Category Archives: Family

Losing Hurts and that is Good

A last second basketball shot

The photo above is a last second game winning 3-pointer in the championship game… for the other team. My second son is number 15 in the red uniform. He has never lost a game like that before.

Teen performing a speech

The picture above is my oldest son, performing serious prose for Speech. At districts he got third in one round, but got sixth in another. He didn’t qualify for finals.

As a dad it was hard to lessen the pain my sons felt after each of these moments. Even harder to explain the benefit of losing (blog post from 2011). I want them to know that character is built on both sides of the coin, winning and losing. I want them to know that it is important to feel the pain of defeat because it means that their heart was in it.  And honestly, I think that is the most important aspect to success.

Anyone can participate in a sport or activity. Some are even successful without ever putting their heart into it. I mean that they can win on talent alone, but that isn’t the only reason to be involved in an activity. Finding out who you are and expressing yourself through that activity is the greatest achievement.

No matter if we win or lose we have moments that reveal who we really are in our pursuit of our goals. Putting our heart into an activity allows us to become ourselves, to understand who we are. To be great as a person. I know I am their dad, but I am proud of the men my sons are becoming.

My oldest son got his first main role as a third grader. He was Charlie in Willy Wonka Jr.

Boy performing as Charlie

This year he choose to perform Sweeney Todd, one of his favorite plays, during Speech season. Next year he hopes to perform an original piece, plus compete in Poetry. I am proud of his strength to perform pieces that are true to his heart and not sell out in hopes of winning.

My second son started playing basketball in first grade.

boy dribbling ball

He has worked hard, from that first game when he would not move from his spot on the court when he was on defense, to playing with the NBDA Bison Green team. I am proud of his work ethic and focus on achieving his goals.

I am most proud of both of them for feeling the sting of defeat, because it means their hearts are in it, win or lose. And if they keep pursuing their goals with their heart, I know they will succeed, especially in life.

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Staying True To My Younger Self

I apologize ahead of time, this post is going to ramble, but come together at the end. If you have a busy day you may want to save this post to read later…

I recently shared a post on Facebook about an aspect of writing that all writers go through, rejection. In this digital age we get rejection emails instead of letters, and my mailbox was filled with them. I’ve been getting a lot of them this year. Even when you know this is a part of the process, it is still hard to deal with right at that moment, or in my case, so many at one time. And some of them hurt more than others for different reasons. The grand prize for one contest I entered was to speak about poetry to students at colleges. I thought that would be cool.

I was thankful for all the responses from family and friends on Facebook telling me to keep writing. To stay true… which brings me to a YouTube video.

Dream On” by Video Advice is one of those motivational videos that mash up  different speeches with video clips, mostly from movies. This video’s audio starts with a quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Commencement Address at the American University in Beirut:

Girl looking at mirror

As you think about that for a moment, let me share what my word of the year is:

Designed by second son.

The idea behind that word was for me to BE a good father, to BE a good husband, and to BE a writer (yes, I hear Yoda, too). Instead of trying to do these this year I am going to fulfill those roles, which highlights the Facebook post, rejection letters (emails) are part of the process of being a writer. Especially since it has been awhile since I have actively pursued getting my work published. I have to be ready for those setbacks.

But let’s connect the Facebook post to the quote from Nassim Nicholas Taleb and the responses I received about staying true…

What I find most empowering about his idea is how Nassim Taleb flips the idea of looking back on our lives. The popular idea is to give advice to our younger selves. Heck, there’s even a web series where athletes write back to their younger self (The Players’ Tribune). Let alone the popular songs and such.

But Nassim Taleb flips the idea, asks us to consider if who we have become would make our 18-year-old self proud. Did you fulfill the potential you held at that time? Did you pursue your goals? Did you live up to your own standards?

That’s a powerful idea…

And as I worked to publish the 20 Year Anniversary of my first book of poetry And I Never Told You, I came to realize as a poet, as a writer, that I had let myself down. Not that I ever stopped writing, but I let that part of me fall to the bottom of my priority list. As Nassim Taleb states, life corrupted me.

