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.

Day 6: A Song That Fits Right Now

I did not think that this was going to be an easy one. My love of music is as broad and deep as my love for reading.  There were some staple songs that always seem to reach deep:

  • “Counting Stars” – OneRepublic
  • “Heathens” – Twenty One Pilots
  • “Wake Me Up” – Avicii
  • “On Top of the World” – Imagine Dragons

And a LONG, LONG list of others.

However, this one wound up being more about a moment today than I thought. It is funny how things work out.

Today was an awesome day, on the end of a busy week. But there was something going on that the sheer enormity of the meaning was getting lost in the shuffle.  Until we walked into church. This year was Zoey’s first year attending VBS.  I know, for some of you there is the resounding, “So What?” and your reasoning is sound.

However, there are many things about Zoey that make things harder than your ‘average’ (almost) 6-year-old. She is adjusting to glasses, hearing aids, and becoming aware. Our little social butterfly is finding there are still times that she is on the outskirts of the groups of kids her own age. It could be her looks, the fact that due to medical issues she is still in diapers, because she is so much smaller than her peers, or for any reason. Kids, are kids. We had to work hard this year to get her to a place where she could attend VBS this year, so damn hard.

She did it! She had a blast. There was not a day that she did not wake up excited, and a night that she did not talk my ear off when I came home. We love our church, and so many of the people in it. They have made all the things that make Zoey different evermore the reason for inclusion. As a community they have showered us with love, deep and honest love. Many have asked questions that no others seem to care too, all to get to know her better.

And today a new song.

Today, something awesome happened. Our little girl joined all her friends from VBS… on the stage… in church… and they sang! I was able to sit and watch my daughter, center stage, sing and dance with so many other kids. It was hard not to cry tears of joy, but they were beaten ceaselessly by my broad smile. Not only is the song that my daughter sang today one that fits right now because of the journey that she has been on, but the lyrics as well.

“I was made for this, I live for this

God has a reason, reason for my life

I’m gonna shout it out, without a doubt

I was born for this, built a for purpose

Built for a purpose

Built for a purpose” (‘Made For This”, GroupMusic,2017 Maker Fun Factory)

My daughter was made for something bigger than I could have ever dreamed of for her. I have been coming to terms with this for the last five years. The interesting thing, that I have hit on at various times, is that I was made to be her dad. The one that she needs. There is something heartwarming and humbling about that fact.

So, for today, at this moment, my daughter singing ‘Made for this’ fits right now, in so many ways.

In fact,  here is a video of her singing for you to enjoy. Perhaps you will see that you were made for this, whatever that ‘this’ is for you.

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

Day 5: Things You Never Got to Say

“I’m sorry”

When I was a child I lost a grandfather to cancer. I was so mad that he left me that I stayed home from his funeral. Let me backtrack a little to provide context.

I was blessed to be surrounded by amazing role models. Both of my grandfathers showed me how to use my brain, to follow my heart, and the importance of family. Grandpa Neal (the grandfather in question) was a genius. I am not just saying that to say that, he legitimately was. My time with him was spent exploring museums where he knew the name of EVERYTHING. I even chatted with a friend of his halfway around the world via shortwave radio. We discussed stars, physics, science, logic and life. Undoubtedly he is the spark of influence for my love of dinosaurs, and the educational path that I walked down.

I would give anything to tell him that I am sorry. Sorry for being selfish in my pain. I know, I was a child, but he had taught me to be better.

“Thank You”

For my other grandfather, I feel I never said thank you enough. He and my father taught me my love of fishing, being out on the farm, desire to create, and the value of hard work. When he passed I rushed from Louisiana to Missouri. I cried, hard, while reading his military service. I shuddered, for the only time, while standing at attention in my dress blues as the shots from the 21 gun salute rang out.

The lessons that he taught me have brought me further that I thought I would. The iconic belief of family first was graven upon my soul with each and every minute. I long to hear his deep laugh, see his brilliant smile, and to tell him thank you one thousand more times.

My life has shown me time and time again not to hold words. The times that I have, have stuck with me for decades. Perhaps you can take that from me today. Tell that person you are sorry. Reach out to that other person and tell them that you forgive them. Hold your loved ones close and tell them you love them. Never hold your words of good. Ever.

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

Day 4: Your Favorite Time of Day

There is a moment that I look forward to (almost) every day. After a long day there is a fraction of time that I close a door, take a few steps, pause, take a breath, and open another.  This is the moment that makes every single day worth whatever has been thrown at me.

When I get home, without fail, there is a moment that transpires. As the door opens one or two little voices will YELL from within the house “Daddy’s Home”! There is a cacophony of screams and a thunderous pattering of feet. I am bowled over as two excited children attack me with hugs, kisses, and begin pulling on my arm. As they guide me into the next room a little cherub face will turn and a brilliant smile will come to his face. Then my beloved bride will come and say “Welcome Home”.

No matter the day, no matter what is going on, this moment makes my entire day fade away. It is in these moments that the weight of the world leave me, like a mantel taken off. No matter what was on my mind the moment before I touched the handle, I am in my happy place. I am dad and husband. I am home.

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

Day 3: A book you love, and why

Ender’s Game.

