Day 16: What if….

There is a large part of me that wants to digress into all that has been going on over the last few days. Things here in Virginia have been chaotic and far from neutral. But, the negativity, the hate, the anger, it is all exhausting. How about something happy?

There is a dream that I have. I have been cultivating it over many years. Long before kids, long before my beloved entered my life, there was a spark. Over the years, as it has grown, matured, the dream has become a goal. I have watched the blurry images coalesce, and the path towards it uncover.

I am working, vigilantly, towards making something. Working towards making a place where children with disabilities (of all kinds and severities), and their families, can experience rural life. Not just for a few hours, for a weekend. I envision fully accessible, hospital grade, cabins, doctors and nurses on staff, heavily muted by the sounds of childish laughter and joy resounding. I want these children, and their families to be given a place of respite. Away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital and the buzzing doctors. Have you ever seen the face of a child when they first see a cow? It will add years to your life, I assure you.

But wait, there is more!

This is to be linked up with a youth leadership camp. The future leaders will spend a week honing their skills, and testing each other. Time hiking, camping, talking, and learning. Then they will come back, tired and exhausted, and rest for a night. Starting the next day, and for the week following, they will be paired up with the children from the farm. They will be there for it all, crafts, experiences, meals, and games. They will learn to see eyes through the children that have spent more time in the hospital, then they ever will.

What if there was a place where some of the most overlooked children were given a shot a pure joy. If mixed in with the joy and memories, they made a friend.  These two groups will learn love, and respect for others, regardless of how some one looks, or what they are dealing with. They will connect with each other, and perhaps, over time, the world will begin to become a little better as their laughter carries on the wind.

See what I did there?

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 15: The Awkward Moment When…

Dear readers, if you have not been able to glean the fact that I am usually not thwarted by awkwardness, then I have failed you. However, there are still times that the feeling of ‘over-sharing’ brings this feeling to light. Perhaps I will dwell on this, for a moment. Discussing that awkward moment when I over-share.

See, there has been the longstanding social construct between social butterflies and wallflowers. I like to think that social interaction is not as cut-and-dry as this. With the advent of social media, there is a new category. One which I feel I embrace wholly in action and voice. The Social Dragonfly.

What does this mean? How is it awkward?

Picture, if you will, a dragonfly. Darting from location to location. Feeding, resting, just having a good time. There are those of us, in society, that like not to be constrained by the social constructs that keep many of us in a lane. I first realized this back in high school. When I would look at the network of association that I kept, I covered a broad swath of the microcosm that exists in that habitat. Nerds, geeks, jocks, artist, fighters, leaders, I communed with them all. In retrospect, very few did this hopping from group to group. Perhaps that is why I was so adept in doing so.

However, this was a breeding ground for moments of feeling awkward. Over-sharing never comes from a place of one-upmanship, at least for me. So there are times that I share what, in hindsight, may be a little too much for the audience. There are times that awkward pauses, and minor alienation result from such over-sharing. But, over time, I have learned to roll with the punches. Perhaps it is buried in these resulting moments that I have learned not to care about being awkward.

Ultimately, people will either like you for you, or not.  If we spend all of our time worried about the things that we cannot change, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. If there is a moment that you feel awkward, embrace it. It is what makes you who you are. Over time, hone it, be proud (if not a little boastful) in this awesomeness. Trust me, you will be better for it. I hope that my kids learn this from me as well. I think it will go a long way in preventing the stranglehold that some levels of social acceptance has on our young ones.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 14: An Item That Gives You Confidence

Let’s go way back. I mean WAY back. My first Christmas. It was 1981 and I lived in Boise Idaho. Understandably, I had no conceivable idea what was going on. To be frank, I do not remember this day. However, there is one thing from this day that I still have. Rather, it belongs to someone who needs it more, but we will get to that in a moment.

Buffy.

For 35 years this beloved stuffed dog has been by my side. Almost every trip to the hospital (usually for stitches) she was my bedfellow. Every illness, from the sniffles to croup, she was my comfort. Even as I grew up, she was always there. In fact, much to my own amusement, she deployed with me, every time. Countless hours have been spent talking through problems, dealing with heartbreak, and being my silent journal. The secrets I have spoken to her, will never be told.

