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 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 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.

A 31 Day Writing Challenge for August

Nothing like starting behind. Looking for more creativity, and a break from the norm, I am attempting this #31DayChallenge for August. My goal is to get one out each day (ok, two today because of reasons). Here are the things that I will be covering in the month to come. Fingers crossed, I complete this and do not miss any more days. As always, you can feel free to like, share, or subscribe.  I want to know what you think about these things.  If you are doing this challenge with me, make sure that you let me know.

  1. Five ways to win your heart
  2. Something you feel strongly about
  3. A book you love, and why
  4. Your favorite time of day
  5. Things you never got to say
  6. A song that fits right now
  7. Five pet peeves
  8. Your favorite recipe and why
  9. Education
  10. The opportunity that go away
  11. Family
  12. Five things that draw you to a person
  13. Your favorite attribute
  14. An item that gives you confidence
  15. The awkward moment when…
  16. What if…
  17. It makes you anxious
  18. Your biggest plot twist
  19. Five ‘I wish I had” items
  20. One of your fears
  21. A glimpse at one future day
  22. The hobby you wish you had
  23. Something that you miss
  24. Five words that make you laugh
  25. A current worry
  26. Five words that describe your life
  27. A quote you try to live by
  28. Somewhere you would like to live
  29. Five weird things you like
  30. Favorite cookie
  31. Most reoccurring setting in your dreams

Sometimes the algorithms work for good reasons

After posting my blog about travelling (nod to the UK, here in the US we say traveling), I knew that the algorithms would being working.  In that time my searches have been interlaced with sprinkles about traveling. Weekend rates for a rental car, discounted airfare to Ireland, sign up for a Disney Cruise, and more. All of these and more are the algorithms at work. For some, this is frustrating, and I understand that. I mean, really, what does a trip to see the largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas, have to do with nonlinear optimization in r? Not that there is anything wrong with a big ball of twine. You do you Kansas, I think it’s cool.

This morning, while quietly shifting through the deluge of emails that one’s receives, I came across this quote while researching a question for work: “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see”, the algorithms are working.  With a lighting flash my memory zoomed past the blog post that I wrote yesterday. It focused purely on the source of this quote.

In what seems like forever ago, while in high school, I did a fair measure of extra reading. By choice of random selection in the library, I read through “Tremendous Trifles” by G.K. Chesterton. It is within this tome that sketch called “The Riddle of the Ivy” resides, and quotes from it ring true to this day.  Instantly, the quote took me to this sketch, and then deeper into my more favored quote from the piece: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land”. I sat back and reveled in the memory of the quote, of the time, and looked at the application for it in my own life today.

Is that how the algorithms are to work?

Most likely not. My guess is that while the algorithms are running, they should be driving me to the aforementioned ads for purchase. They should not taking me back nearly 20 years. To a time when I was planning for the future that I am now living. Is it the bane of society and advancement that such things are lost? The things that drive us deep into the annals of our minds to remind us of what we once wanted to do seem to be more and more silent. Perhaps we have laid waste to the algorithmic master, our own minds, in favor of those on the internet.

If that is the case, the algorithms may show me the ways to do what I hope. To travel with my children. To experience this country as a foreign land, for the second and third times. Seeing what we see, not what others go to see.  All in an effort to…

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

Travelling: Becoming a Storyteller

Travelling. Once a great mainstay, and a measure of a person, seems to come and go with the ages. Every few months a map makes its cycle around my little sphere of social media.  You all know the one, with the states where people have visited highlighted. It is funny for me to see some of the reactions, comments, excuses and proclamations that accompany these maps. Perhaps it is because, well, to be frank, my map was completed nearly a decade ago.

Travelling provides a chance to see life in ways no others have.

Ibn Battuta once said “Travelling. It makes you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”. I have done my best to become quite the storyteller. I flex my lexicon to paint the beauty of a sunrise over the Atlantic. The sweeping colors pouring into view over an expansive, white capped, sea. I pull on the heartstrings as I capture the stillness of a single tear fall from the cheek of a parent in a waiting room. I bring the undeniable smile when expressing the joy of being smothered in the kisses of my children. All of this in an effort to give you an opportunity to travel. To close your eyes, sit in the stillness, and picture the scene I have laid before you.

A new thought on travelling for me.

But, those silly maps, the ones that cause me to chuckle have sparked an idea. What if, I were to complete the map with my children before they become adults? Would they enjoy travelling? I am sure that they would. More so, they would enjoy the stories that I would tell about some of my favorite places, while we are there. They may be inspired when we stop in a field and lay there on the grass. To look up at the clouds in the sky in wonder. To explain to them that this is but a starting place, and it is about the journey.

