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.

Day 11: Family

Ah, family. This is in the essence of EVERYTHING that I do. The majority of the hats of which I wear all are due to my family. Husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, etc. All of these roles I take on with pride. I feel that this may be something a bit stronger in my case, than many of you.

We moved, a lot, when I was growing up.  It seemed like every two years (and that, indeed, was the average for a LONG time) we were moving. Not just to a new house, but a new state. This very large factor during my early years caused me to be different. I never let others get too close. I saw the brutality of what it meant to be “the new kid” all the time. This caused me to put even more walls up.

My strongest and most present friendships were with my brothers. They were my confidants, my peers. This caused strange rifts between those that I would later call my associates (instead of friends) and myself. I mean, who wants to hand out with the kid who always had a younger brother with him? Honestly, and I can say this with much confidence, it did not bother me.  My brothers were (and still are) some of the coolest people that I have ever met.

Family is why I am who I am, and do what I do.

Family is my rock, and my everything. I know that I am lucky to have such an awesome family, and I am thankful for them all, every day. It is the safety, understanding, and omnipresence of family that I want to instill in my children. No matter what, family (should) have your back and be a place of uplifting safety. They should teach us all how to…

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 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.

Reminders are good, sometimes.

Reminders.  Thanks to social media the annals of our minds are perplexed less and less with remembering things. Dates, phone numbers, even people. We are constantly given little pings. Things that remind us of what we should consider important.  I pride myself on having a half-way decent memory.  This is, of course, affected by how tired I am. However it is still a formidable memory that I can coax out of my gray matter from time to time.

I do not need a reminder to see the very first moment that I saw my beloved bride. As she walked into the store with a black polo, light blue jeans, dark green shoes. Her eyes did little to hide how tired she was, but also held such a captivating beauty that they still leave me breathless.  Nor do I need one to remember the feeling I had when the doors opened of the church, and I saw those breathtaking eyes as she came to meet me on our wedding day. Much like the exact moment that each of our children were born, these things are forever on playback. But those are big things, right?

Today, I had different kind of those reminders.

One of the reminders that I had today was about a post exactly a year ago.  Normally, I pass over those reminders, unless it is a big day.  But, this one gave me pause.  Here is the quote:

“This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. There are men who can’t be bought. The fireborn are at home in a fire. The stars make no noise, you can’t hinder the wind from blowing. Time is a great teacher. Who can live without hope?” -Excerpt from “The People Yes” by Carl Sandburg.

A year ago these words resonated with me. There was a weight to them. So, where do I stand with this quote a year later?

I realize that though this was from a year ago, it could have been from a lifetime ago. I have watched as my children have grown a year older. This does not sound like much to some of you, I know. But, as a dad, this is a year that has passed. I have watched my family also grow by one. The privilege has been mine to have seen countless firsts, and the first of the countless. Meanwhile, the burden has also been mine to have also seen many, many lasts.

Reminders show us who we were.

Looking back over the last 36 years of my life I see something.  I see the roller-coaster of my life bringing my form out of chaos.

Looking at some of the lowest lows. The winding track getting lost in the deep, dark mire. Covered in clouds of tears, pain and anguish. When I could almost get lost in the pain, I see how much higher I have climbed since those times. I am forced to realize that I have made it through what many could not. The track, for all of its quixotic winds, dips, and loops, has made me stronger. As the time has passed, I have grown.  Not just in age, but in experience. Likewise, not just in sorrow, but in glory as well.

Reminders are good, sometimes. For without them, I would not see the anvil I have been becoming.

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.

The Little Moment: A tale of realization as a dad.

My life, as of late, has been measured by the moment. To some this may be a dad thing, in this case it is amazing. This weekend I took some time and headed to a park with Zoey and David. I have been working with the  City Dads Group and finally was able to get a chapter started here in Richmond, VA. While this has added to the never-ending list of things that I am working on, it is extremely important. I have benefitted through my current journey from countless other dads. This has empowered me to do something to help others. I have watched a community building itself out of awesomeness.  City Dads is a community of fathers that work hard to redefine fatherhood in the 21st century. I am so happy to be bringing this to Richmond, leading the charge, but that is a story for later.

There was a moment while we were walking on the trail that struck me.

moment of joy

The recent rain brought forth a bouquet of fresh aromas under the canopy of the trees. The deep, earthen soil mulling with sweet pine being baked in the humid spring heat brought memories of my childhood forward. I watched as their little bodies would lean and run around the winding path. The joy and excitement of each and every step reverberated through the deep woods.  The rapid scraping sound of little shoes running across fine gravel echoed with a cacophonous tumult, pushed further with the sound of laughter.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Taking this time with my kids means the world to me. It is my honor and duty to raise them up to be better than myself. It was in this moment, far from the sounds of suburban life, that the juxtaposition of the quote struck me.  As I glanced through the trees, over the standing water, and watched the blur of my son and daughter, I smiled. This moment was the embodiment of the quote from Goethe. My children were simultaneously showing their roots and wings. It was beautiful, and inspiring.

This is not a mark of completion, but a trail marker on the way. It is a sign that I am doing something right, that amidst the trials and failures, there is something beginning to grow.

 

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

Baseball Season Is Here! Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Growing up some of my fondest memories surround baseball. In the cool summer Ohio nights, my dad could often be found playing catch with us. As the sun set the game would get harder, transitioning from 500 to practicing our grounders. This was not just on the weekends. There were days that my dad would come home from work, and just after dinner we would head outside.

There were a few times when I was having a bad day, that he would take just me outside to play catch. We would talk about what was bothering me, and find solutions to make it better. All while tossing this little white ball with red laces back and forth. The smack of the impact in the leather gloves punctuating our thoughts. Baseball found itself firmly in a group of activities that promoted bonding, growing up and development.

baseball

Baseball was one of the many sports that I played growing up.  Mixed in with soccer, swimming, tennis and football, my parents did an awesome job of cheering us on, and letting us be active. Of course, things were simpler then. The streetlights were are alarm clocks, and passing notes was our texting. It was also something that we enjoyed watching or listening to as a family. Be it on the radio, tv, or the awesome time we were able to go to a game, it was part of life.

Why am I writing about baseball?

This past weekend, and through most of this week is opening day. Baseball season has started. I realize that for many this means little. There has been a steady decline in attendance and viewership over the years for my beloved sport. However, there are many out there that hold this time, this season, near and dear. I, for one, cannot wait for another season of ‘stadium nights’ with the family.  Were we grill hot dogs, fry pickles, and put the game on.  It is also possible that we will get to a few Richmond Flying Squirrels games as a family. Watching their eyes light up as the distinctive crack of the bat fills the air means the world to me.  If we are really lucky, perhaps we will be able to make it to a Washington Nationals game as well.

Baseball holds a space in my heart that reminds me of countless good times as a kid. It hearkens back to all the things that my dad did to take care of us, and how awesome of a job he did. It should be no surprise that baseball is a love that I hope to share with my kids as they grow. A bond, a season, a team, a rivalry, all as a chance to remember the simpler times in life. Baseball is a great medium for me to teach my kids how to…

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