Category Archives: Family

#Life

Even for me, sometimes too many things happen at once that challenge us. Too many dots show up and it is hard to connect them in a clear meaningful way. Right now I am in that situation. I am hoping that writing this blog post will help me find the connections, while bringing something toward your life to think about.

So here are the dots that have happened over the last few days:

Dot One: Reading poetry by Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Blake (to name a few) in English class. Poems like “Sonnet 60,” “To an Athlete Dying Young,” and “The world is too much with us.”

Dot Two: Attending the funeral of a family member on my wife’s side that battled cancer for four years. She was only a year older than I am.

Dot Three: Returning to Centura for a basketball game to connect with past colleagues. I also saw the school’s new academic display that had a section for the Teacher of the Year award, which I received in 2010.

Dot Four: Going through a “first year.” Dealing with all the positive and negative components of that.

Dot Five: Getting a chapbook of poetry ready for submission… actually, dot five is writing in general.

So let’s connect some dots with a quote from Macklemore:

Every dot is connected to this quote in some way. This life is fleeting. We all die. We don’t face that reality. We don’t live like our death is a truth. We have songs, we have graduation speeches, we have posters reminding us of the fact. Expressing the idea that our lives should be lived for something more deep and meaningful… but we watch another YouTube video, or retweet a meme, or spend time talking bad about someone. We simply waste time, waste our days on things that don’t make our life incredible.

See, the second part of the Macklemore’s lyric takes all the dots to a deeper level. What we do with our lives dictates how long it takes to die a second time… Think about that for a second…

Dot One: Reading poetry from the 1800’s.

Dot Two: Family. The love we create by being family.

Dot Three: Being involved in people’s lives.

Dot Four: Being involved in people’s lives. Even when it is tough.

Dot Five: Writing so that my words can be a part of somebody’s life.

When will Shakespeare’s name finally be said for the last time? When will yours? When will my name no longer be said?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that what we do while we are here determines how long we will be remembered.

This isn’t about being famous. This is about facing the truth that we will die. At some point we will no longer see a sunset. We will no longer have a great cup of coffee. Be able to hold hands with the person we love. If we truly lived with the truth of death, our lives would be different. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t work, or that we wouldn’t watch a YouTube video. It means we wouldn’t waste our time and energy on hurting people. We would chase our goals. We would cherish the opportunities we have to learn, to read poetry, to drink a good cup of coffee.

But most importantly, we would love with an open heart. We would love our life and the people we get to share it with. I may never truly make it as a writer or poet (but I will keep trying), but I am a father, a husband, a teacher and a friend. How I live my life in those roles will determine how long it takes to die a second time…

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Enough of…

Christmas tree with title

It was about 2 o’clock this morning.  I was stroking my little girl’s hair, trying to help her fall back to sleep after giving her some medicine. She came home with a fever and scratchy throat. She was sleeping on the couch, so I was sleeping on the floor. She wouldn’t fall asleep alone, even with the Christmas tree lights still on. I was staring at the Christmas tree with two presents underneath when I thought about what it would be like if that was all the presents we placed under the tree.

I thought about how the girls would react on Christmas morning. Their shocked expressions. I thought about what they might say. What would we say? I was tired, alright…  But, as you, faithful readers know, I started to think about something deeper.

The scene in my head faded as I knew that there would be more presents under the tree. I smiled as my daughter shifted and began to breathe deeply, finally falling back to sleep. I also smiled because I was thinking about how my children would smile as they opened their presents. As a family we do reinforce that gifts are one way that people share their love with each other. That no matter what the gift is, it was given in love.

But then my thoughts turned. I gingerly lifted my hand from my daughter’s hair. Waiting to see if she would wake back up. She didn’t. I turned fully to face the Christmas tree. And I reflected on an idea I had been think about for a while now, that the world has enough of…

The world has enough hate.

The world has enough pain.

The world has enough ignorance.

The world has enough broken hearts and broken dreams.

The world has enough apathy.

The world has enough phoniness.

 

What the world needs, and not just for Christmas, is Love.

The world needs more books, more poetry.

The world needs respect.

The world needs more people striving for their dreams, having their heart on fire because they are pursuing their goals.

The world needs more people supporting each other, instead of dragging others down.

The world needs more children to smile, every morning.

 

Maybe it was the tiredness, or the way the lights promised a beautiful moment if only for a while, but I started to cry. I felt overwhelmed by everything. The classroom, a sick child, being a father, of the fear I have every time my children walk out the front door into this world.

But there was already two presents under the tree, there would be more. There would be smiles and joy because every present is a symbol of someone’s love for the recipient.

And then there is this post, these words… they are my gift to you, every time.

 

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No More Muffins

Empty Muffin Pan

For those who read my blog on a regular basis, give me a minute to get to the meaning of the title of this post.

