A letter to my son, on his first birthday.

My darling son,

Jacob, my sweet little boy, yesterday you turned a year old. In the time that has passed you have grown so much. As have I. It is a strange thing, being a parent. As we scroll through the endless rants and raves on social media, one could arrive at the conclusion that being a dad is chaos. The long, sleepless nights. Endless bumps, scrapes, and falls each day. But, my dear Jacob, that is not how I feel, at all.

While many prostrate themselves as their sails deflate when a child is born. I stand resilient in the tempest winds, and unfurl my headsail. You have been born into a family of strength. We work hard, so we can play harder. Being tough is part of our nature. Because of it, we grow, together, in all that we do. We regale in each other’s successes (even the small ones), and we shoulder the burden each time any of us fall. Individually we are great, but together we are amazing.

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When you joined our family, you came in screaming.

But, as a glimpse into your awesomeness, you cuddled, and looked around. You are a brilliant ray of sunshine. Piercing any darkness that may encroach, you radiate joy. Even when you have been sick, or teething, you bring peace with you. Somehow there was an imperceptible niche in our family, which you exposed and filled. You make our clockwork run smoother.

It is my hope to be the dad that you deserve and need, which may be lightyears beyond what I am capable of. But, between you and your siblings, I have all the reason that I need to stretch myself beyond my limits. The three of you are persistent wind that fills my sails, driving me to greatness. But this greatness is not for myself, it is for each of you.

Happy birthday darling. And thank you for choosing me to be your dad.

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

Day 29: Five Weird Things You Like

We all have things that we do that no one else we know does. But how often do we think about the weird things that we do, and like? This one was a bit more difficult to write. Having this level of introspection is not my norm, publically.

French fries with mayo instead of ketchup

I know that there are scores of people that do not like mayonnaise. Even though you are wrong, I can be understanding. However, there is something amazing about boardwalk fries, salt, pepper, malt vinegar, and dipping it in mayo.

The smell of old books

I know, I know. MANY people like the smell of old books. But I had to put this one on here today. I like to live dangerously and smoke a cigar, while drinking scotch, all while reading an old book. The aged leather not only feels fantastic, but the aroma. Plus, there is the amazing smell that lies in between the pages. Something about the ink, parchment, glue, and time coalesce into something amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle and the 200+ books that I have on it, but I will still be expanding our home library as our children grow with fantastic, old, books.

Walking in the rain without an umbrella

This one provides some strange looks when I am out an about. It takes a downpour before I will pull out an umbrella. I have found that walking in the rain is far more calming without an umbrella than with. Being hands free, feeling the cool water cascading over me is refreshing. Since I run hot (my average body temperature is right around 100.9 °F) it always feels great. Though I am lacking the sound of the rain falling onto the umbrella, hearing the sounds around me more clearly provides solace.

Small, secrete, wins

In all things that we do, there are wins. Some are big, some are small. I love celebrating the small wins. I enjoy this not just for myself, but for others as well. Most notably my children. I think that there is something fundamental in celebrating the little things, which will go a long way in helping their self-esteem. Think about it, if you had someone on the sidelines cheering for you because you tried, what would that do for you. Now, let us amplify that by this person pointing out that this time, even if you failed, you did something better than before. Celebrating small wins requires observation, and investment, on all sides.

Watching the calamity as a Dungeon Master

No listicle of weirdness could be complete for me without a reference to Dungeons and Dragons. I love being a Dungeon Master. But that is not weird. If one is in the role of being the DM, and they do not like it, then they are doing a disservice to the other players. However, I REALLY love watching things unfold, when everything is going wrong. Low dice rolls, saying the wrong things, traps, all coming together and causing chaos. It is beautiful.

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

Day 28: Somewhere you would like to live.

Here is the thing, the answer to this question is miles away from the plans that I have been working towards. Perhaps that is what makes it someplace that I would like to live, instead of where I am aiming to end up.

Whitefish Montana

Look at this beautiful place.

With crisp autumns, cold winters, and mild springs and summers, this is a dream. Nestled between Glacier National Park and Whitefish Lake State Park this place is miles away from ordinary. Being able to look up at the endless sky would make me feel small, and yet accomplished. I have loved the time that I have spent in Montana, and this picturesque town strikes a chord with me.

Great hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, boating, and land are only matched by the solitude that can be found. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words, so I will leave you with quite a few.

Live big, love bigger and be kind, always.

