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 26: Five Words That Describe Your Life

    Okay, back to my normal posts, right? After yesterday’s rather dark post, “A Current Worry I Have”, let us have a fun post about the words that describe my life. I think that it is much needed, and far lighter, to talk about these things today.

    Dreams

    “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

    This is part of the drive that I have. If there is something that I long to do in life, then I will try. The bigger the goal, the more the sacrifice. Much like the oath that I took to enter the army, and the visceral essence of it, sacrifice is in my nature. For my family, I will sacrifice more than I have already, for the check is blank for them.

    Adventure

    “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

    Life is an adventure. You can sit back on your laurels and let it happen around you, or you can dive headfirst into it. Trust me, for all that I have been through, it would be far less fun to worry so much about things we cannot control. Take the leap, and enjoy the ride.

    Fortitude

    As I spoke about in my Day 18 Post, “Your Biggest Plot Twist”, I am still here. The odds have not been in my favor from time to time. But I do not give up. Ever. As Richelle Goodrich said in Making Wishes, “If you plan to build walls around me, know this-I will walk through them”.  It is true. In my wake I will leave the folly of those that have tried to stop me.

    Marrow

    Another one of my quotes that I like comes from Thoreau’s Walden. “…live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.

    Much like adventure and dreams, this is all about getting the most out of life. Time is far too short to live hungry for the essences that can propel us. Find what you enjoy, and do it. Do not let you… or anyone… hold you back.

    Fatherhood

    I could not have a list of things that describe my life without fatherhood. Next to being so lucky to have (somehow) won my beloved over (see my Day 1 post, “Five Ways to Win My Heart”), being a father is a close second. I LOVE being a dad. Even through the tears, stress, and worry, it is all worth it. My kids let me know that I am alive, and force me to feel young. To be fair, they force me to feel old as well.

    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 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 22: The Hobby You Wish You Had.

    Yet another exercise in futility. When it comes to hobbies, if it is something that interests me, I do it. Even if I am not good at it, I try. So, let us make this our own thing. One hobby that I have, that I am working towards expanding, is carpentry. I am becoming more and more adept in working on things around the house. Countless projects seem to force me to hone my skills… weekly. But, to create. To take raw materials and make something useful, beautiful, and inspiring. That is the goal for me.

    I have discussed with my beloved that there will come a time which I will start projects with each child. One-on-one we will work together on something awesome. This project is aside from things like tables, chairs, fixing and mending. I want to spend time, using only hand tools, and build a small boat with each of them.

    I have been following along with some channels and blogs that discuss building your own boats. There is a deep hope within me that plan on making a Tenderly 10-foot Dinghy with each child. Letting them learn how to use the hand tools, read plans, and create. Let the design speak to them, and have them learn all that they can. Then, when complete, have this time where we christen the boat, and they call it their own. Taking it out, and perhaps learning to love the water even more.

    It is a hobby, and a dream.

    I try not to cloud this dream with wistful hopes of perfection. I know that it will take time, and that the skills to be acquired will be demanding. But, I also understand that there is going to be so much value in the lessons that we will learn. Holding fast to the look on their faces when they put the craft into the water, I continue to work towards honing my hobby.  Perhaps, in a closer reading of my Day 21 post, their ships will be alongside ours as we begin that journey.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

    Day 20: One of Your Fears

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

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

    Just kidding!

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

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

    Sucks when you think about it that way.

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

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

    Day 19: Five ‘I Wish I Had’ Items

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

    I Wish I Had More Time

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

    I Wish I Had More Understanding

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

    I Wish I Had the Ability to Do Nothing

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

    I Wish I Had the Unyielding Patience My Beloved Has

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

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

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

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

    Day 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.