We made muffins this morning. I did forget to buy muffin cups, so we filled the muffin pan without them. And I was short filling one muffin space… I quickly thought it would be fine because my oldest son hasn’t eaten breakfast with us for awhile. He likes to sleep in on Sundays. Then it hit me… next year he wouldn’t be eating with us hardly at all because he would be attending college. No more muffins.

I’m not sure I am ready for such a change. We have built traditions as a family that have defined our everyday life. Yes, I know that my kids are growing. Yes, I know that changes like my son graduating occur, but this is our first graduating child. This change will alter our everyday life. It will change our family.

My son will start down the path of creating his own life, his own traditions. He will face challenges that I hope he can conquer because of the foundations we have created in our family.

I am nervous. I am a little sad to know that a year from now I will not be making muffins for him…

This is a song my oldest son likes. I think it is perfect way to end this post:

 

If you liked this post consider purchasing my book, Blueberry Muffins and Other Thoughts. (Free if you have Kindle Unlimited.)

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Good People in the World

It was 7:20 this morning on the way to preschool when my 5 year-old daughter asked me one of those questions that challenged me on whether I should tell the truth or not…

“Are robbers real?” she ask.

I decided to tell the truth.

“Yes, robbers are real,” I said.

“Do they rob money?” she asked.

“Yes, they rob money,” I said.

“Have you seen a robber?” she asked.

At this point, I decided to say no, even though I have caught shoplifters at various retail stores I worked at while in college.

My daughter was quiet for a few seconds. I wondered where these questions were coming from and I was debating whether I should ask her about them.

“Are police real?” she asked.

“Yes, police are real. There are more of them than there are robbers.”

Again, she was quiet but then asked, “Do robbers rob houses?”

As a dad this question challenged me again. How much truth of this world do I share with her. “No, house can’t be taken. Home is a place we are safe.”

“Robbers are in jail, right?”

“Yes, the police catch them and they are grounded or put in jail.” I explained.

“What happens if the robber says, ‘sorry’?”

They do not teach you how to handle the question stage. I replied that robbers can say that they are sorry, but they still have to stay in jail or be grounded for awhile as punishment.

“Policeman catch robbers? And robbers can say sorry?” she asked.

“Yes, they can. But there are more policemen than robbers,” I started, “there are more good people in the world than bad.”

But something in my heart fell when I said that. I started to have my own questions run through my head. The main question was centered on if what I just said was really true… The guy behind me was tailgating me. The news is nothing but how divided we are and how hateful we are to anyone that has a different view than us. At the store the other night a little boy was being yelled at by his mom and his big sister for every little thing he was doing. My girl’s elementary school had to use security camera footage to deal with a situation this week.

Is there more good people in the world than bad?

We arrived at school, I kissed my daughter on the forehead while telling her to have a good day. And I let her go… I so hope I told her the truth…

 

 

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Invisible Fences

Fences.png

I love when different ideas collide in life.

A while ago a photo based blog post appeared in my WordPress reader, “Ghost Fence,” by Elan Mudrow. The next day my daughters and I took a walk in our neighborhood. They love to see all the dogs in the yards or on the front steps. There is one house on our route that the dogs come pretty close to us, but my girls never get to pet them because the owner has an invisible fence installed on their property. They have a few little signs and you can see the transmitter on the dogs’ collars. My girls love see the dogs up close. They know that the dogs can’t cross the invisible fence, and they know not to try and make the dogs cross the fence, either.

As I do, these two events got me thinking about our fences. Our ghost fences that keep us on our lawns without us even knowing it.

The first fence I thought of was habits. Our life, even our thoughts, are often dictated by habit. I’ll cover thoughts in a few minutes with another fence, so for this fence I’ll address how the habit of getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, keep us from exploring the world. Even our weekends are habits. I have them. We get groceries every Saturday morning. Now, habits are not a bad thing in and of themselves, but they can keep us in place without us ever realizing it.  Days, weeks, and then years, even, go by as we find ourselves wondering when we will do anything exciting. When will we pursue that dream?

Life habits are easy to change. You recognize the habit and make the change. Even if it is something as simple as changing the route you drive to work, you will notice the change in energy for the day. For bigger things, like finally writing a book, you will have to make some other changes in habits, like writing for an hour every night. But still, making that change is relatively easy… it is the other fences that are harder to bring down.

As mentioned earlier, our thoughts are habits, too. But many thoughts are built from another fence that keeps us from leaving the comfort of our front porch… fear, pain, and doubt. We have all failed. We have all been shocked when we have tried to cross a line only wanting to see what the rest of the neighborhood was like. That pain got us thinking, created thoughts that reinforced our deepest fears, and we just kept repeating them until those thoughts became our daily dialog with ourselves. So we never try to cross that line. We don’t want to feel that pain. We tell ourselves that the goal isn’t really worth it.

Here’s the truth, we don’t have a collar on us. Oh yes, we have a transmitter, it is that negative voice in our head, but there is nothing really keeping us on the lawn. The world, your goals, are sitting there just beyond the pain. Beyond the doubt. Beyond the fear. I can’t guarantee you success, but I know that pursuing your goals will bring you more joy than you know. And that joy will short out that transmitter.

