Category Archives: Family

The Work it Takes

The college is replacing the light poles in their parking lot.

I have written about building a foundation before, in different ways, but as I walked past the hole the workers created, a different thought came to mind.

We can’t actually build a foundation until we have done the work to prepare to build it. For the workers, they had to remove the old foundation, remove dirt, and deal with the wires. Then they had to dig the correct sized hole to build the new foundation.  Let’s use this process as a metaphor for our own development.

What is the work we need to do to create the space for our new foundation?

What dirt do we have to dig into? The first step is dealing with emotions. Fear, doubt, and even anger have to be dug into. Addressing what emotions are involved is an important step. It doesn’t mean you will eliminate them. And you shouldn’t try to remove emotions, but you should address them. Talk about them with someone. Understand how those emotions are affecting your actions. By addressing them you can build your plan, which is the second step.

I believe a working plan is the best. Meaning that we have goals or milestones to reach but we need a plan that is flexible so that we can adjust as our lives change. Even as a father, I have a plan this year to make sure my oldest son is ready for college. There are milestones we want to cover with him so that he has a strong foundation for next year. Some of those include budgeting, servicing his car, and other aspects of being on his own. Having a plan is important because of the last step, dealing with expectations.

As I pondered about writing this post, a deeper insight emerged. Whatever foundation we want to build, we have to dig a bigger hole so that we can build that foundation. That means we have to deal with emotions, plans, and consider more of our lives than just that foundation. We have to dig the right size hole to fit our new foundation. If the hole is too small, we might be able to get a foundation built, but it will not be as strong as we need it to be. If you dig the hole too large, the foundation can be built as planned, but our life is affected. Sinkholes will appear. We will spend more time fixing those, instead of building our foundation.

There are a number of foundations in our lives. As time goes by we build new ones and have to replace old ones. Just remember the work you need to do before you construct a foundation: deal with your emotions, plan how to build, and dig out the correct space to build your foundation.

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Our Story Part II

It is late Sunday evening, and I don’t know when you might read this, but let me share a few highlights of the week. The following moments are parts of other people’s stories and mine.

My oldest son is in Baltimore for National FBLA competing in Public Speaking.

A coworker headed home for a family wedding as her marriage is in the process of ending.

My other son spent time in Indiana on a basketball trip with his high school team. They visited the Milan 1954 Hoosiers MuseumHoosiers gym, Butler University, and played a basketball game against a school also named Adams Central.

I spent a morning working in my new classroom (more on that later).

I attended the funeral for the son of a colleague.

Two of my daughters were in their first play, 101 Dalmatians Jr.

An instructor shared that her daughter moved into her home with her four kids because the daughter’s marriage was ending.

I finished an excellent graphic novel, I am Alfonso Jones. I highly recommend this graphic novel.

Finished making the third movie of the trapped trilogy.

We attended a wedding for my niece. They dated for over four years.

Our Story

This past week was filled with stories: heartbreak, new beginnings, happiness, and history. It is incredible to think about all the stories being written right at this moment. Some filled with joy, while others are experiencing pain and heartache. Someone right now is trying to fight off doubt and fear, while at the same time a couple is welcoming a new child into the world.

A great story is not without pain or without love. I don’t know what words you are writing right now for your story. But I do know that your story is important, that the words are yours and they need to be written by you. There will always be plot twists that surprise us, but remember, you get to write the next scene… write from your heart.

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Life is Traffic

Traffic Light

I have been commuting for sixteen years.  I have blogged about driving a few times (Cruise Control, We Can’t Always See). My oldest child will be a senior this year. Commuting has given me time to think about how fast the coming year will go and about all the things I want my son to know. There is so much about life I hope he is ready for. While driving I had this crazy thought,  “Life is traffic.” This post is my fatherly advice for him.


Son,

Understand that traffic laws, signs, and stoplights are designed for the safety of everyone on the road. The rules are not meant to hinder you, they are in place so that everyone will travel safely to their destination. Even the unwritten rules are meant to make the road safe for everyone. You are not the only driver. Be respectful of everyone else on the road. That is one of the reasons people lose their cool driving. Other people break the rules and disrespect the other drivers.  It is true for life, too. We are all just trying to drive our own lives. Respect other people’s journeys.

Use your turn signal, and turn it on before you are actually turning.

Cruise control is only good for the open road. Once traffic gets heavy, drive your car. This also holds true for life. At times life will feel like a routine, but don’t fall into the trap of the cruise control. It is easy to give up control to the car or to a job. Don’t. Cars are meant to be driven. Life is meant to be lived.

On that note, at some point, learn to drive a car with a stick shift. You will understand the true beauty of driving. You will feel the power of the engine, understand the art of shifting to higher gears. You will face the challenge of keeping the car running as you shift to first gear at a stoplight on an incline. An important part of life is learning to tackle the hard things so that we can live more fully. Step outside your comfort zone and you’ll find that there is so much more to experience in life.

As in life, give people space while driving. Don’t tailgate people, or swerve right in front of them. Why? Reread the first point. Also, don’t spend 10 miles trying to pass. Turn off the cruise control and drive.

Did I mention use your turn signal?

When you travel, plan ahead. Know where you are going. Know what route you are going to take. I know some people will argue that you should just follow the open road, but I have been lost. And that is scary. By knowing your destination, by planning, you can then actually be spontaneous. You can take the back roads, or spend an afternoon in a small town, because you know where you need to go. I am not suggesting that you plan out your whole life, I know how unpredictable life can be, but I have always known what dreams and goals I wanted to achieve. Those have been my mile markers. Being lost, whether driving or in life, is a scary place to be. Always remember to call me if you ever find yourself lost.

