the position when faculty and staff advocated for us because they saw our family struggling. My Dad, and even myself now, have always taken the position that people will take care of you, and that if people fail to pay your worth, it’s a reflection of their own integrity.

When my Dad got a raise (just enough to get us over the poverty line) my Dad continued to live like we didn’t have the money. I turned 15, and using the equity from my childhood home and the money he saved from his raise, we moved to Anthem, AZ. I stepped in the house and looked at the 20ft vaulted ceilings and thought, “we can afford this?” First my dad was frugal, we stayed out of debt, and lived below our means. We moved into that $225,000 in the middle of July. My Dad was still working as president, so he was traveling frequently. It was the first time I was in charge of moving. My Dad borrowed Big Red, an old maintenance truck from AIC, and said, “there it is, thanks.”

I love moving. And I’ve moved more people than I can remember. There is something about moving in 110 degree weather with a sweat dripping shirt that makes me feel good inside. It would get so hot, to the point your body would start to get chills, and I could feel the heat radiating off the top of my head. It took me two days to load and unload most of our stuff. But it was the craziest thing, because for the first time in my life, we could afford a few nicer things.

Before the raise, we hardly ate at restaurants unless it was Taco Bell. We would each get a hardshell taco and bean burrito. If we ever did go to Denny’s, we shared plates and only drank water. After the raise, coincidently when my oldest sister Joy was still in college, we could go to the Sizzler buffet and even order soft drinks. Eventually we ditched the foil antennas, and vice grip tv, and got a new 32 inch tube tv and cable.  It was an exciting time in my life.

After we moved our stuff into the house, we started looking at the landscaping. I had worked a summer job and laid flagstone for a few years, but my Dad wanted to get professional landscapers. As he was out front looking at the yard, a lady approached him and said, “how much do you charge to landscape the front yard?” My Dad smiled and said,  “I live here.” She apologized and went on. A seemingly innocent mistake, but this happened all the time. We could now afford a few nicer things since the raise, but the family was still treated like we were incapable of living in a nice house, having good jobs, or eating at a few nicer restaurants. This certainly wasn’t the first or last time someone would mistake our family for not belonging, and it happens even in places meant for Native people.

The landscaping interaction wasn’t the worst thing in the world. As a kid I remember walking with my Dad up the hill at AIC. I was about 15. A well respected White minister was at the top. As we got closer my Dad called out his name and asked, “It’s good to see you, how’s it going?” The minister just glared at us and walked away in disgust. I asked my Dad, the most reputable man I know, why that minister did that, he shook his head and said, “some people are just like that.”

I asked why my Dad put up with so many people like that, especially being underpaid for the job he had at the college and often being treated poorly. He told me, “It was never about any glory or recognition, we will do anything and put up with anybody to help Native students. Secondly, if I leave, nothing will change.” It was the first real lesson I had in commitment. It was good reminder the work isn’t about myself, the institution, but about the people and especially Native students.

“…this must be how Angelina Jolie’s adopted kids feel.”

Growing up I was never curious about what it would be like to be adopted by White parents. One, because I had great parents and two, all the White parents I knew from school were mostly mean to me. But as an adult, I wonder what it would be like to be adopted by a White person. Like, if people were going to throw a racial slur at me, would they call me a, “cracker.” Or would I still be considered an apple? Would I still get followed around in WalMart? Would I wear polo shirts? Honestly, I would probably still get followed in WalMart. And honestly, I couldn’t imagine being adopted by a White family because of my childhood experiences with my classmates’ parents in school.

I remember the first time hearing a White Mom tell her daughter not to talk to me. I was walking out of class near the student pick up area with my friend. I overheard her Mom say, “he doesn’t look friendly, you shouldn’t hang out with him.” Almost like that Mom was fearing I was a big Brown monster or something. I didn’t understand. But my neighborhood and childhood experiences were filled with White Moms like that.

Middle class working White Moms. The Moms who came to pick up their kids in pant suits driving an SUV. The ones who told their daughters not to talk to me. They locked their car doors when I was on the corner of a street light. They moved their purses to the opposite arm securely tightening it under their armpits when I walked by. I intentionally avoided middle-class White Moms, not because of hate or disdain, but because they made me feel like I didn’t belong talking to them. Unless they approached me, then I was friendly. It was hard for me to trust them, but as I grew up, I realized they’re not all like that. And especially while in graduate school.

