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 15: The Awkward Moment When…

Dear readers, if you have not been able to glean the fact that I am usually not thwarted by awkwardness, then I have failed you. However, there are still times that the feeling of ‘over-sharing’ brings this feeling to light. Perhaps I will dwell on this, for a moment. Discussing that awkward moment when I over-share.

See, there has been the longstanding social construct between social butterflies and wallflowers. I like to think that social interaction is not as cut-and-dry as this. With the advent of social media, there is a new category. One which I feel I embrace wholly in action and voice. The Social Dragonfly.

What does this mean? How is it awkward?

Picture, if you will, a dragonfly. Darting from location to location. Feeding, resting, just having a good time. There are those of us, in society, that like not to be constrained by the social constructs that keep many of us in a lane. I first realized this back in high school. When I would look at the network of association that I kept, I covered a broad swath of the microcosm that exists in that habitat. Nerds, geeks, jocks, artist, fighters, leaders, I communed with them all. In retrospect, very few did this hopping from group to group. Perhaps that is why I was so adept in doing so.

However, this was a breeding ground for moments of feeling awkward. Over-sharing never comes from a place of one-upmanship, at least for me. So there are times that I share what, in hindsight, may be a little too much for the audience. There are times that awkward pauses, and minor alienation result from such over-sharing. But, over time, I have learned to roll with the punches. Perhaps it is buried in these resulting moments that I have learned not to care about being awkward.

Ultimately, people will either like you for you, or not.  If we spend all of our time worried about the things that we cannot change, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. If there is a moment that you feel awkward, embrace it. It is what makes you who you are. Over time, hone it, be proud (if not a little boastful) in this awesomeness. Trust me, you will be better for it. I hope that my kids learn this from me as well. I think it will go a long way in preventing the stranglehold that some levels of social acceptance has on our young ones.

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 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 7: Five pet peeves

I can only name five? Well, let’s narrow it down then, shall we.

Useless Meetings

So many hours of my day is lost to meetings that a) could have been an email, b) go so off the rails or deep in the weeds that a follow-up needs to be scheduled, and/or c) the decision makers have not prepared/are not in attendance.  I know that EVERYONE goes through this, but I am growing bitter over it. I require that my team has agenda’s, prepares, and keeps things on track. However, I am now to the point that they also have my backing to get up and leave in the middle of a useless, off-track, meeting.  It is fun to have conversations with other managers (and above) about this. They call me pissed off, then find themselves on the defensive. I am all for helping other, but I will not stand to have our time wasted.

Woe is me mentality

Let me start by saying that I do, honestly care, about many people. There is a stark difference between working through something and having everything be something though.  There are things that you expect as a parent (illnesses, injuries, sleepless nights, and the whole lot). It is more than fine to mention that you are exhausted, or even to talk about how this illness is taking a greater toll on you.  But if your entire life seems to only be all that is wrong with it… I often find myself asking those about the good in their lives. It is my hope that they are not missing out on the awesomeness based on what the project as their fixed perspective.

Over Apologizing

Simply, the overuse of sorry falls on deaf ears. When it is not your fault, or doing, though you can be sorry for me, telling me “I’m sorry” will more than likely just upset me.

Uneven Arguments

Look, I am down for a good, and even heated conversation. But I look for weakness in logic. The fastest way to circumvent an uneven argument is stating what you understand the opposition to be. Only giving your side often shows lack of insight to the whole picture.

The Mac vs. PC (endless) debate

We all have our preferences. Stop nit-picking and work on making everything better for everyone. I do not care how much you get with whatever amount you have paid. You could pay $30k for a 24-caret-gold-plated MacBook Pro. Likewise you could pay (Lord knows how much) for a gold-plated, diamond-studded HP laptop. But if my $800 laptop can outpace, out preform, and do exactly what I need it too, then who is the real winner?

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.

Day 4: Your Favorite Time of Day

There is a moment that I look forward to (almost) every day. After a long day there is a fraction of time that I close a door, take a few steps, pause, take a breath, and open another.  This is the moment that makes every single day worth whatever has been thrown at me.

When I get home, without fail, there is a moment that transpires. As the door opens one or two little voices will YELL from within the house “Daddy’s Home”! There is a cacophony of screams and a thunderous pattering of feet. I am bowled over as two excited children attack me with hugs, kisses, and begin pulling on my arm. As they guide me into the next room a little cherub face will turn and a brilliant smile will come to his face. Then my beloved bride will come and say “Welcome Home”.

No matter the day, no matter what is going on, this moment makes my entire day fade away. It is in these moments that the weight of the world leave me, like a mantel taken off. No matter what was on my mind the moment before I touched the handle, I am in my happy place. I am dad and husband. I am home.

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.

Sometimes the algorithms work for good reasons

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

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

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

Is that how the algorithms are to work?

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

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

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