Corrupt might be a harsh word, but still true. As I read through other poems to add to the book, I noticed how the poems had more passion. They were raw, even undefined at times, but the poems represented my troubles and joys authentically. My poetry now is stronger in form and still reveals depth of emotions, but maybe not so openly. The poems have a guarded feel, more layers to get through. I’m not saying it is a bad thing, some of my favorite poems are from the last couple of years. What I hope you understand is how life has changed me to be more guarded in my works, to be more guarded in my everyday life. The irony is that I still feel the same pain.

Nassim Taleb’s quote seems to hint that life corrupts us with money, status, and things like that. But life can corrupt us with fear, pain, confusion, and simple busyness. What bill is due this week? What time is the dentist appointment? These things can blanket our dreams and even our hearts.

So I am making my younger self proud by BEing the poet and writer that I wanted to be. I know there will be rejection letters and other hurdles.  How about you?  What could you do today that would make your younger self proud? It doesn’t matter how old you are now, what matters is that you can pursue your goals at any time. Let today be day one of your success story.

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2010 National Honor Society Speech

Person at Podium I discovered a draft of my speech for Centura’s National Honor Society Induction Ceremony in 2010. I, also, had this photo from that night. As I read over the speech I could imagine me writing this same speech today, of course I would be older. I would have more failures and more successes to share…  Anyway, I thought the message was worth sharing. Enjoy a small trip back in time to when I was 38…

Centura National Honor Society Speech

Good evening… I am honored to speak at such an important event in your lives.  I stand before you at the halfway point in my life, I am 38 years old.  In those 38 years, I have failed many times.  I lost my last high school football game in 3 overtimes, and then would quit playing football after my freshman year in college.  I let my first true love leave me and never got her back.  I technically do not have a mom or a dad to help me through life.  In high school, I dated a girl my best friend liked.  We did not speak to each other for 6 months.  I have yelled at my children only because I was having a bad day. I have had personal dreams die. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels taped together.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Uhmm Mr. Boelhower this is suppose to be a happy occasion…”  Hold on, give me a moment.

I stand before you at the halfway point of my life, I am 38 years old. In those 38 years, I have succeeded many times.  I was selected to play in the Wyoming Shrine Bowl, one of the few players to be selected from a losing team.  I would compete in track and field at Hastings College and continue as an assistant coach.  I am married to a wonderful woman and have five beautiful children. And yes, it was true love at first sight, at least for me.  My best friend was my best man at my wedding, and I was his best man.  Just last night at the dinner table, we laughed as we made-up the shortest “Once upon a time” stories.  I have succeeded at dreams I never knew I had. To be honest, after 38 years my heart sometimes feels so much love it could exploded.

Now, why do I share this with you, because you will someday stand at the halfway mark and find that life has been nothing like you thought, and that is the beauty of it, both the pain and the joy.  But to get to that point, to be able to embrace the complexity of life you need a strong foundation, which brings us to this moment.  Why we are here.  Tonight is a moment that symbolizes the foundations you build your life on, Scholarship, Service, Leadership, and Character.

Each of these foundations is important to life.  Let us take a minute to redefine these foundations with real world definitions.

Scholarship:  It is not just about the grades.  Scholarship is discovering and sharing the truth.  The truth of what works in this world and what works in your own life. It is learning from your mistakes and your victories.

Service: Is not just volunteering.  Service is Love in action.  Love of family and friends, of your fellow humans, of a better tomorrow.  Service is the opening of your heart to see others succeed.  The cool part is when you do this; you start to see your true self.

Leadership: is not just being the head person in charge.  Leadership is the courage to serve and to learn.  We are all leaders at some point in our lives, as a mom or dad.  A coach, a friend.  Many people “talk” about what should be done, few do it.  It takes courage to get things done; it takes courage to do what is right.  It takes courage to open your heart, to love those around you.

Character: is not just principles of morality and ethics.  It is your everyday life, lived.  It is the choices you make, mixed with the things you say, combined with the attitude you express.  It is you, everyday.