I had a very intelligent and classy professor who fit the profile, and I thought she might be like those moms of my childhood. I wasn’t sure how the professor would treat me, mostly because I’m this Native guy who grew up eating fried bologna sandwiches from empty happy meal boxes. But the professor was nice to me, helped me with my writing, helped me get into a conference, and publish a paper. The professor didn’t want or ask to get recognition or exploit the relationship for credit. When she was kind to me, all I could think was,  “this must be how Angelina Jolie’s adopted kids feel.”

But then again, I’m definitely glad I wasn’t adopted by a White family. Mostly because it’s been done in Native communities for a long time. And especially In 1958, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs created the Indian adoption project to take Native kids from their parents. This was an attempt to continually assimilate Native kids into mainstream culture and many of the kids from this era, now adults, suffer with traumatic childhoods of being raised in abusive non-Native homes. Those kids raised by non-Native parents are still trying to figure out their identity as Natives in White communities and Natives in Native communities. I’m glad I had two awesome Brown parents, and I wasn’t put up for adoption, or else I may be wearing polo shirts.

“It was also the last time the photographer took our picture”

Luna, my daughter, has cut her hair five times now. Every time we take a picture, it makes me laugh because the more she cuts her hair, the more she looks like a chia pet. I feel like Luna does it to wreak havoc. Just a little. Because it’s something she has control over and a way to express herself. It also makes parenting a challenge, because Luna is such a wild spirit. I still think it’s funny and cool to have these types of pictures of both my kids (Gordie just got a trim and looks like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber). Having these pictures is awesome because there isn’t nearly as many funny pictures of me or my siblings at that age. However, we do have a few memorable ones.

Each year, my family and I would take a family photo. There was a professional photographer who would come to my parent’s work at American Indian College, and volunteer to take the faculty, staff, and administrator photos. If it wasn’t free, we probably wouldn’t have decent family photos because we couldn’t afford those types of luxuries. I know there is some people who don’t understand that we grew up below the poverty line because both my parents have graduate degrees. So, I’ll explain it a bit.

The college was, and still is very small. Less than a 100 Native students from different nations across the US, on a small 10-acre campus with more than enough facilities. The college was originally created to train Native pastors, because in 50s it was difficult to train Natives in the mainstream seminaries. So, they created this place. As the institute evolved, it went from offering a certified minister credential to becoming fully accredited and issuing bachelors’ degrees in elementary education, Christian ministry, and business. The college can’t survive on tuition from Native students alone. So, about half of the faculty, staff, and administrators were paid through raising their own support as US missionaries. You must be a licensed minister, and have the proper academic credentials to take this route. And it’s the route my Dad took. My Dad raised his support to work at American Indian College, and my Mom took a very modest salary to work as an elementary education faculty. Problem with the model is that the supporters don’t always pay. The actual salary is based off of pledges and it’s up to the donors to send in the payments monthly. Not all of the donors send in money on time, and resulted in my family being poor, as far as money goes. As far as knowledge, friendships, family, experience, traveling, wisdom, and living life, we were as wealthy as could be. My Dad was an administrator and taught a few courses each semester. He started off as the dean of students, moved to vice president, and eventually president. My Mom taught 5-6 courses a semester, and was the department chair for a while. And despite their heavy work load, we couldn’t afford to take family pictures unless they were free.

That photographer would set up his lights and backdrop in the lounge of the girls’ dormitory. My Mom and Dad would dress me up in my best hand me downs, and would put in three flowers or hairspray and tell me, “don’t touch your hair.” We would wait in line for the other families to take their picture, and eventually it would be ours. We would sit and take a few photos and be done… But every year, I would cross my eyes. For no particular reason. I would just cross my eyes because I thought it was funny. I guess it was because I liked to wreak havoc occasionally. My Dad would get mad and say, “JD, QUIT IT.” He always did it calmly but loud and firm, because I knew he was trying to protect his reputation with his colleagues. Meaning I knew I could get away with it, so I would cross my eyes again and again. Eventually that photographer would get a photo of me without crossed eyes. One year though, the frustration of my Dad, Mom, and sisters set in, and they weren’t having it. I was determined to cross my eyes in every picture, and I did, and the photographer kept insisting on taking another photo. Eventually my Dad said, “Forget it.” He was done, and I finally captured one of my favorite childhood family photos. It was also the last time the photographer took our picture, but certainly not our last family photo.

