Tag Archives: Teenagers

Red Beans, Rice, and Teenage Stupidity

Parents of teenagers, it’s midsummer and there’s a decent chance your teenage children might be on the edge of driving you mad. Teenagers have a knack for that. However, I’m here to tell you it’s perfectly normal not only for you to feel like blowing your lid but for teenagers to act with head-scratching stupidity. This is particularly true in the summertime. School’s out, no need to use all the brain at any given time, right? 

This will pass. Teenagers and the inherent behavior that defies all logic passes. Trust me. Despite being considered an average, well-adjusted adult of almost 58 years by most of society’s standards, I was once deeply entrenched in the world of teenage stupidity.

I was reminded of this tonight when I opened the pantry door. Staring at me from eye level was a can of red beans next to a box of rice. It immediately took me back to the winter of 1979 when I was a sophomore in high school. I went out one Saturday night with two senior linemen from the football team, Bruce and Ivan. These two guys, along with the other offensive linemen from that previous fall, were my idols. Man, those guys could block like SOBs. I tried to emulate what they did and how they went about their business. They were big, athletic, smart, and ornery as hell. My kind of people.

On this particular Saturday night, there was nothing to do. It was one of those dark and cold Kansas winter nights where there’s not a whole hell of a lot going on. We drove around and hit all the hangout spots which, just a few months ago, would have been packed with high school kids celebrating beautiful autumn nights. Each hangout was abandoned to the frigid elements. Bruce said, “You know what we should do?” I looked at him skeptically. Ivan shook his head expecting something which may or may not end up getting us in trouble. “We should make red beans and rice.”

Ivan looked at him sideways and said with his Polish accent, “You mean like the New Orleans red beans and rice? Cajun food?”

“That’s the one.”

I had no clue what they were talking about. I’m from a large Irish/Croatian Catholic family and my dad was a meat and potatoes guy by nature. Italian food and tacos were about as exotic as the Hays family went.  Red beans and rice could have been from Mars and I wouldn’t have known any better. Being the youngest member of the trio, though, I was allowed to ask stupid questions. “Bruce, do you know how to make these red beans and rice?”

“Of course I do. How hard can it be? Red beans and rice. The recipe is right there in the name.”

I shrugged. Ivan shrugged. Sounded logical enough.

Bruce pulled into the nearest grocery store, hopped out of the car, and jogged through the frigid air to the front door. In a few minutes, the automatic door opened, and out he came carrying one brown paper grocery sack with a huge smile on his face. He tossed the sack onto my lap in the back seat. I looked inside. One box of rice and two cans of red beans. Bruce put the car in reverse. “I hope you boys are hungry.”

Now, when you’re hanging out with Bubbas, hunger level never needs to be asked or addressed. With Bubbas, hunger is assumed. With visions of a Cajun delicacy dancing through my head, we drove to Ivan’s house for culinary magic. A boring Saturday night just took a 180° turn for the better.

Bruce carefully measured the water to boil and Ivan took care of prepping the proper amounts of rice from the box. I was in charge of the red beans. Two cans. No problem. My can opener skills were well-honed from years of kitchen duty and the red beans were soon ready. The rice cooked on the stove as we talked with lame, southern Louisianan accents while watching puffs of steam occasionally rise from under the pot lid. 

Images of Mardi Gras, one of the few things I knew about New Orleans or Cajun life, danced in my head. A subzero winter night in Kansas City morphed into a parade down Bourbon Street. Now all we needed to complete the vibe was just about ready. Red beans and rice.

Bruce’s watch timer dinged and he dumped the red beans into the rice pot. He stirred and covered the pot again. “Ivan, get out the plates while these beans warm up.” 

With everything ready, healthy portions were dished out. Bruce took a bite. Ivan took a bite. I took a bite. There were no colorful dancers, no jazz bands, no beads being tossed. Instead of a Cajun flavor explosion, our red beans and rice tasted like a chunk of Bourbon Street pavement. Ugh. Not good. 

