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.

Day 24: Five Words That Make You Laugh.

Words are fascinating. Have you ever stopped to realize that many, many people have a favorite word? Or that there are those out there who have a favorite letter? I know this to be true… because I am one of those in the latter. But more on that at the end of this post.

Words have the innate power to create and destroy. They can lift us up from the depths or they can knock us from the highest heights. The simple uttering of even a single word can cause a heart to flutter in excitement, or break in despair.

We are all taught that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, and it is a lie. It is something that we tell children to try to teach them to just let things go.  You know what, it never truly works.

Seriously, you, the one reading this right now, do you really want to tell me that words will never hurt you? Think back to the last fight that you had with a loved one. The stinging words flying from the tongue of someone you love. Slicing through your skin, and too your heart. What about those moments in a hospital when a doctor walks out, and the room goes silent. It is not the wringing of their hands, or the grief on their face that causes the lamenting cries of heartbreak. It is the words that they say.

Five words that make me laugh? Perhaps it is due to the reverence I have for words that I cannot think of any. Does that make me strange?

Five Words That I Love

Instead, provided without explanation, here is a short list of five words that I love.

Quiz, Wander, Neophyte, Quixotic, and Denouement.

In all of its strangeness and glory, it is my list, and I am happy with that. Of these, my favorite is quiz, and for this one I will give a short explanation. Take a moment and grab a piece of paper and something to write with. Then, in all lowercase cursive, slowly write the word “quiz”. Heck, close your eyes as you do it, feel the way that your hand moves, bending and flexing. Now, open your eyes and look at it. For the way that it feels to write, and the way that it looks when written, I have felt this to be the most beautiful word in the English language since I was in middle school.

Oh, and my favorite letter, it is Q.

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 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 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 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.

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.

Putting Fear in the Fearless: Tales of Failure as a Father

Yesterday, my world stopped, and a fear arose. I am still shaking off the ghost of what happened. Sleep has not gone well.

This weekend was a long and busy one. On the list of activities was getting together with my Dad, stepmom, and family.  We wanted to hang out, and have the kiddos go swimming at the hotel. So, we packed up and headed to the other side of town. The overcast, rain-laden clouds hung heavily in the sky, however, this did not affect the interior of our minivan as we traversed through the city. The littles knew we were on our way to see Grandpa and Grandma.  Their conversation was peppered with comments about pizza and even the word “pool.” As for Kati and I, our conversation was more softened about the busy times we have found ourselves in.

We arrived. Like a heard of animals we descended upon the hotel’s atrium. There, family and pizza boxes awaited. The boys took over a table to snack, juggle children, and play cribbage. Some of the children wandered over asking what we were playing. Smiles flippantly appeared upon all of the dad’s faces, it was about time to pass this game on to the next generation. Such a stoic torch, one that has been passed throughout our family for longer than many of us know.

After some pizza, and cribbage, the locals were getting restless. It was also at that time that some of the other children needed to go home for naps.  So, the gaggle was reduced to our three and one of my nieces.  My brother stayed to hang out with us, and to see if his daughter wanted to swim. So, a quick change into swimsuits was had. There is something amazing about the sound of little feat running down long halls. The heavy padded carpet making a thud, thud, thud that reverberates as the base, below the trill of their voices. The anticipation and excitement crescendos with each and every spoken word. I am thankful that it was mid-afternoon. This lessened my fear that anyone could be sleeping. We opened the door to the small indoor pool and all worked to contain the excitement of the children.

I hopped in the pool.  Like children looking at a puppy both Zoey and David circled around the pool, they wanted to jump in. They listened. Many of the methods that I have learned, and those that were added by family swim lessons at the Y took hold. I watched as they both sat down, feet dangling in the warm water.  My children don’t fear the water.  Heck, they do not really fear anything. They know that they are strong, I know that they are resourceful, and my fear is that they are fearless.

When it comes to water, I have a long history. I have been on swim teams since I was a teenager.  Though not the fastest, there was a passion. This passion still exists today. I would rather be in a pool swimming endless laps over a short sprint on a track, any day. I took scuba diving for credit in college… because I wanted to. Since then I have used my certification speeding time floating in the endless abyss. As a result, I have learned not to completely fear, but to respect the water. Most of all, I have learned that things can happen in a second that can change your life, or even end it.

