Category Archives: Family

Snow Steps

I arrived at work just before 7 o’clock. The maintenance crew is sweeping the snow from the parking lot, but the section I usually park in is untouched. It is an unblemished field of white. I feel guilty pulling into, what I hope is, my parking spot. I have no idea if I am between the yellow lines. I know I am close because I recognize the shape of the bush that I park by.

I collect my computer, coffee cup, and my Vikings Tervis cup. The air is cold. It quickly hurts my nostrils. My breath a heavy cloud in front of me. I watch as maintenance zooms around the parking lot in their little tractors, sweeping away the snow. I head to my office, snow lightly crunching under my feet as I traverse across the white stillness. My mind heavy with life and work. On an impulse I turn to take a picture of my steps for my 365 project.

Foot prints in snow.

As I put my phone back into my pocket I think about how I am the first person to walk on this snow this morning. Then how in a few minutes the maintenance guys will clear away my steps. How more cars will settler in their spots for the day, and when I walk back to my car my steps will be gone. If it warms up enough, there will only be slush left on the concrete.

But isn’t that life? Isn’t this a metaphor for every morning of our lives? Each day we are given the opportunity to make our mark on the day. Yes, life, and other people, will impact our day. Our lives are all connected, we can not or should not shy away from that fact. And yes, some days it feels like we have to find our way back to the car by jumping puddles or stomping off slush from our shoes before we go home.

But that is the point. Our lives are worth making those steps each day. Even knowing that the prints may be gone by the end of the day because we know we took them. My hands (or feet) will never be saved in concrete. I know my life is meant to walk in snow, that my prints are only seen by me. And that is OK because I made them, crooked left step and all.

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2018 Word of the Year

Happy New Year!

As we have done for four years, each person in my family has decided on a word for the year. My word is:

Ferris Wheel with the caption, Center Word for 2018

This one is unique in the sense that it encompasses many different parts of my life, yet brings everything to a central point (yes, I know what I just did there).

I am not sure what the next year will bring. I have goals I want to achieve. But this year I am concentrating on my center. I think that this work will have a domino effect on the success of my goals. When I think about my word, obviously, a wheel comes to mind, but it is a true metaphor for what I want to accomplish. It seems like all the action is on the outskirts of a wheel. It is there that you see the movement. The turning. The center seems to not move at all, but without a strong center the wheel can not move. Ever see a wheel when the axle is off center? How it wobbles, how hard it is to control.

A strong center is needed for a wheel to move, to spin, to make progress.

I have goals to meet this year, but I am only going to make it by strengthening the center… What is your word for this year?

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It’s Time to Run in the Rain

Muddy path between trees.

Like so many other times, life finds a way to reveal a lesson to me through unique events. This time it was my son’s conference cross country meet and a motivational YouTube video. Both of them showed me the importance of running in the rain.

First my oldest son.

Last week he set his personal record (PR) by over a minute at his conference cross country meet.  What was even more impressive is that he did it during a rainy day. Now it wasn’t a downpour when he ran, but it had rained all day, and the course was affected (the title picture is part of the course). My son didn’t complain. He ran. He ran the best time of his career.

A couple of days ago I came across a motivational YouTube video that highlighted speeches by Eddie Pinero (a motivational speaker and founder of the site: Your World Within). One section of the video had Eddie Pinero using the example of getting up early to run but it is raining. He expanded on the importance of getting out of bed and running in the rain, even though no one would blame you for staying in bed. But that doesn’t get you toward your goal.

These two separate moments highlighted for me – and this is a vulnerable statement from me – how I had not been working for my goals like I should. I needed to start running in the rain. And if you are struggling with accomplishing your goals, maybe you need to start running, too. Here’s what running in the rain does for us.

Pride

As a coach I always presented to my athletes the definition of pride as knowing you have done your best.

My oldest son has earned the right to feel proud. He has worked hard and ran his best time in bad conditions at the conference meet. As a coach, that was what I asked of my athletes, to be their best at the most important times. My son did that.

Eddie reinforced this idea in his speech. He expressed how you would be the only one who knew what you went through as you stood on the podium. The crowd saw you win, not knowing how many times you had to run in the rain.

Successful Habits

I love the way Eddie talked about habits. He explained how hard it would be to actually run in the rain the first time. But as you build the habit, the weather becomes a nonfactor. The running (or habit) becomes important, rain or shine.

My son also taught me this. He puts in hundreds of miles in the summer, but he also works on his other interests in the summer and on the weekends. He has created habits that allow him to succeed.

The Strength to Live Your Goals

This is the most important aspect, but also the most complex. So, let me see if I can connect the dots to reveal how running in the rain builds the strength to live an authentic life.

First, Eddie points out that when we focus on the weather, or external forces, we live our lives on a shallow level. We simple react to life. We make excuses and rationalize why our goals or dreams are not achieved.