I know I frustrated my parents. However, my parents were always there to redirect my focus and intentions. My Mom explained to me that some kids are born with cross eyes, and it shouldn’t be something I do intentionally. And I remember my Dad sitting with me, and saying, “I hope I’m a good Dad, because I didn’t have a Dad around to teach me to be a Father.” And now, I look at Luna and I say, “I hope I’m being a good Dad, because I had a great Dad who taught me a lot.”  I constantly work on being a good parent to Gordie and Luna. Especially when it comes to their mischievousness (Last night they found the candy basket and were eating candy secretly under the dining room table). I also know we tend to focus a little more intently with Luna, because she has a hard time with her speech delay. I know for me, it breaks my heart to watch other kids constantly making her the monster because she can’t talk well. I’m also reminded of my Mom’s advice. I constantly remind myself, if we can direct her focus and intentions we can build her compassion, resilience, and help her wreak havoc in the right environments. As we all should occasionally wreak havoc.

“…Natives don’t wear pajamas.”

My opinion is that we don’t always know what others dislike about yourself because we put our best foot forward in the dating process. You want that person to like you. I always tried to do things how I always did, and be who I was.

But I made a short list of habits I’ve had to change to improve as a partner.

  1. (Occasionally) I would leave my clothes on the floor for multiple days
  2. I take solid bites out of blocks of cheese, then put it back. (I still do this, but I use the cheese grater to smooth out the ends)
  3. I taught the kids to get the remote for me
  4. I leave my hair in the shower (occasionally)
  5. I don’t make the bed correctly (Ironic, considering I was in the Army. But I don’t line up the sheets and put the comforter on sideways. Plus in the Army, the crisp bed was just for show. I actually made my bed once, and then slept in my sleeping bag on top of the bed the whole time)
  6. I don’t wear pajamas to bed, I wear jeans, and/or regular clothes to bed.

I remember the first time I was kicked out of the room by a partner, I made a blanket fort in the living room… not a good idea, but it seemed funny at the time. Okay it’s still funny, and I would probably do it again. But it’s nice sleeping in the living room. The TV is bigger, the fridge is closer, and it reminds me of my Army days. I loved sleeping on top the tank, and the hood of HMMWVs. The warm exhaust would rock me into a coma full of vivid dreams. The perfect escape. But it got me thinking, why did I like sleeping in the living room, and why do I still like wearing jeans to bed…. I think it’s because it reminds me of my childhood.

I remember long trips and church services on the rez my parents would take me too. I always fell asleep during the loud alter calls somewhere in between pews and wood chips. I would feel the occasional spider or bug crawl across my arms. My Dad would pick me up and carry me to our blue astro van. I would sleep the whole way back to wherever we were staying and I would either sleep on the couch, or some other make shift bed on the floor, always in my jeans. I don’t ever remember having pajamas. I don’t even remember my parents ever wearing pajamas. We probably all did, but Camie is the only one I remember having them. She had this light blue green night gown from her birthday when she had a slumber party. But it makes me wonder if most Native don’t wear pajamas.

But I liked sleeping in my jeans. I would take a bath and change into the clothes I was going to wear the next day, so I could just get up and go. It was efficient. Just like we all didn’t grow up with our mattress on the floor. I also liked my mattress on the floor though, because monsters could never live under my bed. My bedroom was scary enough. It was in the middle of the house in the darkest room, with a wobbly wooden fan barely hanging on by electrical wire. There were no pictures on the wall, just these mickey mouse curtains. But they weren’t real Mickey Mouse curtains, they were from Mexico. They were bootleg Mickey Mouse curtains. If the mickey on my curtains had a show, it would be called Mickey Mouse Meth House.