Our red beans and rice tasted exactly like red beans and white rice. Duh. Who knew a spicy, Cajun dish would actually need…spices? Idiots. 

I still enjoy a good laugh forty-plus years later thinking about this act of teenage stupidity. In the ensuing years, I’ve discovered how awesome authentic red beans and rice are, especially the red beans and rice they used to serve at the Hibachi Hut in Manhattan’s Aggieville. As far as making further attempts to cook red beans and rice, I’ll leave that to my wife, Zatarain’s, or professionals for now. Maybe one of these days, I’ll recover from youthful stupidity and give homemade red beans and rice a shot. With spices this time, for damn sure!

Parents with teenagers who are currently doing ridiculous things, take a deep breath. Count to ten. Smile at your teenage offspring and envision a day when they too will be productive adults. All things must pass. And remember, it’s perfectly normal to laugh hysterically on the inside as you visualize the possibility the ridiculous teenager standing in front of you attempting to explain some recent head-scratching behavior may one day have teenagers of their own. 

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The Best Years?

There’s a nugget of life advice often given to high school kids, particularly high school athletes. A nugget that is so off-the-rails I cannot believe it has survived

“These are the best years of your life.”

Best years? Lord, I hope not! The best years of your life in high school? That seems kind of depressing forecast on the power and potential of each young athlete and student.

The BEST years?

No, but they are special years. They are years in which the high school students are afforded unique life opportunities. They are special because the future is a blank and open canvas.

Teenagers, listen up! You may feel a giant load of pressure right now to define your future. The system will tell you that you should have the specifics of life cemented firmly in place by graduation day. Teenagers, when that day arrives and this pressure mounts, fling off this weighted jacket of the system’s expectations.

The canvas of your future should be painted with your passions and desires and likes and dislikes. 

It’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you are 18. It’s okay to say no to the dreams others have for you that aren’t fit for you. It’s okay to try something and fail and then get better for another try.

So why do we so often call these high school years the best? They aren’t. Or they shouldn’t be if you pursue your dreams.

Why do we, as adults, anchor kids down with low expectations? Teenagers grow up. Teenagers have great value even though they often bury or masks their potential. And sometimes, kids just need to get away and find another environment in which to blossom.

There’s an old coach’s saying. “The best thing about a freshman is that he becomes a sophomore.”

I believe in that saying and an expanded version which reads,

“The best thing about teenagers is that they become adults.”

As a coach, as a teacher, or even as a parent, remember those teenagers who are driving you absolutely bat-poop crazy today, have the potential to be awesome and productive citizens in the near or far future. They need dreams, resources, and some adults to believe in them.

Believe in your kids.

See the good in them.

Recognize their potential.

Help them down the path to fulfill their passions.

Make them work to achieve their dreams.

Be there to help them rebound when they fail.  Give them the space to back up, reassess, grow, and attack time after time until the dream is a reality.

Develop in them a strong gluteus maximus rubberi, so they know how to bounce up when life knocks them on their ass.

And please people, stop it with the “best years of your life” advice to teenagers. Teach them to believe in the potential of tomorrow. Teach them to work and to fail and to bounce back.

The high school years are special years. Enjoy every minute and every experience. But graduating high school is not the endgame. Life is the endgame. And, if my math is correct, most of us hope to have much more life to experience after high school.

To each and every teenager I ever had the opportunity to coach, I am proud of the adults you have become or are becoming. Your best years were definitely beyond any of those years you spent on a sports field with me.

Keep the faith in yourself!

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The Dingo Ate The Bingo

Rest Day Read (SR-58)

The Dingo Ate The Bingo by Mike Hays

I was going to link to an intellectually uplifting article for today’s RDR, but I have got to relate to you a story about fatherhood.  But to warn you, it runs a bit to the smartass/amusing side.  In fact it made the Mom expel her lime green jello from mouth to plate during the dinner where the tale was first told.  For the record, that hasn’t occurred in a LONG time.  (Don’t say anything to the Mom about the lime green jello incident, though. Some things are better kept between us.)