Now my son has complained about the weather or the course, but I have never heard him make an excuse. He is so mentally strong. Not just with cross country, but with all his activities, and that is part of the strength running in the rain builds. It is not just to endure the weather, it is the strength to focus on what we want to do with our lives. To be able to adapt to external factors, not react. To be able to stay focused on achieving our goals, to live an authentic life.

My son and a motivational video by Eddie Pinero has shown me that it’s time to start running in the rain  – I have dreams and goals I want to achieve. I have been making too many excuses. So I got my shoes sitting by the door and I am thankful for their wake-up call.

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Open Letter To My Younger Self

I have become a fan of The Players’ Tribune. A couple of my favorite essays are from Danny Woodhead and Ray Allen. (Not to mention the recent essay from Isaiah Thomas, but his doesn’t fit this blog theme). Danny and Ray write a letter to their younger selves. I wrote a blog similar to this idea, “Staying True To My Younger Self,” but it focused on my writing.

I’ll turn 46 in a few weeks. And this thought about what advice I would give my younger self keeps storming my heart. So, I thought I would get the idea out onto paper…

Dear Younger Me,

It is amazing to think that I am just over the halfway mark of this life. The first half seemed to take so long to happen, all the change and growth and heartache that has occurred in these 46 years is crazy to think about. But, the years seem to be gaining speed, and life is going by way too fast. The oldest son is a junior in high school and the youngest daughter just turned four. I have had five different professional positions. We have a minivan with almost 100,000 miles and still a few months to pay it off!

Be ready, you are going to need to work on a few things. This letter is going to be tough to write, I hope you understand it when you read it.

First, forgive them. Everyone. Do it now because if you don’t, each day adds weight to your heart and it becomes harder to forgive. In fact I still haven’t. I can’t seem to let go of the pain and disappointment and the what ifs. Ironically, part of the problem is the work you will do to create a better life for yourself and your family. I’m not father or husband of the year, but the dinner table is often filled with laughter. There are hugs and bedtime stories. Movie nights with too much candy and simple moments of joy that take my breath away. But I haven’t forgiven certain people. You know who I mean, so forgive them as soon as you can. You can still live your own life without them, but your heart won’t be burden with the weight of anger and pain.

Second, I hope you read this in time, but don’t quit football. Don’t make that mistake. It will be your greatest regret.  Also, write more, push to become the writer you have always dreamed of since elementary school.  I’ve learned that the door of opportunity only stays open for so long before it closes. And when you choose to close that door, it can get locked and you have to let a dream die. Football. Other dreams can still be achieved. Writing. But you have to find an unlocked window to climb through. And sometimes that window is on the forty third floor. You have to struggle more than if you would have truly pursue your goals when the door was open.

Third, tell people thank you and that you love them. Let them in. Not everyone. But the people who are helping you, sometimes believing in you when you are not. You might think you will have time, but you won’t. Mr. Holt will pass away before you can tell him thank you for believing in you. There are others, like the Hudsons, Scott, and Mrs. Lane, who you will take for granted while you grow up. Let them know you are grateful, today. “Thank you,” might be the hardest thing to say in life because it reveals how you were affected by someone else.  For that moment you allowed someone into your life with an open heart and you are letting them know that by saying thank you.

And finally, stay true to who you are. I know you will do this at times, you will make hard choices because deep down you listened to the quiet but strong voice. Other times you will feel lost and hurt and wonder why life is so dark. That happens when you lose your focus, when you let others decide your future. Your path will be clearer if you continue to make choices that align with who you are (and what your goals are).

You are going to make it. At the halfway mark of life you will be amazed at how far you’ve come (and that you have driven two minivans as a dad). It won’t be easy, but I hope you take my advice so that when you arrive here you would have experienced more joy than heartache. But even if you don’t take my advice, you will look ahead to the second half of your life and you will know, even though the years are speeding up, that they will be filled with love.

                                                                                             Sincerely

                                                                                              You at 45

P.S. Remember this song?

 

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Why Love: It Works

Bus with the title It Works

When I taught psychology class in high school, on of the best units covered the book, Tuesdays With Morrie. I even taught the book as the final work for my American Literature course. If you have read the book, you will recognize the following quote from Morrie:

“Love is the only rational act.”

Love makes sense. Love works. It is not easy. It is not weak.

Imagine… seriously…. Imagine if we chose to care about people and acted accordingly. And it is not just the grand moments that would be different. It is in the smallest, everyday aspect of life that we would see the change. Imagine how our decisions would change. How we would act in traffic. How we spent money. Imagine…

Love is the only thing that makes sense in this crazy world. Hate sure doesn’t solve anything. I can’t count the times that the newspaper or newscast left me wondering how bad can we make this world, then another story runs that reveals we can make it worse. We think love comes from the heart, and it does, but it also comes from our mind, our decisions. That is the crutch of Morrie’s quote, Love is rational.

I know that life will have hardships. I know in fact that this post will not change a thing in this world. But I believe that Love works, and I will choose Love everyday.