So, the days, and years, ahead I will be overjoyed to expand my stories as we travel. However, I feel that the real excitement will be in watching the new generation of storytellers. Watching them take in all that they can from our travelling journeys. Listening as they become speechless, and begin painting pictures with their words.

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

Cranio Dad says #ThanksBaby for making me a dad.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

This weekend is an amazing one. Father’s Day is a chance to celebrate dads, and all that they do in our lives. But this year I am looking at this day a little differently. Yes, there will still be the accolades for my amazing dad.  But Pampers is giving thanks to babies for making Dad feel exceptionally special; for empowering dads to discover new roles in life through fatherhood.  While I am forever thankful for each of our growing children (Zoey, David, and Jacob), my role as ‘Dad’ started when Zoey was born.

After a crazy labor and delivery, there was a ton of worry. Zoey was rushed to the NICU. The picture-perfect story about entering fatherhood was squelched with worried whispers from the staff. “What are we going to tell the parents?” is something one NEVER wants to overhear.

I remember, and still hold close, the very first time that I saw my daughter in the NICU. As I quietly pulled back the curtain, I saw before me a dark room and a little tiny bed. That bed had a light that shined with a radiance that hurt my eyes. Bathed in the warm, glowing light was my little girl, my Zoey. The one of whom I had prayed for, sung to, and talked with through my beloved bride’s growing belly. On shaking legs, I walked over to her bedside; tears streaming down my face. A quite voice from the corner of the room said “Dad, you can touch her, she is ok.” With tear-filled eyes I looked at the nurse that I had not noticed before. Her calm, penitent smile met me as her hands beckoned to the bed.

My hands were trembling as I reached out and placed my hand next to her. Choking back the tears, I said the words that I had been waiting nine months to say. “Hey Zoey, it’s me, Daddy.” At the sound of my voice, she stirred. I watched as her little body moved, and her tiny, tiny hand reached up. Her hand found my finger, and she grabbed on.

Dad and Zoey

This was the moment that I realized my entrance into the role of fatherhood. I knew that I would climb mountains for her. As her little hand grasped tightly onto my finger, I knew that just as she was born, this dad was born as well.

How Cranio Dad feels about Pampers.

For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies. Meanwhile, over the last five years, our family has come to understand Craniosynostosis. We have also learned about the challenges for a child with an imperforate anus. On Day One Zoey was in Pampers. We have tried others, but, honestly, no others work for her. Weather it be dealing with blow-outs, or looking for some comfort after a surgery, Pampers have always been there. Because of how well they worked for Zoey, we knew they were our choice. They are a staple in our home as all three kids wear them.

Pampers has released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a baby is born.  I love how this video makes me smile.

I am so happy that Pampers is helping to make this Father’s Day, and every day, special by honoring dads; for thanking dads for all the amazing things that we do, big and small, to help our little ones.

Please join me by tweeting why you are most thankful for baby with the hashtag #ThanksBaby

This Father’s Day let’s do our best to live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Sleep, where we are going we don’t need sleep…

For far too long we have been off the radar. We have been working hard at creating a new format for our vlogs, and those should be starting again soon. Kati has been doing an awesome job juggling all that there is to do taking care of a house full of children.  I have been working towards launching a dad’s group here in Richmond, more preparation on a book that I am writing, projects, and more projects. Sleep has long since been a common thing for either of us.

Averaging, still, three hours of interrupted sleep has been my thing so long that I think I am going to make business cards that state it. At current, it is not due to the (almost) eight month old Jacob, or the potty-training three year old David, or even the amazing and full of life five year old Zoey. Life. It is the time of year where projects are the thing to do. Also, scraping every moment of family time that we can. Sure, there is the awesomeness of the days lasting longer.  That SO helps when you tell your kids that it is time to go to sleep.  David, in particular, has gotten great about pointing out that the sun is still up.  This means that it is not bed time, right?

“Every mountain top is within reach is you just keep climbing”. Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

But, there is a ray of hope. There is a glimmer of light cresting over the pinnacle of this phase of life. We can see the cairn that we have been building in this place, as we face the light. The work that we have done, the nights that we have spent working, are coming to an end. Soon, we will be at the peak, facing a new dawn, and a slope that we can coast down.

There is more to come. Hopefully it is all awesomeness. There will, undoubtedly, be many more summits ahead of us. But, and this may be the lack of sleep speaking, I think that we can take them on. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

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