These foundations are strong; these foundations allow you, us, to handle the darkest hours.  They give us something to land on when we are knocked down.  And they provide the support to pick yourself up, to not shy away from the pain, but build and learn from those moments.

These foundations are good.  They allow us to bask in the sunshine, to truly experience love, joy, and life.  They lift us up.  They connect us to others, friends, family, and community.  These foundations give depth to our lives and fuel us to pursue the dreams we choose.

Life is complex, and that is the beauty of it.  Be confident in your foundations.  Stand tall, even when you feel down.  Love when your heart is broken.  Live everyday by what you know is true.  And live a life of greatness, everyday…

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Follow the Directions

15 years.

52 Sundays in a year.

That is 780 Sunday mornings.

Let’s round that down to 750 (we have missed a few Sundays over the years).

12 muffins a box. (I won’t worry about any times I made more.)

9,000 muffins I have made as a dad!

And I still read the instructions on the box…(I do use milk instead of water, though.)

Instructions for blueberry muffins

Why?

Good question, and one I found myself answering Sunday morning as I measured out the milk, then oil, and then crack two eggs.

Why read the directions after 9,000 muffins? Because it matters. As many of you know, blueberry muffins are a tradition for my family. And I want to make sure the muffins are done right. So, I read and follow the directions, every time.

But isn’t that the key to success? Be it relationships, business, or sports? Doing the important things, sometimes the smallest things, right – every time.

I know that life can get crazy, distracting us from the small important things we need to do. Even our goals can draw us away from focusing on the foundational steps we should be working on to achieve that same goal. If you are feeling like life has gotten out of hand, or that you’re taking steps backwards from your goals, I suggest getting back to reading the instructions. Focusing on doing things right – every time. Soon you will look back and be amazed at how much you have accomplished. Even if it is just having breakfast every Sunday morning with your family.  9,000 muffins and counting.

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Peace Be With You

Sunday morning. The sun brightens the stain glass windows, painting the floor in an array of colors. Everyone is standing as the priest talks through The Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“And the Lord’s peace be with you.”

“And also with you,” the congregation replies.

“Let us offer each other the sign of peace,” says the priest.

The church fills with the rumble of members turning to shake hands and say ‘peace be with you’ with their family and then with those around them. Now I am not Catholic, my wife and children are. This post isn’t about religion or beliefs. It is about the importance of being open as a person, even for a few seconds.

Again, I am not Catholic, and to be honest this moment in the service use to make me feel uncomfortable. I would shake hands with people with my eyes down and mumble something to them.

But as my family started to grow, and even to this day, my children have taught me the importance of this moment. When my oldest was about two years old and even now with my youngest daughter, who is three, started to shake hands with the people around me, I saw the beauty in the moment. But also noticed a sad truth.

My children can’t wait to shake hands with the people around us. Their little hands sticking out, waiting for the chance to make a connection. Over the years I have noticed how their eagerness and joy would affect the adults they shook hands with. The adults would smile and even lean down to say ‘peace be with you.’

But when they would shake hands with me, you could see the wall go up. There would be a hesitation in the moment and their eyes would go down. Now, I was the same way. I felt the same wall, would keep my eyes down. As if the person in front of me could hurt me in that 10 seconds of interaction. But I believed they could. And I think many adults feel something like that, too.

Why?

It is too simple of an answer, but I think the reason is because we have been hurt, we are afraid, and as adults it is simply easier to have a wall in place. And today? No doubt. Our society right now is in turmoil. We are disconnected from each other. Again, this is not a political post, but a chance for me to share with you a sign of peace.

My children have taught me that sharing a handshake is awesome. Society is trying to teach me different. This last Sunday I followed my children’s lesson. I made sure I looked at the person in the eye, smiled, and clearly said,

peace-be-with-you

 

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The Gift

the-gift

What do you think is inside? Socks, a gift card, a new Bluetooth speaker, or maybe a half empty jar of mayonnaise? How would you react to each of those possibilities?

At the beginning of the month I attended a conference in Portland, Oregon. The final keynote was a local improv group, Brainwave Improv Company. The conference attendees were separated into five teams. At the end of the keynote each team would actually play an improv game and be awarded points. Think Whose Line is it Anyway.