Much like looking to the stars and running barefoot in the grass, I have been working with my kids on learning how to swim. Teaching them that some fear is good, and a ton of respect is better. We have taken family swim lessons, and have plans for more. My comfortable relationship with water is something that I want to pass on. For both its power and its beauty are mesmerizing.

I pointed to Zoey. She stood, hands exactly wringing themselves. I counted, using my fingers, to three, and with a high-pitched, gleeful scream, she jumped to me. We laughed, and giggled. I moved her back to the side to hold on. As she was climbing out, I pointed to David.  He stood, and I could not see any fear, just the contained excitement shivering through his little body.  I counted, using my fingers, to three, and he leaped into my arms with a scream of joy.  For what seems like forever, this rotation continued.

Eventually we ended up in the shallows. 3 feet deep, stairs with a rail. I looked and there was the rest of the family. My niece was playing in the shallows, showing me how tall she was. My dad and brother were playing a game, while Kati and my step-mom were chatting (Jacob in tow). Meanwhile, my two wanted rides.  So, I started with Zoey. David sat down on the steps, holding onto the rail, as we had practiced. With a whoosh I was off with Zoey. As I made it to the middle of the deep end, I turned to look… and my heart stopped.

David had decided to stand up, his foot slipped, as did his hand. He was in water over his head. His arms began to flail, he tried to call out for help. My son was drowning.

 

fear has come

 

Fear gripped me like a vice, and my heart stopped.

In a flash I jerked towards him, arm stretched. I needed to get to my boy. Zoey was on my back, arms around my neck. As I made this move she tightened. My scream for help, for anyone on the side to help my boy, it was cut off as her little arms held on for dear life.

He just kept flailing, and bobbing, struggling to float, trying to breath. I tried to lunge towards him again. Fear riddled me as I tried to reach my drowning son. One arm outstretched, with every tendon and fiber reaching for him in vain. I tried to scream again. My chest pounding against my daughters little arms wrapped tightly around my neck. I reached up to pull Zoey’s arms off my throat as a blur came from the right of the pool.

In the wake of it all, by pure chance, my brother happened to look at me. He saw the look of horror and fear on my face. Following my gaze, he saw David. He leapt to action, and leapt into the pool.  He pulled David up and held him close as I finally reached them.

In that moment, all were on their feet. My brother placed David on the side of the pool, he sat there coughing and crying as we flocked to him. I have never been so happy to see a coughing little boy in my whole life. I reached out for him as tears filled my eyes.

My heart began to beat, slowly. But the fear remained.

I hugged him, looked in his eyes, asking over and over again if he was ok.

“Oh-tay daddy” he replied, over and over again.

Finally, after a few minutes, many tears, and some towels, we continued our play, though a bit more restrained than before.

Now we watch and make sure that there are no signs of Dry Drowning. This is something that all parents should be aware of, and never experience. It will add a whole new level of fear regarding the pool for your kids. Long and short of Dry Drowning is where some water enters the lungs. It causes some swelling that limits the oxygen exchange, and has the same result (and effects) of drowning. It can happen with a delay up to 24 hours before the person shows any signs that it is going on. Though rare, it happens. We, as parents, should know about it, and fear it. This is especially relevant as summer is near. The time of pool parties, and swimsuits eagerly is ahead of us.

Fear be damned, today is another day.

But, as I said, I cannot shake the ghost. As a result, I fight to get sleep. While I lay there, exhausted, I see those moments over and over. Almost as soon as I close my eyes, I am taken back. I watch it playing from a birds eye view. I consequently rip myself apart. How did I let myself get so far away? It does not seem like it was that far. It is because of this that I will fight to be a better dad. But, since I know myself well enough, I will also never cease chastising myself for not getting there sooner.

Most of all, I will never cease being thankful for my brother jumping in. My brother is a hero. Seconds matter, and in those seconds, he jumped in.  Nicholas, if you read this, know that I love you, and that I owe you. I will never thank you enough for jumping in to help my little boy. You said it was no big deal because I would have done the same, and I agree with you. But it is a big deal, to me. Thank you Nicholas, a thousand times, thank you.