Son, age 16, and father, age 46, went to Salina for a doctor’s appointment.  While on the hour-long drive, son periodically shouts “Bingo” and tallies a count.

Finally, as they hit the I-70 Abilene to Salina stretch, the dad says.”Bingo?  What the heck is that?”

“You say ‘Bingo’ when you see a yellow vehicle.”

Okay, easy enough.  So we travel a few miles ahead, the ultra-observant dad sees a school bus. “Bingo!”

“That doesn’t count.” says passive-competitive son. “Buses don’t count.”

Next, the dad sees a Catepillar bulldozer in a construction zone.  As “B…” begins to slip out of dad’s mouth.

Teenage son says, “Neither do construction vehicles.”

“Are you making the rules up as we go?” dad asks.

In that wonderful teenage tone comes the answer, “No.”

So teenage son runs the score up through the city of Salina on the way to the doctor’s office.  Apparently, not only are yellow buses and construction vehicles not legal fare in this game of Bingo, but about every yellow vehicle the dad points out lies outside the rules.  “Too orange-ish”, “no delivery vans”, “no 1972 Coup de villes”, etc., etc. etc…

After the appointment, a trip to exchange some clothes at the mall, which feels like sticking pins into the eyes, stop by the McD’s for a quick lunch and hit the road back toward home.

Son continues Bingo game, every yellow vehicle he points out is acceptable within the rules of the Bingo Society of North America and every yellow-ish vehicle the dad points out gets negated.  Back on I-70, the dad has just about had enough of the game of Bingo.

Ahead, as if sent by God himself, the dad sees a tandem Fed-Ex tractor-trailer in the westbound lane.  “DINGO!” the dad shouts.

Teenage son, ‘What are you talking about?  Dingo?”

“Yeah, I am now playing Dingo.  Delivery truck Bingo…Dingo.  Get it?”  The dad, using superior evasive strategy, completely dumbfounds teenage son.

“Dingo!” he shouts out at a passing Old Dominion trailer.

“Doesn’t count.”

“What???”

“It’s Monday, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.  So…” he mind is racing trying to figure what is coming next.

The dad chuckles, “Son, Monday is Fed-Ex Dingo Day. I am up by one.”

On the east side of Salina, another tandem Fed-Ex trailer. “DINGO!  Up 2-Zip”

About a mile or so down the highway we see a mid-size Fed-Ex delivery van.  The son points and just about jumps out of his seat.

“DINGO!” He shouts.

“Sorry.” says the dad.  “That’s a van, not a delivery TRUCK.”  The laughter from one half of the car is uncontrollable as the car veers slightly in the lane.

(Note: This is where the start of the green jello incident commences on the retelling of the story later that evening.)

“That is NOT funny!” Teenage son is not happy as the tables turn in old papa’s direction.

You know sometimes you just can’t script real life any more funnier than it turns out.  There is truly a God and He has a great sense of humor.  For just at that moment, as the teenage son turns around and is complaining and pointing at the Fed Ex delivery van that did not count as a legal hit in the game of Dingo,  four or five Fed-Ex tandem delivery tractor-trailers, a virtual convoy, rise up over the ridge in the opposite lane.  As son is still lamenting about his lack of a score, the dad, who is laughing so hard he doesn’t really remember if it was actually four or five trucks in the convoy, says, “Dingo, Dingo, Dingo, Dingo and Dingo!”

(Herein lies the actual point that the Mom expelled the lime green jello from her mouth.  3 family members at the dinner table are laughing so hard they can hardly breath, while one stays absolutely silent.)

Teenage son sits in stunned silence.  About 30 minutes down the road, he’s still silent.  The dad sees a yellow trash truck down the road where they are at a stop sign.  Just to rub it in, he calmly says, “Bingo.”

Teenage son’s head snaps up, returns to straight ahead stare position then deadpans, “Nope, that’s gold.”

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