 

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Day 27: A Quote You Try To Live By

Oh this one is too easy. For over a year I have been ending every post with the same quote. It is what we are trying to instill in our children, and the guideposts that we have on our own life. Today, I will dissect it a little bit more than I have in the past.

Live Big

This could mean a multitude of things. It is a matter of perspective. But, as a part of the total quote, and in the eyes of my family, it means something rather specific. For us, it is a total detraction from what many think. This quote does not mean to have the nicest car, largest house, or flashiest bank account. Living big means to make the most of what you have.

In order to live big, you must know where you are. It is difficult not to outlive our means in this world. But there are amazing thing that we can do, to enhance our experience and time on this big blue marble. As the kids grow, there will be hiking, camping, canoeing, and sailing as they expand their horizons. Living big means being able to make it, on your own, and help others along the way.

Love Bigger

Much like living big, loving bigger is about knowing what the baseline should be. The mere fact that the adjective is a greater form than the one used for big, is important. The use of ‘bigger’ means that it should be far more evident, this love that you emit, than the life that you live. It should be ‘bigger’ than yourself.

Love like this cannot come from a place of seclusion. It comes from a raw awareness of the world. Understanding the hearts of those around you lets you amplify the love that you can bring into this world. It is also more demanding than living big. Living requires solace and self-awareness, while loving means letting yourself be open to the harshness that can exist.

Be Kind

If one is living big, and loving bigger, they should be able to be kind. You have to be cognizant of so many things. Being kind requires you to treat others BETTER than you wish to be treated, regardless of what they say or do. It is that aspect of this quote, which makes it the hardest.

All these things we try to do always. It is not meant to be an easy thing to do. It is demanding. Very demanding. But, in teaching these things to our children, and expecting it from them, we are doing something awesome. We are starting the ripples, which this world so desperately needs, to change things, for the better.

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

Day 26: Five Words That Describe Your Life

Okay, back to my normal posts, right? After yesterday’s rather dark post, “A Current Worry I Have”, let us have a fun post about the words that describe my life. I think that it is much needed, and far lighter, to talk about these things today.

Dreams

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

This is part of the drive that I have. If there is something that I long to do in life, then I will try. The bigger the goal, the more the sacrifice. Much like the oath that I took to enter the army, and the visceral essence of it, sacrifice is in my nature. For my family, I will sacrifice more than I have already, for the check is blank for them.

Adventure

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Life is an adventure. You can sit back on your laurels and let it happen around you, or you can dive headfirst into it. Trust me, for all that I have been through, it would be far less fun to worry so much about things we cannot control. Take the leap, and enjoy the ride.

Fortitude

As I spoke about in my Day 18 Post, “Your Biggest Plot Twist”, I am still here. The odds have not been in my favor from time to time. But I do not give up. Ever. As Richelle Goodrich said in Making Wishes, “If you plan to build walls around me, know this-I will walk through them”.  It is true. In my wake I will leave the folly of those that have tried to stop me.

Marrow

Another one of my quotes that I like comes from Thoreau’s Walden. “…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

Much like adventure and dreams, this is all about getting the most out of life. Time is far too short to live hungry for the essences that can propel us. Find what you enjoy, and do it. Do not let you… or anyone… hold you back.

Fatherhood

I could not have a list of things that describe my life without fatherhood. Next to being so lucky to have (somehow) won my beloved over (see my Day 1 post, “Five Ways to Win My Heart”), being a father is a close second. I LOVE being a dad. Even through the tears, stress, and worry, it is all worth it. My kids let me know that I am alive, and force me to feel young. To be fair, they force me to feel old as well.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

Day 25: A Current Worry You Have.

Come on! Seriously! I am a dad and you want me to just haphazardly write about “A” current worry? You have got to be kidding me. How can I pick just one? There are new things every day that come to mind, and some that keep me up at night. I mean, did you read my Day 23 post “Something That You Miss”? That entire aspect is just a glimpse into the worry that I have these days. Well, this is my thing, so I am going to do my own thing. Settle in for a bit, dear readers, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I worry about my weight

Yep, why not start right there this morning. Worry is way too small of a word to use about the loathing feeling that I get when I look in the mirror. IF I had to narrow all of my worry into a zenith of epic proportions, this would be it (pun totally intended).  My weight impacts my ability to be a father, and husband, every single day. It has not always been this way. In fact, once I was in fantastic shape. Thanks to the Army, and being in a constant state of combat readiness, I could run for days. My strength was only outmatched by my determination to do it all.

