Day 29: Favorite Cookie: Snickerdoodles

Oh the rollercoaster that is this list. But that is the flaw in not looking ahead, and only reading it once before posting it. But the fact that I limit myself to 10 minutes a day for this challenge, in and of itself should get me a cookie. Right? Well, even if it does not, let me tell you a little bit about my favorite one.

Snickerdoodles

There is an amazing fragrance that overtakes the kitchen as these wonderful cookies are being baked. The cinnamon and sugar as they amalgamate under the heat profuse into a scent that I consider heaven.  I can feel the salivation build as they are cooling on the rack. My beloved already knows that I will not mind the burn to take one a little early. Biting into the surgery goodness, feeling the reserved heat sear my mouth, it is awesome.

It is hard to beat a good snickerdoodles, and only the best are homemade. There is something severely lacking from any of the store-bought imitations that I have had in my life. Note, I am not saying that the ones that you can purchase from bakeries are substandard, just that pre-packaged nonsense.  Of course, it is almost always the case that homemade is better.

There is a small joy in sharing good snickerdoodles with my kids. Seeing their eyes light up, and a smile come across their faces is amazing. I know that I am leading them down a great path in only providing the best ones for them. Prior to them, sharing was not an option. However, now, it is a constant. There have been times that I have watched the excitement build as the snickerdoodles are baking in the oven. I share in their exclamations as the oven opens, we gape in pure joy, and we watch as they are transferred onto cooling racks.

I feel somewhere between a kid and a dad when this happens. It is so worth it.

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

Day 20: One of Your Fears

As it should have been made evident over the last few posts, time is the essence of my fears.  One of my fears is that my time will not be well spent. I think that most parents have this fear, but seldom speak about it. I can understand why. There is something triste in mentioning fears of this nature. I mean, if everyone feels it, what is the point? But, I think that IS the point. We assume that others have the same fear, and that means that no one needs to talk about it.

Far be it for me to decry from the social norms.

Just kidding!

I am terrified about what it is going to be like for my kids when I am no longer here. I worry about making sure that they are ready.  Not for the event of my passing, but for the time after. We never know when our time is up. But the only fear of death that I have does not reside in my untimely demise, but in the pain that it may bring upon others.

I could live in fear of this time. Many that I know, do just that. Having shared in this fear, and the counter of it, I do my best. I try to resolve this fear by watching my children learn, grow, and reach new heights. I teach them. Taking on the full mantle of fatherhood, I try to be the dad that they need now, so they will not need me later.

Sucks when you think about it that way.

Oh, the counter of this fear, makes it so much worse. That I will outlive any of my children. But, nothing needs to be said on that. Honestly. In this case the norms are ok, for now.

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

Day 19: Five ‘I Wish I Had’ Items

‘I Wish I Had’. Oh, this is going to be ‘fun’. Is that the operative word that one uses when creating a listicle of sorts? For the sake of brevity, it is the word that I will use, for now, to mask my disdain.

I Wish I Had More Time

This… was not a thing before I met my beloved. The desire for this was only made greater with the birth of each child. For the majority of my life, I lived for myself. I did what I could to move the needle towards the greater good, as I saw fit. However, I settled on the fact that when my time came, that was it. Granted, I still feel that way. But, now, I wish that time to be as far from this moment, and every amazing moment, as possible.

I Wish I Had More Understanding

Time on this planet is short, so we must make the most of it. We all know this. However, how do we make the most of it? There is the mantra that I close each blog post with. This quip is something that we are striving to teach our children, every day. But, one cannot live big without first understanding what it means to live small. Likewise, loving bigger requires to know and understand what small love looks and feels like. Just as being kind demands a deep understanding of the opposite. I wish that I had more understanding, things to show my children, so that they would not have to experience the brutal juxtaposition that exists in this world.

I Wish I Had the Ability to Do Nothing

Far too often I burn the candle at both ends, while it is in an oven.  The moments are very few and far between where I can just sit back, relax and do nothing. I have very dear friends, and family, that often speak to me of their worry with this matter. But, there is just something about me that want to do more. Most of my projects involve creating, and there is such a high level of catharsis in each and every one. Though I wish for the ability to do nothing, there is a large part of me that does not want it.

I Wish I Had the Unyielding Patience My Beloved Has

Of all the virtues, this one may be my slightest. I spend so much time looking at the big picture, constantly adjusting my 10 year plan. I constantly see the things that I must do to achieve the goals that I sent, and I move to make them happen (see the section above). But, I am learning. Between my beloved and my children, I am learning to wait. Unfortunately this is often taken up with working on other things while I wait (again, see above).  Regardless, I am learning.

I Wish I Had a Stronger Desire to Want More Than I Have

All for naught, I am ultimately happy with the things that I have, and those that I do not. It is my own consternation that must be dealt with. This does not mean that the above things are fanciful items. They are very, very real. But I just wish that I could want more, like so many others. Though it is never easy, I enjoy this journey, and all that I have been blessed with, and done without along the way.

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

Day 17: It Makes You Anxious When…

Anxious: experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event of something with an uncertain outcome.

I would be lying if I said I never felt anxious. However, it is important to note that most of these moments have been in the last six years and 15 days. Why such an exact number? It was 2,207 days ago that my beloved and I found out that we were going to be parents. Since that very moment, after the realization washed away to jubilant praise, my propensity to feel anxious has increased, tenfold.

Upon numerous occasions my breathing has stopped, my heart as ceased beating, and time has frozen as the anxious waves crashed over me. Fatherhood is not for the weak of heart. Every time that Zoey has gone through surgery, I become anxious. All of the many first steps that David has taken, it is there. Every time that Jacob tries to walk, I can feel it trying to force my hands out to catch him. Every bump, fall, bruise, scrape, it is there. I would love to tell you that, over time, it gets better.

Anxious Is As It Does

I really would love to tell you that. Yet, every time that I feel like I am going to get a handle on it… we have a new member of the family going through it. Having three kids five and under means there is always someone learning to climb, walk, run, ride, run, and swim. Perhaps in about 18 years I will be able to breathe again.

But, here is the cool part, this is also part of what makes fatherhood so awesome. Understanding that these are the things that make one anxious, and powering through them. These moments that make my heart stop mean my celebration over each achievement is genuine. When I clap and cheer, picking up my child, they can see the exaltation on my face. So, I kind of dig it when I feel anxious. It usually means something awesome is happening.

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 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.