An open letter to my beloved bride on the event of our seventh wedding anniversary

My beloved,

Well, here we are. Rounding out the seventh year of our marriage. My, oh my, look how far we have come. Last night, as we sat and tried to watch The Crown, while dealing with a very sick baby, there was a moment of pause. The TV volume was low, you were bundled up under a blanket, sleepily transfixed on the story. Salem, our beloved border collie, was asleep at your feet. From down the hall the sounds of our sleeping children filled the air. All stuffed up with the weather changes, the chorus of snoring was… beautiful.

You had your hands cradling your stomach, gently holding our unborn fourth child. Had the propane not run out just the day before, there would have been a fire. That will be fixed today. Sorry about that. But that fire would have brought a warm orange glow under the trove of stocking that we hung yesterday. Who knew that so many socks would look that impressive on such a long mantle? Or that the little ceramic village that you have been collecting over the years would look so amazing? I am sure that you did. You have always had an eye for design.

Perhaps there was something that you saw in me, seven years ago. For I can think of no real reason why I am so lucky to be your husband. I am always in awe of your love, support, compassion, and endearment. Even through the frustrating times that we have seen, you have been amazing. You have been steadfast in your desires for me to do my best. You have been my rock, and allowed me to be yours. Through everything, you have been the earthly embodiment of all things good and perfect for me, and our children.

Yes, our children. The growing brood of independent, smart, witty, funny, laughing, stress-us-out extension of our love. Never before has there been such proof to be careful what one prays for. Regardless, even when you think that you are failing, you are excelling in ways that many others could not even come close too. In the rare time that we find ourselves taking a step back and evaluating our little ones, what do we see? A rambunctious group of defiant protesters? No. We see brilliant minds testing the limits of their existence, and reason, with the purest intentions of figuring out life. We see teamwork unhindered by ability. Above it all, we see compassion and joy. All that is good in them comes from the work, love, and patience that you pour into them. We are all better for it.  I never grow tired of exclaiming your accolades as a mother, teacher, and counselor.

When we started this journey, there was us and a dog. We knew not what mountains or valleys we would have to transit to get here. Heck, we did not even know here was a place. But, it is where we are. It is still us and the dog, but now we have three amazing kids, and one more on the way. Countless seasons behind us,. All of the unknown, untamed, wilderness ahead of us. But that is the thing. No matter what lies ahead, we will tame it together. For seven years we have been side by side, hand-in-hand, walking through this life. Occasionally one of us standing in the gap (mostly me, it is what I do) but always moving forward.

I am so happy that it is you. Over the last 2,557 days, I have found more than 10 times that number of new reasons that I love you. Every day, another reason (or a list of reasons) is added. So, here is to seven amazing years my love. And to an eternity more.

 

Love,

Your husband.

    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.

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

    So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

    With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

    Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

    So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

    Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

    Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

    Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

    Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

    So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

    This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

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

    The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

    I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

    Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

    But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

    The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

    As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

    But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

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

    Day 23: Something that you miss.

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

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

    I miss the ways that things once were.

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

    God, I sound old.

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

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

    Day 21: A Glimpse At One Future Day

    Captain’s Log, date 4/11/2032. Day 1.

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

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

    I know not what this day will bring.

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

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

    Day 18: Your Biggest Plot Twist

    Simply, I am still here. Oh, but the things, the reasons, and all that this entails.

    I have eluded to the simple facts that I have been through much. I am not going to delve into them here, as that is not part of the exercise. But these things, these adventures, have broken many before me. They continue to break many more each day. I have countless reasons, many more that the paltry 13 as noted in a diabolical show, why I should not be here. Something tells me that there are some of you out there that share this sentiment. Our journeys, though perhaps not intertwined, have been treacherous and daunting. The trials have contained more tribulations than joys. Yet, in the beautiful words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”. But why?

    Is there some factor of unrelenting resolve that imbibes us with the strength the carry on where others find their end? Perhaps. However, I think that there is another quote that sums up an aspect that I realized early on in life. From my favorite book, as noted in my Day 3 post, Enders Game, “If you try and lose, then it isn’t your fault. But if you don’t try and we lose, then it’s all your fault”. See there is something defying in this quote. It is not all around the aspect of trying. That is mundane and overused. It is in acceptance that if you try and fail… it is not your fault.

    My Reasons Why Not.

    Then there is my beloved and my children. Any one of them would outweigh any of the 13+ reasons why. Granted, I have not had them during most of the crap that I have been through. Yet, I held fast to the hope that I had. Faithful to the belief that, one day, I would have these people in my life. Had I bent the knee to ANY of the dire situations that I have found myself in, I would not have this reward.

    I have known failure and defeat more often than I let on. However, I have learned never to let something defeat me. For the reward for making it through is not just a story, or a scar, but may be waiting at the counter of a Halloween Store.

    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 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 10: The Opportunity That Got Away

    Wow! Really? The opportunity that got away? Such a loaded topic. That being said, strap in. I have had some coffee, a red bull, and got some sleep.  *cracks knuckles* let’s do this.

    In this life I have learned many, many lessons.  Some lessons I have learned the hard way.  I have experienced loss in ways that I would wish on no one. I have held people as they have taken their last breath. My life has crumbled before my eyes due to the choices of others.  However, I have also experienced joy beyond measure. I have seen the fruits of my tireless efforts pay off in spades. I have been able to help others, more than I would help myself.

    If I spent time dwelling on the ‘opportunity that got away’ I would not be where I am today.

    I have a family that means the world to me. The love and friendship of a woman that I do not deserve, but she still chose me to be her husband. I am in a job that I love, doing things that excite me. This is not to say that I am complacent. I am constantly working on my hustle, and driving myself to greater heights.

    Boiling it down to the most finite logic, EVERY decision that we make results in the potential for an opportunity to be lost. That is what makes life so hard. Deciding to take that job, over another, means that your career path is forever changed. Dealing with a break up may open the doors for something greater (mine all did). It sucks, trust me, I know. I have this thing about me. Others, who know my story, say that I have stared the devil in the eyes, and watched him blink. So, these words come from well-founded experience, not theory nor conjecture.

    Make the best of the opportunities that you have.

    Do not focus on what is behind you, look to the now, and ahead. We could all languish in the past, lament over the choices that we made, or were made for us.  But what a depressing state to be in. I am not in the business of regretting much. I am accountable to where I am now, and the hardships, and graces, which got me here, do not go unnoticed, or un-thanked.  Yep, that’s right, I am thankful for the bad things. I am grateful for bad decisions. Every single one of them have brought me to the life that I have now. Regardless of where you are in your path, or what your life is like, it is still yours, and you are still alive.

    Life is a gift, not an opportunity

    This is why I am the way that I am. I see each and every day as a gift. There are infinite possibilities for the future that I can make for myself, my beloved, and my children. All of these possibilities come from choice.  Often we do not have the opportunity to weigh out our decisions, think about what we may be losing in the wash. However, having a fantastic understanding that where we have been has made us who we are helps in passing off regrets, and looking for the opportunities to come.

    If you are dwelling in the past, heal. You are not doing something wrong by living with this regret. You are doing yourself a disservice, but I will never admonish you for that. But, do me a favor. When things are dark and bleak, and you close your eyes, I know that you are seeing a fleeting glance of the opportunity that got away. Hold on to that, but then draw a line to where you are now because of it. You are still here, there is still life, and there is still boundless opportunities ahead of you.  Many of those may be better than the one that got away. But you will not see them if your eyes are close.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.