Thanks for reading this series. #OneLove

 

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Why Love: Joy

Two hearts with confetti

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Or had your first serious heartbreak?  Both of these moments highlight the second answer to Why Love, and that is Joy.

Without getting too deep, I am going to touch on the magical aspect of love but also reveal the importance of why choosing love allows us to feel joy.

So let’s go back in time to that heart pounding time when that certain someone made you see the world in a whole new light. Falling in love. Do you remember how your priorities changed? How even rainy days were awesome? How you were awestruck by their eyes and totally lost any sense of time when you were with them? Life was so good.

Just for a second, let’s deal with the heartache. How dark and painful it felt. I know the argument that love breaks your heart, but that is wrong. People break your heart, not love.

Quote with roses on rocks

Falling in love and sadly the pain of heartbreak reveal the strength love has in revealing joy in our life. I use romantic love because many of us have been through this roller coaster of emotion. But joy comes from all aspects of life. My children have brought me to tears of joy as I watched them play with bubbles. I have lost the sense of time sitting on my patio with a cup of coffee. I have jammed out to a favorite song on the way to work. Life has been so good.

And yes, life has beaten me down. I have had serious dark days… but that is the crux of this answer. I believe that when we choose Love, it allows us to see the real beauty of this life. By seeing and acknowledging that beauty leads us to feel joy.

No, Love does not remove the hardships of life. Two years ago I wrote about the strength it takes to feel joy. This reveals how connected the choice of Love is in our life. Love brings us success in our life, it builds strength, it brings us joy. It is a cycle that creates an awesome life that can handle the hardships we encounter. But in the next post I am going to reveal the most important reason to choose Love. And I read it in a book…

Below is the song that I quoted earlier in the post.

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Why Love: Success Part 2

Collage of cake, computer, and football team

Love is the foundation to many of the characteristics that allow us to be successful at work, in sports, and life in general. Below are three articles with their list of characteristics for success. After you read through the traits, I’ll discuss how Love is the foundation for some of these.

The 6 Critical Qualities of the World’s Best Captains

(From Janssen Sports Leadership Center)

  1. The Best Captains are Relentlessly Competitive and Compelled to Win
  2. The Best Captains Care Passionately
  3. The Best Captains Respect Others
  4. The Best Captains are Honest and Trustworthy
  5. The Best Captains Encourage their Teammates
  6. The Best Captains are the Hardest Workers

7 Qualities Of A Good Employee and Candidate (According to Research)

(From Jibe)

  1. Strong work ethic: Setting and achieving goals
  2. Dependable: Consistently following through
  3. Positive attitude: Creating a good environment
  4. Self-motivated: Working effectively with little direction
  5. Team-oriented: Making the most out of collaboration
  6. Effective communicator: Understanding the benefits of clarity
  7. Flexible: Adapting in a meaningful way

What Your Marriage Needs to Survive

(From The Good Men Project)

These traits come from UCLA’s Family Studies Center that researched 1,500 couples who had been together for five or more years.The study revealed six common characteristics:

  1. There was a physical attraction between them.
  2. They were in the relationship out of clear choice rather than out of obligation or fear of being alone.
  3. They shared fundamental values, beliefs, interests, and goals.
  4. They were able to express anger clearly and directly and they resolved differences through communication and compromise.
  5. They experienced laughter, fun, pleasure, and play with each other.
  6. They were able to express support for each other and support each other’s activities, interests, and careers.

As a reminder here is my definition:

Love: the choice to care about a person, thing or idea, and to act accordingly.

I am going to start with the article, “What Your Marriage Needs to Survive” to look at how Love leads to success. In doing my research for this post I was struck by two of the characteristics revealed in the article.

They were in the relationship out of clear choice rather than out of obligation or fear of being alone.

They were able to express support for each other and support each other’s activities, interests, and careers.

Combined, these two traits show Love in action. Choosing to care about another person and to act accordingly, in this case to show support for their partner’s interests. This holds true for any relationship, really.  Now, it might seem logical that Love is a part of marriage, so let’s look at the other two articles.

Hard work is listed as a trait for an employee and for a captain of a team. Hard work is Love.

Hard work is the choice to care about your goals or success and to act accordingly. To do what it takes to reach those goals.

For both Love and Success, you have to act accordingly. Team is also mentioned for both employees and sports. The concept of team is Love.  To care about your teammates and your team’s goals, then to act accordingly. In the intro video with Gina Auriemma in the last post, he highlights this trait through the importance of body language of the players on the bench.

Love is not easy though. Success is not always guaranteed, at least in terms of wins and losses or landing your dream job. Life is too complex. But Love will lead to strength and true success in relationships, work, and other areas of life. And that type of success can be measured. It is called Pride. Pride is knowing you gave your best at whatever you are doing, that you chose to care and acted accordingly.

Why Love? The first answer is that it leads to success. Love is the foundation to traits that help us in sports, jobs, and relationships.

But it is not the only reason to choose Love. In the next post I will discuss how Love leads to Joy.

 

 

 

 

 

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