Later that day, when I was talking to David about what had happened, and that I was scared, I could see that he was too. When I told him that I loved him, he looked at me. His beautiful eyes filled with love and he replied,

“I love pizza”.

Finally, all was right with the world.

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

    Love big: What would you do?

    What a week, and it is only Tuesday. I have been wracking my brain on if and how to respond to something for the better part of two days. Then, this article came across my desk, and all things came to a halt. We talk a lot about how we are raising our kids to live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.  But it is awesome to see other kids doing things that exemplify this.

    The long and short of the article is about Blake’s Big Heart. This boy, Blake Wainwright, is doing something awesome.

    Love Bigger - Blake

    “When Blake Wainwright’s sister was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis at four months old and needed skull reconstruction surgery, Blake wanted to do something to help the hospital that was helping his sister.”

    Blake is taking up the banner of a sibling, and showing nothing but love, bigger love than many.  In just a few years he has raised $4,000 for UNC Children’s Hospital, where his sister has received care for her Craniosynostosis. $4,000 from a boy who is now eight years old. Let that sink in a little bit. An eight year old boy is raising money for the hospital that is taking care of his sister, because he wanted to do something to help.

    Love Bigger: Why is this important?

    In light of all the things going on in the world today, this story is the reminder of all the love that is out there. Ladies and gentlemen, what Blake is doing is rare. There is a lot of people out there that stand with mouths agape as they face things like Craniosynostosis. But Blake is showing us what it means to love bigger. Here is a link to his Facebook page if you want to stop by, give them a like, and tell him how awesome he is. After all Blake is showing us all how to…

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

    Dear Zoey: A Long Overdue Letter For Your Birthday

    My Darling Zoey,

    This is a long overdue letter for you about the event of you turning five.  Please look past the few days that have past. You know, all too well, that things have been busy at home.

    My little bit, I cannot believe that this day is here.

    Time has flown faster than the speed of light since the moment you were born. There is a strangeness in this time.  For as fast as it has gone, I remember so much. Going back to the moment that you were born. Seeing you, this little, beautiful bundle of joy, and hearing your first cry. There was the long walk down to the NICU which felt like a lifetime in the moment, and a lifetime ago all at once. I often look back at this photo and feel my eyes begin to fill with tears.

    Zoey in the NICU

    I see you, my beautiful princess. Your smile, your little hand wrapped tightly around my finger. You had every reason to be angry in those days, hooked up to machines, getting poked, prodded, scanned and tested. Instead, you were happy. On your very first day with us you showed us how strong you are, and how joy can conquer every situation. We bonded. Instantly. Like a brilliant supernova cascading a radiant glow across the universe, you brought love forward.

    Over the last five years we have sat through countless surgeries. I have seen this room more times than any should, knowing that once is more than enough for most. But each and every time, when you are done and back in my arms, you are at peace. We have laughed and watched countless movies while in in the PICU. I have told you fantastic stories to help you take your mind off the pain that you have felt.  All in some effort to cry out and take the pain from you, onto me.  You know that I would do this for you, if I could. But I know that you do not need me to. It is humbling to be your dad. To know that you can handle all that you are facing, with joyous grace.

    Zoey and Jacob

    As these years have passed you have become the ever doting big sister to two little brothers. The love and compassion that you have for them is visible to all who meet you. Just like the love that they have for you can be seen in their smiles.  You have loved the idea of being a big sister, and you take this title seriously. Far more so than I thought you would, and it makes me so proud.

    Zoey and David

    That is the thing that is the most important for you to know Zoey.

    You make me so damn proud. In all that you do, with all that you have been through, and all that you are going through, you are resilient. You are one to follow your heart, but you listen to your brilliant mind along the way. You are beautiful. My sweet daughter, I will never grow tired of reminding you of how beautiful you are.

    It is going to be an amazing adventure to watch you as you continue to grow, to see the woman that you will become. I do think that we get glimpses into this future you from time to time. But today, you are five. An age filled with exploration, learning, and fun. Just do not grow up so fast my little one. I will continue to do all I can to let you be a kid. To fight on your behalf. Using my deep and resounding voice to speak up for you. All while you hold onto my finger the same way you did when you were but a day old.

    Zoey and her nails

    Happy Birthday my sweet Zoey. May you continue to live big, love bigger and be kind, always.

    Love,

    Dad