Sadly, like many others, my body has not responded well to civilian life. Wholly, I admit that it should be said that I have failed my body in its attempt adjust. In the wake of deployments, divorce, death, and complete life changes, I became lazy. I succumbed to the futile idea that plagues the young, thinking that my body would always be the same. Now, the ever-present disgust in the way that I look has reached epic and dangerous levels.

I know what you are thinking about this worry.

I am not oblivious to the constant snicker that MANY have when people talk about their weight. It always follows the same train of thought. “If you are SOOOO upset, then do something about it”.  This sentiment has always angered me. The callousness towards a worry of this nature is part of the problem that we have today. The relentless self-image issues are causing so much pain. Many harbor pain and anguish as adults, feeling trapped under their own weight. When it comes to the young, God forbid that we do a better job helping, listening, reassuring. Every day kids are taking their lives for being picked on. Much of this starts from how they look, or what they weigh. But how much of this sits on our shoulders?

But, this is about me. Right now you are asking what I have done to make it better. Let me let you into the darkness that surrounds this worry for me. Something tells me it is the same for others. Perhaps your opinion of me will be shattered. But that is the risk I take in talking about this.

The ramification of this worry

Do you know what it is like to look in the mirror and EVERY time not believe what you see? Then, to instantly hate what you see? No, not your trifling dislike. Hate, resentment, rancor emitting with every breath. The unquenchable desire to slug the mirror, not just to shatter the image, but that which is causing it. Do you know that feeling? I do. It is how I feel, every single time that I look in the mirror, or at a picture of me. Every. Time.

I am barely eating during the week due to trying to get work done. I am EXHAUSTED.  Not just like, a little tired every once and a while. I mean to the point that there is worry about my lack of sleep affecting my mental and physical health. A person can only survive on five or less hours of interrupted sleep for but so long… and it I has been about 10 year thus far.  I have tried biking, going to the gym, watching what I eat, meditating, swimming, and much more. Progress is there, but it is slow.

I hate the way that I look and feel. There is a constant level of disgust in myself that I have. It is bad.

Absolution of this worry.

Every day I have lived in this world. Surrounded by my self-inflicted abhorrence for what I look like. It is a dark and scary place that worries those who know about it. Looks like that circle may have gotten a bit bigger because of this post. I can live with that.

My beloved bride, is a saint. She is the most reassuring and amazing person I know. She FIGHTS me on this worry, every day. It is a weird place to be in to know that the love of your life only has one thing that she would change about you. That thing being the repugnance that you have for yourself and your looks. She hates that I hate myself, and tries all the time to counter this with love. She is awesome.

I am trying. I want to get healthier. To be able to play longer with my kids, hell to be around longer with my kids. This is a relentless uphill battle, and I never truly talk about it. It is my cross to bear, but perhaps putting it here will spark a change in me that is needed.

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

Day 24: Five Words That Make You Laugh.

Words are fascinating. Have you ever stopped to realize that many, many people have a favorite word? Or that there are those out there who have a favorite letter? I know this to be true… because I am one of those in the latter. But more on that at the end of this post.

Words have the innate power to create and destroy. They can lift us up from the depths or they can knock us from the highest heights. The simple uttering of even a single word can cause a heart to flutter in excitement, or break in despair.

We are all taught that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, and it is a lie. It is something that we tell children to try to teach them to just let things go.  You know what, it never truly works.

Seriously, you, the one reading this right now, do you really want to tell me that words will never hurt you? Think back to the last fight that you had with a loved one. The stinging words flying from the tongue of someone you love. Slicing through your skin, and too your heart. What about those moments in a hospital when a doctor walks out, and the room goes silent. It is not the wringing of their hands, or the grief on their face that causes the lamenting cries of heartbreak. It is the words that they say.

Five words that make me laugh? Perhaps it is due to the reverence I have for words that I cannot think of any. Does that make me strange?

Five Words That I Love

Instead, provided without explanation, here is a short list of five words that I love.

Quiz, Wander, Neophyte, Quixotic, and Denouement.

In all of its strangeness and glory, it is my list, and I am happy with that. Of these, my favorite is quiz, and for this one I will give a short explanation. Take a moment and grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Then, in all lowercase cursive, slowly write the word “quiz”. Heck, close your eyes as you do it, feel the way that your hand moves, bending and flexing. Now, open your eyes and look at it. For the way that it feels to write, and the way that it looks when written, I have felt this to be the most beautiful word in the English language since I was in middle school.