Plain and simple, I have always loved this book. From the first time that I opened the cover, to the 20th (ish) time that I read it earlier this year, it is always amazing. The writing pulls you in, and it tells a fantastic story.  I will openly say DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE AND THINK THAT IS HOW THE BOOK IS. It is even more fantastic that this is the first (depending on who you ask) book in a very expansive series.

I, unashamedly, have read the entire series (in both of the recognized orders) multiple times as well. Seriously, if you have not read the book, you need to.

Besides, it is only $7 on Amazon right now. If that is too much, let me know below in the comments, I have a few spare copies to send.

Day 2: Something you feel strongly about

It takes a man to be a dad.

Any guy can make a baby. That just makes him a father. It takes a man, not a boy, to be a dad.

This was part of my very first post, oh so long ago, when I was working through my preparation to become a dad.

But what do these words mean?

Succinctly put, I have grown tired and angry with many of the depictions of fatherhood. I am infuriated with the pervasiveness of uninvolved, uncaring, and distant fathers. Perhaps it is because I take my role as a dad so seriously. But it breaks my heart to hear dads, who are doing a great job, feel that they are not doing enough. The simple fact that they are doing, is more than some.

Perhaps, to some, I am making a mountain out of a molehill with this. But, when you have been around, and looked into some of the darkness that exists in this world, you see things. You see the attention deprived child being brushed away by the guy on the phone talking about the game.  You hear the pleading in the voice as a child asks, for the fifth time, for something as the guy walks away angry.

But, there is good too. You see the dad sneaking in after a long day just to give a child a kiss on the forehead as they sleep. There is the tired but determined look on the face of the dad as they wrangle their laughing little ones at a playground. There are the heartbroken tears that fall on the hospital floors outside of a room, where a dad is hiding his fear from the little child in the hospital bed.

Man up and be a dad

Being a dad is hard. It is exhausting. But it is one of the best things about this life that I have found thus far. I will never grow tired of screaming for some of the fathers out there to man up and start being a dad.  Just like I will never run out of support for those that feel like they are failing. They are doing so much better than others, even if they cannot see it.

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

Day 1: Five Ways to win your heart

I am strong in many ways, and of many things. My life has made some of the walls that I have built a necessity. When you have moved as much as I have, you learn so much about life.  Not all of it is good. But there is beauty in things all around us. I once was described as a man who has spent his life building walls, and casting stones. Now I strive to break down the walls that I have created, and cast legacies instead. This is purely because of the holder of my heart, my beloved bride. Instead of just telling you five ways to win my heart, I am going to tell you five of the ways that she won mine.

True to self.

“This above all: to thine own self be true

And it must follow, as the night the day

Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season is in thee” (Ham. 1.3.84-87)

From the time that I first met her, to this very day, KatiAnn has always been herself. This is not to say that she is not open minded, but that she holds true to her ideals. It has always impressed me the ways that she remains stalwart in being true to herself, in all things.

Grace, beyond measure

“Love is holy because it is like grace – – the worthiness of its object is never what really matters” -Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Grace does not come easy, for some. However, KatiAnn is always one to extend it. She is the embodiment in looking for the good in all people.  I have seen her wronged, and still be willing to offer a hand in grace to those that have wronged her. This is one of the many things that she does that makes me want to be a better person, and to try every day.

Compassion, without ceasing

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty” – Albert Einstein

Nothing is as pure a vision of KatiAnn’s compassion then watching her as a mom. She has the unfretted ability to reach into the moment, and see what each child is going through. There are times that this is exhausting for her, but she excels. Much like her grace, her compassion only adds to her beauty. There was a moment, a few months back, where she had reached a new level of exhaustion. Mind you, we are raising three kids that are five and under, so it is more than understandable. In this moment she pleaded with David (3) to “have some compassion” to which he sweetly, and verbosely, replied “NO! More passion”! It is a mark of greatness that one can teach a three year old that we all need more passion sometimes.

Strength, from deep within

“Great occasions do not make heroes of cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and perceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or weak; and last some crisis shows us what we have become” – Brooke Foss Westcott

I have experienced the birth of my children, and been humbled in the strength that my beloved holds. Granted, this was personified during contractions when, at one point, the nurses asked ME if I was ok. Regardless, it takes a strong person to be one that I can lean on. And I have. There have been many times when things have been… eventful. We have a synchronicity about us in those times. When one feels like we are falling, the other picks them up. Back and forth, these tides ebb and flow, until we meet on the other side. Though every surgery, birth, death, stress, and change, we have met each other before, during and after, holding hands. She is my rock, as I am hers. We are better for it.

Those eyes

The moment that she first looked at me, I caught my breath. The deep, pure, beauty that capture light from every angle. The way that even the faintest moonlight brings a brilliant sparkle from the deep blue depths. There is a fondness in her gaze that has had me since our eyes met. Furthermore, I see the same eyes in the eyes of the children. Filled with grace, compassion, strength and wonder. I am blessed to see these eyes in the morning, and when I get home.

So, the way that my beloved won my heart is by being herself. I know, sounds a little lackluster. But, in my opinion, her self is very, very awesome.

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