But, she is no longer mine. When my daughter went in for her first Cranio surgery, Buffy and I had a long talk. I told her that she had gotten me this far, and needed to trust I could carry myself from here. The night before we went to the hospital, I was sitting next to Zoey’s crib, tears running down my face. I knew that Buffy did such an awesome job keeping me alive, and being there for me, and that my daughter needed her more. I left Buffy in her crib that night. All of my love, tears, joy, fears, my heart is embodied by this raggedy stuffed dog.

Buffy was no longer mine.

 

The next morning, Zoey had Buffy in her arms. When she was taken back to surgery, Buffy was in her arms. While I was writing This Room, feeling empty and void of joy, Buffy was right next to my daughter, because I could not be. Since that day, the bond between Zoey and Buffy regales the one we shared. Every trip to the hospital, Buffy is there. When Zoey is recovering from surgery, or sick and hating the world, Buffy is there.

It is my hope that long after I am gone, and Zoey has become the amazing and beautiful woman she is destined to become, that when she misses me, Buffy will still be there.

 

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 13: Your favorite attribute

Right out of the gate, the nerd in me wants to delve into Dungeons & Dragons. I mean, come on. I run one or two games a week. I spend hours reading, watching, learning, and creating. Dexterity is my favorite attribute, and it helps in so many, amazing ways. Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, all great things for a large range of characters. However, there are endless forums to help guide your attribute selection based on the class you are creating though.

Ok, thanks for letting me get that out of my system. To truly answer the question, I would say that there is a small part of me that is quixotic.  This part has a larger effect than it reasonably should sometimes. It is in constant battle with the more major attributes that I hold. The leader attribute focuses on results, and gains. This, while the competitive and courageous attributes see the goals that I set and blaze paths to them. Meanwhile, this little, tiny, quixotic voice whispers in a hushed tone.  Utopian visions of far flung hopes move on the wind. It envelops the other, firm, attributes and entices them with the trappings of the exceeding idealistic hope.

Can a quixotic attribute be helpful?

Sometimes, this is to my benefit. What? A quixotic attribute being helpful? Well, for me, yes. There have been times that I have set my target too low. Not by a little, but by miles. When this attribute speaks, it causes me to reconsider. Wary of pipe-dreams has been my strong suit, but sometimes those whispers are far more on target than I was.

I am just realizing that this entire prompt may NOT have been about my own. I do my best not to be self-centered. But, I look that the posts like Day 12 (Five things that draw you to a person), and Day 1 (Five ways to win your heart). Because of these posts, it is only logical that perhaps this one is about my attributes. Who know?

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 12: Five things that draw you to a person

Man, like I need more reasons to cascade my adoration for my beloved bride. I mean, I already talked about the “Five Ways to Win My Heart” on day 1. Guess that I would be better off speaking about five more things, right? Sure, I’ll give it a go.

“No legacy is so rich as honesty” – William Shakespeare

Ah, I LOVE this quote. Often said in short, but coming from “All’s Well That Ends Well” there is SO much in this line that Marina speaks. Ever since attending Dad 2.0 in Washington D.C. a few years ago, I have been working on casting legends as my legacy. Most important to this is honesty. Being able to be honest with yourself, and others, will get you much further in life than a trail of lies and tears. Being honest, to me, means that you can be counted on to do what is right, even if it does not make everyone happy.

“Lack of charisma can be fatal” – Jenny Holzer

Charisma can be a beguiling force to be reckoned with. But, as the quote says, lack of it can be a death sentence. “How does one gain charisma” is something I have heard asked time to time. I think that the answer is far simpler than many may think. Find something that you are passionate about, that drives you. Let that thing guide you, and watch as your life changes.

“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out” – Richard Dawkins

Good old common sense, right? Having a standpoint that you believe in is fantastic. However, having the wiliness to hear the other side of the argument will take you far. You do not need to bend the knee to a dissenting belief in order to understand where it is coming from. You merely need to open your eyes, and listen well.

“Be faithful in small things because it in in them that your strength lies” – Mother Teresa

Faith has gotten me through much more than many could bear. Regardless of what the word means to you, having faith in something goes a long way of centering yourself. It gives you common ground with others, and a starting point to solve problems. Faith is the rock upon which you can collapse when the world is coming down on you.