There is one more fence I thought of… and it might haunt us the most. The front porch is just too comfortable for us to get off of. As I walked with my girls, thinking about the idea of fences and even self evaluating my pursuit of the dreams I have, I admitted that some of my dreams are unfilled because life is comfortable. I’ve been held back by an invisible fence that makes my property look nice and tempts me to stay because life is good. Now, for those who really know me and my story, they know getting to this point in life has been a battle. That I have overcome some crazy odds. Many of you reading this have overcome obstacles. You deserve the good life you have. But if you are like me, there is a dream that keeps nagging at you, that keeps driving you to get off the lawn to conquer the distance it takes to achieve it. The fence of comfort is the hardest to cross because life stays good, even if you don’t achieve that dream.

As I walked with my girls, I was filled with happiness. The sun was shining. We were laughing as we watched some butterflies. That’s when my littlest one said, “Puppy! Look! A puppy!” (Every dog is a puppy to her).

Coming toward us was a golden retriever, trotting on the road. I told the girls to stand still and to hold out their hands to let the dog sniff it. They all held in their excitement as they held out their hands to the dog. It sniffed each of us and then stood between the girls while they petted him. I could see a collar on him with a dog tag. I pet his head and was going to check his dog tag when he looked at me, barked, then turned and trotted away. My girls wanted to run after him, but I said to let him go.

My youngest hollered, “Bye, puppy!”

The other girls joined in with her, all waving at him. I swear he turned back at us and smiled as he trotted away. Just a dog enjoying the world beyond his lawn. I went home to jot down my ideas for a blog post I wanted to share with people beyond my neighborhood.

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Blueberry Muffins and the Summer of Weddings

It is Sunday morning. There are a few blueberry and chocolate chip muffins left in the muffin pans. A pile of muffin cups on the island. The girls are watching The Greatest Showman while my wife is getting ready for church. Yesterday my wife and I attended another wedding of a former student. This summer we were invited to five weddings, two family members and three former students.

At the moment, we are going through one of the roughest times we have ever experienced. I only share this to set up the importance of this blog. There is no “Happily Ever After” for any story, but there are blueberry muffins to be made.

As I have mentioned, I got to see the start of new stories. I saw grooms get teary eyed as the bride walked down the aisle. I heard vows. Watched rings placed on hands. And witnessed the couples kiss for the first time as a married couple. The beginning of a new story for them.

Weddings feel like Happily Ever After.

But every story has a conflict. In fact, the longer the story, the more conflicts there are. Some last only a page, while other conflicts wage on for chapters. Each conflict has its own resolution. Sometimes for the better, other times the resolution leaves the characters changed.

Stories also have literary elements, like symbols, metaphors, and paradoxes. These are the things that make a story worth reading. That make the characters laugh and cry. Feel joy and pain. Our family has a symbol, as many of you know, and that is blueberry muffins. Throughout all of our plot twists we have had Sunday morning breakfasts of blueberry muffins. A morning when we are family, a foundation that has stood for 20 years.

As my wife and I drove home from another beautiful wedding, we talked about the past (how I was a part of the groom’s story in high school) and about how we were going to get through this conflict in our story. This morning as we made muffins, everything was swimming in my head, and I thought: I don’t wish all the new married couples a Happily Ever After, I hope they write a powerful symbol into their story that they can rely on when the conflicts come.

Blueberry Muffin

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Throwback: Walking

Walking.

My kids do not walk anywhere.

Now, part of the reason is based on where we live. Our neighborhood is bordered by a highway and a back road with a speed limit of 55 and no shoulder. Even though the lake and park are only about a mile away, it is not safe for the kids to walk there.

But I don’t think this generation walks much. Again, I recognize that the culture has changed. As I write this a line from Train’s song, “Calling All Angels,” comes to mind:

When children have to play inside so they don’t disappear

Two years ago in my town, some seniors from a local school thought it would be funny to drive around in a black car, and wearing the mask from the movie, Scream, try to snag little girls playing outside. At least that is what they said when they got caught, that it was just a joke. No, they didn’t actually get any of the girls into their car, but for almost two weeks someone was outside when our girls were playing.

And this makes me sad.

I remember, especially in junior high, walking everywhere. I walked to friends’ houses. I walked to our mini-mart to play Street Fighter or to buy a Mt. Dew to drink as I walked. On Saturdays, we would all walk to the library to play Dungeons and Dragons. Or we would just roam through the town. Maybe playing basketball at the elementary school, the nine-foot rims! We even stopped by our teacher’s home to say hello.

Sometimes we even had some deep conversations that helped us through tough times, and strengthened our friendships.

I miss those days. It saddens me that my kids don’t get to experience that freedom of childhood. But I’ll take a walk with my girls this weekend… we will laugh, take too many stops to drink water, and give them a sense of freedom… to be a kid.

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