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.

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.

Travelling: Becoming a Storyteller

Travelling. Once a great mainstay, and a measure of a person, seems to come and go with the ages. Every few months a map makes its cycle around my little sphere of social media.  You all know the one, with the states where people have visited highlighted. It is funny for me to see some of the reactions, comments, excuses and proclamations that accompany these maps. Perhaps it is because, well, to be frank, my map was completed nearly a decade ago.

Travelling provides a chance to see life in ways no others have.

Ibn Battuta once said “Travelling. It makes you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”. I have done my best to become quite the storyteller. I flex my lexicon to paint the beauty of a sunrise over the Atlantic. The sweeping colors pouring into view over an expansive, white capped, sea. I pull on the heartstrings as I capture the stillness of a single tear fall from the cheek of a parent in a waiting room. I bring the undeniable smile when expressing the joy of being smothered in the kisses of my children. All of this in an effort to give you an opportunity to travel. To close your eyes, sit in the stillness, and picture the scene I have laid before you.

A new thought on travelling for me.

But, those silly maps, the ones that cause me to chuckle have sparked an idea. What if, I were to complete the map with my children before they become adults? Would they enjoy travelling? I am sure that they would. More so, they would enjoy the stories that I would tell about some of my favorite places, while we are there. They may be inspired when we stop in a field and lay there on the grass. To look up at the clouds in the sky in wonder. To explain to them that this is but a starting place, and it is about the journey.

So, the days, and years, ahead I will be overjoyed to expand my stories as we travel. However, I feel that the real excitement will be in watching the new generation of storytellers. Watching them take in all that they can from our travelling journeys. Listening as they become speechless, and begin painting pictures with their words.

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

Cranio Dad says #ThanksBaby for making me a dad.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

This weekend is an amazing one. Father’s Day is a chance to celebrate dads, and all that they do in our lives. But this year I am looking at this day a little differently. Yes, there will still be the accolades for my amazing dad.  But Pampers is giving thanks to babies for making Dad feel exceptionally special; for empowering dads to discover new roles in life through fatherhood.  While I am forever thankful for each of our growing children (Zoey, David, and Jacob), my role as ‘Dad’ started when Zoey was born.

After a crazy labor and delivery, there was a ton of worry. Zoey was rushed to the NICU. The picture-perfect story about entering fatherhood was squelched with worried whispers from the staff. “What are we going to tell the parents?” is something one NEVER wants to overhear.

I remember, and still hold close, the very first time that I saw my daughter in the NICU. As I quietly pulled back the curtain, I saw before me a dark room and a little tiny bed. That bed had a light that shined with a radiance that hurt my eyes. Bathed in the warm, glowing light was my little girl, my Zoey. The one of whom I had prayed for, sung to, and talked with through my beloved bride’s growing belly. On shaking legs, I walked over to her bedside; tears streaming down my face. A quite voice from the corner of the room said “Dad, you can touch her, she is ok.” With tear-filled eyes I looked at the nurse that I had not noticed before. Her calm, penitent smile met me as her hands beckoned to the bed.

My hands were trembling as I reached out and placed my hand next to her. Choking back the tears, I said the words that I had been waiting nine months to say. “Hey Zoey, it’s me, Daddy.” At the sound of my voice, she stirred. I watched as her little body moved, and her tiny, tiny hand reached up. Her hand found my finger, and she grabbed on.

Dad and Zoey

This was the moment that I realized my entrance into the role of fatherhood. I knew that I would climb mountains for her. As her little hand grasped tightly onto my finger, I knew that just as she was born, this dad was born as well.

How Cranio Dad feels about Pampers.

For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies. Meanwhile, over the last five years, our family has come to understand Craniosynostosis. We have also learned about the challenges for a child with an imperforate anus. On Day One Zoey was in Pampers. We have tried others, but, honestly, no others work for her. Weather it be dealing with blow-outs, or looking for some comfort after a surgery, Pampers have always been there. Because of how well they worked for Zoey, we knew they were our choice. They are a staple in our home as all three kids wear them.

Pampers has released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a baby is born.  I love how this video makes me smile.

I am so happy that Pampers is helping to make this Father’s Day, and every day, special by honoring dads; for thanking dads for all the amazing things that we do, big and small, to help our little ones.

Please join me by tweeting why you are most thankful for baby with the hashtag #ThanksBaby

This Father’s Day let’s do our best to live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.