The real reason I loved sleeping like this is because I knew my Mom had a much tougher childhood than me. And I always loved her stories. She told me about having her make shift bed, running around with no shoes, eating crickets with tortillas, among many things. And I wanted to be like my Mom, so I love make shift beds, I still walk outside with no shoes, and ate a few crickets. I never had a childhood like my Mother’s but I had my own. I still like wearing jeans to bed because it’s a profound personal reminder not to get too comfortable, and reminiscent of happy times when we had much less in life, like pajamas.

“WHAT’S YO NAME?????!!!!!”

If you don’t know, Native boarding schools still exist, although not like those of old. And one of the most memorable times I went to a boarding school was when I was 16 years old. My friends’ band was playing a concert in the Spring of 2002 for the students at Sherman Indian high school in Riverside, CA. I normally didn’t play with the band, but they needed an extra guitar player at the time. So I went. It was fairly calm. I remember walking on campus, I saw some kids my age studying studiously, some kids playing ping pong, some other kids snagging under a blanket in the grass area, and some other kids playing basketball with hickies. It seemed like a cool place to be. The show went well, we met some kids, and then our host took us on a tour. The tour was rather dull, but whatever. I was 16, and there were Native girls all around. So like I said, it was a cool place to be. Well we were nearing the end of the tour and they were going to give us sandwiches in the kitchen and send us on our way.

We walked up to this old brick cafeteria, trying to avoid breathing in the asbestos. Looking back, and just judging by the state of the infrastructure, the school was underfunded. To the point that it felt like you could get hepatitis C from touching the walls. This place was old. Anyways, we’re about to walk into the cafeteria and of course one of the doors was broke. It meant there was only one way in, and one way out. All of my buddies were in college, and I was the youngest, so I walked in the middle of the pack. When it was my turn to cross the threshold into the rundown cafeteria, this Native girl was coming out from eating lunch. She had on a green t-shirt and was with a bunch of other Native girls all wearing green t-shirts (someone told me the green t-shirts meant they were on discipline, but I’m not sure). But I didn’t know what the green shirts meant, but they were walking and talking loudly. At the time I was extremely shy, and as I tried to pass through the threshold, that pretty/ scary Native girl with corn rolls wearing a green t-shirt, stepped to my face. She stood in the doorway squarely looking at my eyes, and in a deeper tone than what I can even speak now as a man, said, “WHAT’S YO NAME?????!!!!!”

I was extremely intimidated, and bashful. I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do. I looked in front of me, and my bros looked confused. And I looked behind me and my other bros shrugged their shoulders without any counsel. I looked back at the girl for a second, because it was all I could muster to do, and looked down quickly in what felt like fear of my life. And I pushed myself against the wall, taking chances at getting Hep C, and tried to squeeze past her. It didn’t work, she stepped in front of me again, and I wasn’t about to risk getting worked over in front of the school. So, in a quiet voice I gently responded, “J.D.” In that same deep tone she said, “ALRIGHT,” and some other things I can’t remember. She moved through the threshold first, and since then, I have never lived that moment down.

And now, every couple of years or so, I’ll get a message from my bros that reads, “WHAT’S YO NAME!!!!???” And it adds to these reasons why I can never forget about boarding schools.

“Look at that bear sleeping out front.”

During my childhood, we spent most of our Christmases and New Years on the rez. After the New Year, I always had my own thoughts, especially being an urban raised Native kid. The first thing I remember was all the broken Christmas toys left out in some of the yards. I never got much as a kid, so I always wondered why it was like that. But it wasn’t just the toys out in the yard, it was some of our tribal members passed out in the yard. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to feed into any stereotypes. And I would encourage anyone who thinks that Natives have a drinking problem to read Cunningham’s (2016) article on drinking that found White people often drank the same or more than Native Americans. Not to mention the propaganda that was used to brand Natives as alcoholics during the 1800s. But it doesn’t negate that today, alcohol in select families seems to be a bit of a negative concentrated effect in our communities.

Our family was no different. Like some of my cousins’ toys that I saw left in their yard, I would see our relatives left in the yard. Most notably was my Uncle. It was the day after the New Year, and I was probably around 8 years old. We started to walk out of my Nana’s house to our blue astro van, when we thought we saw a bear. My Mom went out first, because at first glance we didn’t know what it was. Me and Camie said, “look at that bear sleeping out front.” But that couldn’t be right, our rez is in the desert. My Mom got closer. As she drew closer she saw it was my Uncle Lorenzo.