“If I remain true to what’s in my heart, that’s all the success I need” – Steve Val

Yes, I already spoke about being true to self. But this one is different. Being true to heart means being able to listen to your heart, and making the decisions that you must. It is knowing yourself, and staying true to what drives your love of all things great and small. It can, and should, work in tandem with being true to yourself. Being magnanimous is one of the purest ways of showing how true you are to your heart, and to the heart of others.

In each of these things, the others listed in my Day 1 post, and many more sprinkled throughout my writing, my beloved bride has excelled in them all. It is easy to see how she won me over, and still does every day.  But it is wondrous, at least to me, how I was able to do so to her.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

Day 11: Family

Ah, family. This is in the essence of EVERYTHING that I do. The majority of the hats of which I wear all are due to my family. Husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, etc. All of these roles I take on with pride. I feel that this may be something a bit stronger in my case, than many of you.

We moved, a lot, when I was growing up.  It seemed like every two years (and that, indeed, was the average for a LONG time) we were moving. Not just to a new house, but a new state. This very large factor during my early years caused me to be different. I never let others get too close. I saw the brutality of what it meant to be “the new kid” all the time. This caused me to put even more walls up.

My strongest and most present friendships were with my brothers. They were my confidants, my peers. This caused strange rifts between those that I would later call my associates (instead of friends) and myself. I mean, who wants to hand out with the kid who always had a younger brother with him? Honestly, and I can say this with much confidence, it did not bother me.  My brothers were (and still are) some of the coolest people that I have ever met.

Family is why I am who I am, and do what I do.

Family is my rock, and my everything. I know that I am lucky to have such an awesome family, and I am thankful for them all, every day. It is the safety, understanding, and omnipresence of family that I want to instill in my children. No matter what, family (should) have your back and be a place of uplifting safety. They should teach us all how to…

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 10: The Opportunity That Got Away

Wow! Really? The opportunity that got away? Such a loaded topic. That being said, strap in. I have had some coffee, a red bull, and got some sleep.  *cracks knuckles* let’s do this.

In this life I have learned many, many lessons.  Some lessons I have learned the hard way.  I have experienced loss in ways that I would wish on no one. I have held people as they have taken their last breath. My life has crumbled before my eyes due to the choices of others.  However, I have also experienced joy beyond measure. I have seen the fruits of my tireless efforts pay off in spades. I have been able to help others, more than I would help myself.

If I spent time dwelling on the ‘opportunity that got away’ I would not be where I am today.

I have a family that means the world to me. The love and friendship of a woman that I do not deserve, but she still chose me to be her husband. I am in a job that I love, doing things that excite me. This is not to say that I am complacent. I am constantly working on my hustle, and driving myself to greater heights.

Boiling it down to the most finite logic, EVERY decision that we make results in the potential for an opportunity to be lost. That is what makes life so hard. Deciding to take that job, over another, means that your career path is forever changed. Dealing with a break up may open the doors for something greater (mine all did). It sucks, trust me, I know. I have this thing about me. Others, who know my story, say that I have stared the devil in the eyes, and watched him blink. So, these words come from well-founded experience, not theory nor conjecture.

Make the best of the opportunities that you have.

Do not focus on what is behind you, look to the now, and ahead. We could all languish in the past, lament over the choices that we made, or were made for us.  But what a depressing state to be in. I am not in the business of regretting much. I am accountable to where I am now, and the hardships, and graces, which got me here, do not go unnoticed, or un-thanked.  Yep, that’s right, I am thankful for the bad things. I am grateful for bad decisions. Every single one of them have brought me to the life that I have now. Regardless of where you are in your path, or what your life is like, it is still yours, and you are still alive.

Life is a gift, not an opportunity

This is why I am the way that I am. I see each and every day as a gift. There are infinite possibilities for the future that I can make for myself, my beloved, and my children. All of these possibilities come from choice.  Often we do not have the opportunity to weigh out our decisions, think about what we may be losing in the wash. However, having a fantastic understanding that where we have been has made us who we are helps in passing off regrets, and looking for the opportunities to come.

If you are dwelling in the past, heal. You are not doing something wrong by living with this regret. You are doing yourself a disservice, but I will never admonish you for that. But, do me a favor. When things are dark and bleak, and you close your eyes, I know that you are seeing a fleeting glance of the opportunity that got away. Hold on to that, but then draw a line to where you are now because of it. You are still here, there is still life, and there is still boundless opportunities ahead of you.  Many of those may be better than the one that got away. But you will not see them if your eyes are close.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

Day 9: Education

Sure, let’s take a simple, single word, education, and see if I can dive deep into it.  Eh, I like a challenge.