Oh, and my favorite letter, it is Q.

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

Day 23: Something that you miss.

Having things that we miss seems to be embedded deep within human nature. Though I did mention in my Day 10 post, “The Opportunity that Got Away” that I am not one to holding on to things, this is different. It is also, sadly, apropos, for many of the things going on right now. I would say that one of the things that miss the most is childhood.

Not all childhood. But, as should be expected of me by all of you by now, a finely narrowed part. I miss the carefree way we used to be as children. I am not talking about how we, as adults, now have bills, jobs, and responsibilities. That is lame. Being an adult is awesome. What I am talking about, what I am missing, is how the world felt.

I miss the ways that things once were.

Being able to stay out until the streetlights came on. Running barefoot in the grass at a park. Walking or biking wherever I needed to go, because all that I wanted to do was within that distance. Collecting up a book, a snack, and sitting in the arms of a tree. Loosing myself into the world contained within the pages. Snatching up a baseball glove and instantly having a pickup game. Walking in the woods with my brothers, finding bones and snakes, but mostly adventure. Things were different. They were better. There was a purity in the time that encapsulated all of society.

God, I sound old.

However, every day when I come home from work, there is a moment. The same moment that I spoke about in my Day 4 post, “Your Favorite Time of Day”. As my ears fill with the screaming laughter of my children, and I succumb to the endless hugs and kisses, I miss those days a little less. I see, often, that I am doing what I can to make THESE days better for my children than those days were for me. I know that this means something more. That someday, there is a chance that my children will look back on these days, and miss them. But I doubt that they will miss these days as much as I will miss having these days with them.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

Day 22: The Hobby You Wish You Had.

Yet another exercise in futility. When it comes to hobbies, if it is something that interests me, I do it. Even if I am not good at it, I try. So, let us make this our own thing. One hobby that I have, that I am working towards expanding, is carpentry. I am becoming more and more adept in working on things around the house. Countless projects seem to force me to hone my skills… weekly. But, to create. To take raw materials and make something useful, beautiful, and inspiring. That is the goal for me.

I have discussed with my beloved that there will come a time which I will start projects with each child. One-on-one we will work together on something awesome. This project is aside from things like tables, chairs, fixing and mending. I want to spend time, using only hand tools, and build a small boat with each of them.

I have been following along with some channels and blogs that discuss building your own boats. There is a deep hope within me that plan on making a Tenderly 10-foot Dinghy with each child. Letting them learn how to use the hand tools, read plans, and create. Let the design speak to them, and have them learn all that they can. Then, when complete, have this time where we christen the boat, and they call it their own. Taking it out, and perhaps learning to love the water even more.

It is a hobby, and a dream.

I try not to cloud this dream with wistful hopes of perfection. I know that it will take time, and that the skills to be acquired will be demanding. But, I also understand that there is going to be so much value in the lessons that we will learn. Holding fast to the look on their faces when they put the craft into the water, I continue to work towards honing my hobby.  Perhaps, in a closer reading of my Day 21 post, their ships will be alongside ours as we begin that journey.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

Day 21: A Glimpse At One Future Day

Captain’s Log, date 4/11/2032. Day 1.

During the festivities and celebration of Zoey’s 20th birthday last night, we were able to christen our Catalina 385, now calling her “Wisteria’s Rest”. It was a little bittersweet to end the night with our goodbyes, knowing what today would bring. We have begun. As we moved out of the slip, and put the rising sun to the port side, my beloved and I watched as the wind filled the mainsail. Our journey to the Cayman’s has been long awaited. The months that we have spent preparing have come to fruition.

There is something beautiful about looking out to the endless sea. Standing at the helm, cigar and good scotch, the aromas so pleasingly mixing with those of the sea. God, how I have loved the sea. But, there is something even more perfect from my vantage point. Seeing my beloved bride Kati relaxing on the deck. I am taken aback at how well she has aged over these years, ever the true mark of beauty for me. As the sun rises over the horizon, and the sky’s hue changes into the breathtaking colors, they are dull in comparison to seeing her.

I know not what this day will bring.

I know that this journey is something that she needs, something that I need. The years have been a little rough at times, but this respite is more than deserved. In good times and bad, this day has been on our hearts horizon. We have been charting this course for years, and are ready for what the sea may bring. As long as I have Kati by my side, I know we can weather it all.

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