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 17: It Makes You Anxious When…

Anxious: experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event of something with an uncertain outcome.

I would be lying if I said I never felt anxious. However, it is important to note that most of these moments have been in the last six years and 15 days. Why such an exact number? It was 2,207 days ago that my beloved and I found out that we were going to be parents. Since that very moment, after the realization washed away to jubilant praise, my propensity to feel anxious has increased, tenfold.

Upon numerous occasions my breathing has stopped, my heart as ceased beating, and time has frozen as the anxious waves crashed over me. Fatherhood is not for the weak of heart. Every time that Zoey has gone through surgery, I become anxious. All of the many first steps that David has taken, it is there. Every time that Jacob tries to walk, I can feel it trying to force my hands out to catch him. Every bump, fall, bruise, scrape, it is there. I would love to tell you that, over time, it gets better.

Anxious Is As It Does

I really would love to tell you that. Yet, every time that I feel like I am going to get a handle on it… we have a new member of the family going through it. Having three kids five and under means there is always someone learning to climb, walk, run, ride, run, and swim. Perhaps in about 18 years I will be able to breathe again.

But, here is the cool part, this is also part of what makes fatherhood so awesome. Understanding that these are the things that make one anxious, and powering through them. These moments that make my heart stop mean my celebration over each achievement is genuine. When I clap and cheer, picking up my child, they can see the exaltation on my face. So, I kind of dig it when I feel anxious. It usually means something awesome is happening.

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

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 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 8: Your favorite recipe and why.

There is a fine art in the making of a great meal.  I have found, time and time again, that often simplicity can produce some of the most complex tastes. I would be hard-pressed to say that much is better than a finely grilled (medium-rare) steak seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, with a loaded baked potato and a crisp salad. However, that is not the question. A recipe. Hmm.

Well, in the fall and winter my beloved makes this killer lasagna, in a crock-pot. I would have to put this one nearest the top of all things. There is a heartiness, mixed with a savory flair, which just screams family dinner. Another amazing part of this meal, albeit not part of the recipe, is the looks OF my kids’ faces when they have finished. There is also the time spent as a family eating it.

In all things, I strive to do the most good WITH and FOR my family. Dinner is one of the times that I can excel in this.

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 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.