It snowed last night.

    I woke to a white capped winter wonderland, and a list of things to do. I smirked as my thoughts drifted to all those local residents who probably saw this is the apocalypse. I have to admit I felt a little shame as I realize I was relying on other people’s fear of this weather. However, knowing that this meant that I would have decent travel, I got up, donned my flannel shirt and jeans, and got out the door.

    As I walked my car I looked back and saw my children, wide-eyed with excitement, faces pressed against the glass of our front window. Every part of me that is a dad uttered a small prayer that they keep the wonderment that is the season. That they hold fast to the childlike joy that is all things winter. Playing in the snow, building snowmen, hanging Christmas lights, all of it.


    The peace of the open road, the sound of Beethoven softly playing over the radio, these are the moments. In astute reflection I paused as the red light glared at me. This season is so much more than just a cold winter’s holiday.


    I am reaching a height of purpose that I could not even ink out from the base where I started. My home is full of love, passion, understanding, and joy. This more than warms the heart. My job satisfaction is at an all-time high, even as I face new beginnings with my promotion. My faith has been continuously reassured with every struggle and victory. This season is good.


    These thoughts are juxtaposed with the view out my windshield. This is the weather that begs for our melancholy. The deep, dark gray skies cascading against the cool white snow. The ceaseless creaking as the wind blows through the snow laden boughs above. The shocking silence as even nature seeks respite against the cold.


    The light turns green. As my car navigates the barren road every second brings a beauty that negates the misanthropic thralls of my mind. I smile as I accelerate. Feeling all of the parts of me coalesce; dad, husband, and a little bit of lumberjack muddled in, as I own the road.


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

      Building a better home.

      Today is going to be an emotional day. I stood there looking into the room the ruckus of morning breakfast behind me down the hall, and sighed. 

      I built these beds for both of my kids with my own two hands. I found plans online and I modified them to help bring out some characteristics of each child. But today these beds come apart.
      The same hands that built the beds will now unscrew the screws. The wood will be removed from the room leaving a barren and empty. I’m almost certain that a war against the dust bunnies will be waged. In place of my two creations, a store-bought bunk bed will be put in. I have been dreading this day since the moment I clicked the purchase button for the bunk beds. I fretted over if I could just cancel the order and keep everything just the way that it is. But we are growing family in a very small house. We need space for things like a home office, crafts, and homeschooling of course.

      But having the ability to make things work, moving all three kids into one room, does not make this day any easier.

      There maybe someday down the road that my kids remember these beds. I want them to see that this decision to take apart something that I’ve gifted to them was not an easy one. but we often have to do things that are not easy. I’m sure they’ll be some pretty awesome memories about the time they will spend in a room together, all three of them. But for now I’m having a hard time letting go of the memories that we have created with just the two of them.

      Pictures we posted, hell I might even do a YouTube video just to help ease some of the pain that I’m feeling. Regardless, today is going to be an emotional day as I…

      Live big, love bigger, be kind, always.

      Day 31: The Most Reoccurring Setting in your Dreams

      Fitting that the last day of this series gets a little weird. You may not think that is the case, until after you read this.  Dream settings are fickle for many. Countless times we speak about what our dreams tell us, and many of those factors are based on the setting of the dreams.  I have listened to scores of people talk about their dreams. It is part of the nature of who I am, you know, the safe guy.  All of these conversations surmise to a simple point that I have always held close.

      Why does my constant dream setting have to be so different?

      Ever since my accident, when I lost control of a four-wheeler and it ran me over, ripping open the back of my head, my dreams have changed. I have a verbose memory of… things. I know that when I was younger, even just a few days before the accident, things were vastly different when I slept. There was light, darkness, color, faces, trees, and all the things that the rest of you are graced with.

      For the first few nights after the accident, I did not dream. I think that this is more than understandable. I was seven, and recovering from a VERY traumatic experience. However, once I started dreaming again, things were different. No longer was there shapes, people, or any of the cool stuff. My dream setting took a dramatic and exhausting change, forever.

      My Dream Setting

      The setting of every dream since that moment is a chalkboard. Or, at least I assume it is a chalkboard due to what it looks like. I see my dreams written out. Colors depict emotion, my writing style changes based on the age I am in the dream. There are sometimes sounds (thanks PTSD), but that is it. Gone are the movie like spectacles that many of you enjoy. The more that I dream, the more tired I am when I wake up. After all, I am reading ALL NIGHT.

      When there are others in the dream, friends, wife, children, and even random people, I am given their name in the narrative that is being written. But, the funny thing is, the writing is often what I ‘think’ the person may write like. I know, I am strange, but at least my love of reading has persisted since childhood. Else, this would be more exhausting.

      What is your most common dream setting?

      Just like that, the month is over. This was a fun exercise and I may do it again. But not for September. September is Cranio Facial Acceptance Month. This is a big deal for our family. My wife and I will be posting a new video each day on our vlog where we answer a different question that we are often asked about our daughters Craniosynostosis. Most of the blogs this month will follow suit.

      I hope that we can teach you a lot about what our life is like, and help you to know more about the world of cranio. We have learned that for as scary as it was to first hear, it has shown us we are stronger than we think.

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

      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 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 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 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 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.