While working in our groups the members of Brainwaves taught us a few different improv games (one of which would be the one we were judged on). Through those games the actors discussed aspects of improv that correlated to dealing with people at work and life. The same principles that made for a great improv session can be used to build strong relationships at work and home. One of my team’s games was “Gift Giving”.

The idea is simple. Two people exchange gifts. The person giving the gift could not say what it was, but through their actions give a hint to what it might be. A person might seem to be lifting a huge box to give to the other person, or act like the box was moving. The person receiving the gift had to take the gift, “open” it, and share what the gift actually was. Of course the whole game is to be funny, but the lesson the actors shared was powerful.

Brainwaves first shared the idea that in improv everything is a gift; a line, a situation, a moment of silence, anything can be used by the actors to make the game / scene funny. As actors they had to be open to whatever the “gift” might be and adapt, even if they had an idea ready to use. To make a scene flow they had to embrace the gift of the situation.  They then moved the idea to work and life by teaching us how to play the game, “Gift Giving”. See, the real responsibility for the game is on the person receiving the gift. The whole game centers on how that person reacts to the gift, even when it is something crazy or unwanted.

If the person receiving the gift responds in a negative way the whole scene falls apart… You see where this is going don’t you? We have all been on both sides of this situation. We have received a gift that we didn’t like. We have given a gift only to seen the rejection in their face when they opened it. The scene falls apart.

To play the game we had to love what was in the gift. We had to carry the game with our reaction. But the actors took the idea a step deeper. Remember that in improv anything is a gift to the other actors. Brainwaves pushed that idea to dealing with everyday life. How did we act when presented with situations at work? How did we responded when we have to work with someone we don’t like? How do we respond to a child spilling milk? Yes, it is the attitude cliche. We have all heard, in some way, that your attitude is the key to handling life. But what got me about how Brainwaves addressed the issue was the metaphor of a gift.

In my house a gift is a way someone shows that they care about you. (Yes, it is one of my dadisms for my kids.) Now, I’m not naive. I know that tragic things happen to us. We get our hearts broken. Life can blindside us and drop us to our knees. Yet, how many success stories come from those tragedies? How many people took the situation as a gift and ran with it? Not to mention just using the idea to handle our everyday mishaps. What gift have you been given today? Did the scene fall apart? Or did you run with it?

 

 

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Hard Conversations

I’ve become a fan of Ben Rector. My second son, who is into electronic / dance music, actually shared his music with me. He said I would like it. He was right. Ben Rector has a song, “Like The World Is Going To End,” that has gotten me thinking. Well actually, it is a few lines from that song that got me thinking.

say-till-then

This idea runs through the song until in the last verse he sings that he would bring everyone he loved to California so everyone could say the things they were scared to say till then.

What really got me thinking was the idea that they wouldn’t be sharing secrets or past hurts, but speaking honestly about their love for each other. How scary is that?

How hard is it for us to tell someone how much you truly love them?  Now, I am not diminishing the power of saying “I love you” to family and friends. I’m talking about expressing our emotions openly to someone. That is hard for a few reasons. First because we have to remove all our defenses to that person. Our heart is out in the open and it bruises easily. Second, even for me, sometimes we just can’t find the words… or the words we have don’t even come close to revealing the depth of our feelings. Even as a poet, I can not tell my wife how beautiful she is when she smiles as she plays or interacts with our children. Or explain to my little girls the rush I get when they run to hug me when I get home.

Back to the song. Back to the idea that Ben Rector is sharing in the song. We should be telling our family and friends how much they mean to us, how much we love them. We should do this more than we do. No matter how hard it is. How scared we are to open up. Because I love how he ends the line, “till then.” In the song he is referencing the idea that the world is going to end. But I feel that he is also hinting at that once you decide to share your love with others you’ll wonder why you waited.

I hope you have some hard conversations today because

“Now that I think about it. Maybe we should always live like the world is gonna end.”
-Ben Rector

 

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