Education has a strange parallel meaning for me, both with different appearances.

First, and most common is the level of institutional instruction that you have achieved. To be honest and completely frank, I have met people whom have graduated from Ivy League schools with a PHD or an MD that would not know diamonds from coal. They abhorrently tote “When I was at [insert school name here]…” into every conversation, even when it does not fit the discussion. When they finally see themselves falling, their go to is often “Well I do not know what they taught you where you went to school, but at [insert school name here]…” as a laughable defense. As a brutal juxtaposition, I have met individuals that never graduated from High School that can out class, out think, and out solve the rest of them. For me, I never care about where you went to school. That just tells me something about the lot that you drew in life.

I care more about what you know.

That is the second meaning. How much does one know? Often we call this “street-smarts”. But, I never found that phrasing to be akin to the full depth of education. As we careen through this life, standing atop this blue marble we call earth, we learn things. Sometimes out of our own experience, sometimes from what others go through. What we learn from every interaction, event, tragedy, fortune, every step we take shapes us. It gives us knowledge that we did not have before, and the ability to call on something when we need to. This is the most important version of education. It is not something that we can show with a plaque on the wall. This is the education which is shown by the scars on our backs, hands, feet, and knees.

It is this second meaning of education that I strive to instill in my children.

It drips from the words that I speak. At every turn, education emboldens the actions that I take. It is this education that is the reason behind the words that I have been closing each post with, for some time now.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 8: Your favorite recipe and why.

There is a fine art in the making of a great meal.  I have found, time and time again, that often simplicity can produce some of the most complex tastes. I would be hard-pressed to say that much is better than a finely grilled (medium-rare) steak seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, with a loaded baked potato and a crisp salad. However, that is not the question. A recipe. Hmm.

Well, in the fall and winter my beloved makes this killer lasagna, in a crock-pot. I would have to put this one nearest the top of all things. There is a heartiness, mixed with a savory flair, which just screams family dinner. Another amazing part of this meal, albeit not part of the recipe, is the looks OF my kids’ faces when they have finished. There is also the time spent as a family eating it.

In all things, I strive to do the most good WITH and FOR my family. Dinner is one of the times that I can excel in this.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Day 7: Five pet peeves

I can only name five? Well, let’s narrow it down then, shall we.

Useless Meetings

So many hours of my day is lost to meetings that a) could have been an email, b) go so off the rails or deep in the weeds that a follow-up needs to be scheduled, and/or c) the decision makers have not prepared/are not in attendance.  I know that EVERYONE goes through this, but I am growing bitter over it. I require that my team has agenda’s, prepares, and keeps things on track. However, I am now to the point that they also have my backing to get up and leave in the middle of a useless, off-track, meeting.  It is fun to have conversations with other managers (and above) about this. They call me pissed off, then find themselves on the defensive. I am all for helping other, but I will not stand to have our time wasted.

Woe is me mentality

Let me start by saying that I do, honestly care, about many people. There is a stark difference between working through something and having everything be something though.  There are things that you expect as a parent (illnesses, injuries, sleepless nights, and the whole lot). It is more than fine to mention that you are exhausted, or even to talk about how this illness is taking a greater toll on you.  But if your entire life seems to only be all that is wrong with it… I often find myself asking those about the good in their lives. It is my hope that they are not missing out on the awesomeness based on what the project as their fixed perspective.

Over Apologizing

Simply, the overuse of sorry falls on deaf ears. When it is not your fault, or doing, though you can be sorry for me, telling me “I’m sorry” will more than likely just upset me.

Uneven Arguments

Look, I am down for a good, and even heated conversation. But I look for weakness in logic. The fastest way to circumvent an uneven argument is stating what you understand the opposition to be. Only giving your side often shows lack of insight to the whole picture.

The Mac vs. PC (endless) debate

We all have our preferences. Stop nit-picking and work on making everything better for everyone. I do not care how much you get with whatever amount you have paid. You could pay $30k for a 24-caret-gold-plated MacBook Pro. Likewise you could pay (Lord knows how much) for a gold-plated, diamond-studded HP laptop. But if my $800 laptop can outpace, out preform, and do exactly what I need it too, then who is the real winner?

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.