My Uncle Lorenzo (like my Mom, Uncles, and Aunties) had a rough childhood. They grew up in a mud house wracked with alcohol and abuse. My Uncle turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with those issues. Whereas my Mom turned to education. My Uncle wasn’t fully lost through his entire life though. He was a part of the decade of dominance at San Pasqual Valley High School, and a documentary is currently under development by Dan Golding that highlighted our reservations state football championships over a span of 10 years. He was a beast of a tackle, and the family stories of his athletic ability are spoken almost in reverence. He later became a hot shot in the White Mountains, hanging out with my parents, and putting out fires with the Apaches. But during the fire off season he would return to our rez to the same destructive friends, to the same detrimental environment, and would end up turning to the same drugs and alcohol. But he made that decision, as my Mom made her decision to get her education.

But in the New Year, and especially as everyone is making their annual resolutions that will be broken by month’s end, I am reminded that our decisions matter. Whether it’s a daily decision or life decision, our decisions are important. Sometimes our decisions are made for us through our circumstances, but like in my Mom’s situation (and my Dad’s also) they were strong enough to make life changing decisions with what they were given at a young age. If we’re lucky and strong enough, we will be fortunate to make decisions that can change the legacy and outcomes of our families. So I pray that I have my Uncle’s talent without distraction, my Mother’s passion, and my Dad’s wisdom so that I can face those decisions fearlessly, without hesitation, and have a chance to change the course of my own life. Here’s to a New Year and to the blessing of having choices with our only crazy beautiful complicated life!

“this window is unbreakable.”

My parents left us home for the weekend with my oldest sister Joy. Not a big deal considering she was 9 years older than me and at the time was a responsible 17 year old. On the very first day I was in the front yard playing basketball. I was jumping off her car dunking on the 8 foot rim sitting on our garage roof. After awhile I decided to dribble the ball around the front entrance near a large wall and window.

I was dribbling, practicing my crossover, between the legs, and then started passing the ball against the wall. I wanted to see if I could throw the ball against the window. My instincts said it would break… but it made me want to do it more. I threw the full size ball against the window gently. It didn’t break, and I got a sensation of excitement. I said to myself, “this window is unbreakable.” I threw the ball a second time against the window. This time a little harder. And it smashed into pieces. I freaked out, got scared, and ran to my sister’s room. Camie had a trundle bed where I used to sleep in between the lower bed and top bed. My hair always got caught in springs beneath the top bed. It was there that I slept for the next few hours with my hair tangled in the top bed.

When I woke up, it felt like a dream. I was thinking to myself, “Did this really happen, is the window really broke.” But all I heard was Joy in the family room freaking out. She was talking to Camie in a frantic voice,”what happened?” Camie didn’t know. I wandered out of my room to meet them. I saw Joy, Camie, and the window. And instead of confessing I said, “Woah, what happened?” I continued,” someone must of thrown a ball.” Joy was still frantic that our parents would be upset, mostly because we knew we didn’t have a lot of money to fix things like that. The rest of the weekend Joy was nervous, but it turned out alright in the end.

My parents came home, and saw the window. My Dad called the insurance company and they showed up a few days later to replace the window. Luckily, my Dad had paid for window insurance anticipating me breaking a few windows. Sure enough I broke a few more over the years with a  baseball, football, and bb gun. It’s a good reminder now for myself, that I can’t always prevent things from happening, but I can prepare for them. A few years later I would confess about that first window I broke and didn’t get in any trouble, also reminding me that sometimes time is the best healer.

“Before I knew Santa was fake, we had drunk Santa.”

One Christmas Eve (around 8 years old), I asked my Mom if Jesus and Santa were friends, she said, “yes, they are close friends.” That night I was going to bed and my sister Camie saw me and said, “JD, Santa isn’t real.” The rest of that night we spent sneaking in the hallway watching my parents and older sister Joy wrap our presents.

I have two kids now, and I’m not all that excited about them believing in Santa. Partly because I don’t want them sitting on Santa’s lap…. 1. because you have to pay money to do it, and 2. because I don’t like the idea of the kids sitting on some old White dude’s lap who asks them, “what can I get you for Christmas.” (sounds too much like these White politicians). Especially Luna, she doesn’t need to be sitting on Santa’s lap asking you for some presents. I feel like this would be the start of some bad habits. So no Luna you can’t sit on Santa’s lap and no Gordie, I don’t want you sitting on Santa’s lap either. We don’t need to reinforce that White savior mentality (Brilliant White person comes and saves the poor, needy minorities who earnestly need saving). But I need my kids to know that it’s Brown faces gave them these presents, just like I had a Brown face bringing me presents when I was little. We didn’t have White Santa, we had Brown Santa… and sure he may have been drinking a little.

Before I knew Santa was fake, we had drunk Santa. I think every family occasionally had a drunk family member and one of ours came at Christmas time reincarnated as drunk Santa. I actually never knew which family member was drunk Santa… my cousins probably would, but I was too little to really remember. I thought he was for real Santa.  But I remember every Christmas we had a gathering at my Nana’s house on Christmas Eve and my Nana would make us wait until midnight for Santa to bring presents. Santa would come and bring us presents but he never came on time. So around 1:30 am, throughout my childhood, we would meet Santa. He would stumble out of his sleigh, and walk towards the house. I would be jumping around because I was happy to finally be opening presents. He was always a character, one year he fell out of a lawn chair and in his slurred words he would ask us, “what do you want.” And coming from a Christian home and not ever really smelling alcohol ever in my life, I always knew something was weird. But I would go with it. And I would take my turn going to sit on Santa’s lap. Let’s be clear, this Santa never brought what we wanted. These Christmas’ were really about family. Normally Santa, or my Nana, would buy us stuff like tube socks or soap on a rope. Not complaining, but all those years Santa never brought us our heart’s desire. It was our parents that brought us our presents. But I would go sit on Santa’s lap, get my present, open it and then head to bed.

I’m still reluctant on letting the kids believe in Santa. I would rather them just know it’s us. And if you don’t behave this year, Dad and Mom are the ones not giving you anything. But I guess I would let the kids ask Santa for presents if we had a relative willing to dress up… even if they had a few.

“You made it, you eat it.”

When I hit my mid-20s, I realized quickly there were two things that needed to be eliminated from my diet immediately… ramen noodles, and kraft mac n’ chesse. I spent 24 years of my life eating those magnificent creations. But supposedly they have no “nutritional value.”

Well, I recall one spring break when I was around 11 years old and I had a buddy spent the night. We decided to build a raft out of random scrap wood from my fort. We literally spent the entire week building this thing and it was awesome. We used the old warped wood that gave you splinters every time you touched it, we had snagged some crates from the back of Country Market near Mountain View and 15th avenue. Then we used an old broken broom and one of my Mom’s good sheets as a sail. After spending most of the days and nights working on it, we finally finished, after fastening the two crates and filling them with water balloons. We pushed the raft into the pool and gave it a test run. No sooner than we tried to sit on it, it sank. Little did I know, this wouldn’t be my last attempt at wasting time (The Army was especially good at wasting time). We eventually ditched the project, and spent the last day of spring break in the house eating mac n’ cheese.

After our failed attempt at rafting, we cooked up some food. We used to get food boxes when I was a kid, and someone dropped off the equivalent of a Costco palette size of mac n’ cheese boxes. My buddy and I made a bet. He said he could eat 4 boxes of macaroni and I said I could eat 5. We made it, and only ate about 3 boxes together. My Dad came home from work and saw what we were doing. I was getting ready to throw away the rest of the macaroni when he said, “You made it, you eat it.” My buddy left later that day, so I was on my own for eating the macaroni. My dad didn’t let me eat anything else til I finished it, and it stayed in our fridge for a few more days… slowly getting nastier. I eventually ate up all the food, and needless to say, I ditched mac n’ cheese for a bit. Now all I can think, is what I would give to eat another 9 boxes of mac n’ cheese.

It also makes me realize that sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad, and not having a good thing can be worse.