Accidents. Some will be your fault, but most will be the fault of others. You know that the two major accidents I have been involved with were because of someone running a red light. My advice is that you have to be alert while you drive. And then you have to be ready to handle the fallout from the accident: reports, phone calls to insurance, car repairs or replacements. Like many aspects of life, a single moment will cause a chain reaction for your future. Some of the effects are minor, others will set your life on a whole new direction. You will never see an accident coming. Don’t try to evade your responsibility, or responsibility for your life.

Don’t ever drink and drive. EVER.

Life is traffic. Respect people on the road and in your life. Try not to drive on cruise control for too long. Learn to drive a stick. Mom and I are here if you ever need a lift.

And always use your turn signal.

Love, Dad.

 

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I Wish Life Was More Like Family Feud

Seriously, I wish life was more like Family Feud. I know your chuckling to yourself, but hear me out. Here’s my reasons.

1. Family is important

OK, I know the game show is called, Family Feud, but the importance of family is highlighted in the show. From everyone in sport jerseys to wearing the same color, families show their solidarity on the show. And they show support for each other, even with the craziest answers, by saying, “Good answer!” after each response. Many times, each family gets to share an important aspect of their family, like accomplishments or unique situations that defines the family in some way. Imagine what life would be like if families showed this kind of bond everyday.

Also, even though families compete against each other, they shake hands before each toss up question, then both families come out to celebrate the end of the show. Doesn’t matter where the families came from or what their ethnicity is. What would this world be like if we treated each other with that level of respect?

2. The show is fair

There are two aspects to this fairness. The first is when the judges make a mistake with a situation or answer the show brings back the family to play again. The show owns up to the mistake and makes it right.

But the show doesn’t let a family just win… How many times have you seen the Fast Money round end in 199 points?

It takes 200 points to win the 20,000 dollars. No extra help to get over that limit. That’s fair.

3. Laugh… a lot

The show is filled with laughter. Contestants laugh at themselves, laugh with each other and with Steve Harvey. There is some serious money on the line, or two strikes, but there is always room to laugh, to enjoy the moment.

And when a family wins, pure joy!

So, yes, I wish life was more like Family Feud: Importance of Family, Fairness, and Laughter… and 20,000 dollars would be nice.

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Your Story. My Story. Our Story.

Your Story.

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of a former student, Jason. The wedding was centered on the couple’s Love Story. The program shared important dates for them; first road trip, first date, the day he proposed. The ceremony, also, intertwined their Love Story. It was a beautiful moment… in their Life Story.

The wedding party had seven former students; the officiant, the groom, an usher, and four of the groomsmen. Not to mention all the other former students I visited with during the reception. It had been over 10 years since I had seen many of them. Many of the conversations centered on how life had changed for all of us. Trying to tell our Life Stories in 10 minutes. In one way it saddened me. To know, that at one time, our stories were being written together. Now… the stories are separate. In fact, even though Jason and I have kept in touch (mostly through Facebook), the wedding was the first time I met his bride.

Isn’t that Life.

You have your story. I have my story.

But, even in small moments, it is our story. And that is the greatest aspect of life I know. Each of us plays the role of protagonist in our lives. We forget that we are characters in other people’s stories. I was the English teacher, the coach, and for some of my students, something more. Jason and I spent hours playing basketball and talking about life. For each of my former students there was a unique aspect to our relationship. For example, I gave one student a quote every month for a year. I will admit to feeling a sense of pride knowing that those memories were part of their stories. To remember the good times and the rough times because we wrote that part together, just in different perspectives.

Even though our stories are now being written separately, it doesn’t mean that we didn’t play an important part in the past. Because isn’t that what makes a great story? Moments that are worth remembering. Stories that are retold. Being remembered by someone. Yes, you have your story. I have my story. But really this life is our story.

(A little trip back to eighth grade…)

 

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The Balance of Fatherhood

Person standing on wood planks above a city

I am going to state up front that this blog post will challenge you. Plus, it will not provide any answers to help you, but I hope to provide an opportunity to spend time reflecting on the importance of your career and of fatherhood. The balance of both of these responsibilities is at the center of our everyday life. This balance deserves an opportunity to be talked about, to spend time thinking about, to find the correct balance. So, I am going to ask you to watch a TedTalk and listen to a podcast as we look at this balance. Ready? Let’s start with the video. This a great TedTalk, but pay close attention to the ending, at about 8:55 to the end.

First, let me agree at the moment with Larry Smith. He is correct that we can hide behind human relationships. We mask our own fear with the idea that we are at least being good people. He is also correct about that mask being false. How can we have great relationships if we are not being our authentic self? And our jobs, our careers, our passions are one of the ways we express ourselves to the word. So, Larry is correct in challenging us about pursuing our passions… but hold on. I’m not done challenging you.

I want you to listen to the podcast, “Family Snapshot” from the memory palace. The podcast is based off of Charlie Duke’s book MoonWalker. (Which is on my reading list.)

Next time you are outside at night, look up at the moon and think about how cool it is that there is a family portrait on the moon. I will admit, as a dad, that idea is cool! But at what cost?

Now, the focus of the rest of the post will center on the balance of fatherhood and careers. I will state my opinion a little later, but want to work through the idea first. So let’s connect a few dots here.

Larry Smith makes a great argument about why we need to pursue our passions. I agree, but I think he simplified the father-son/daughter relationship to a moment of giving advice. Which I agree with, too. Fathers (and mothers) are the first examples for their children about pursuing goals. We also help them deal with failure and a range of things that deal with careers, but a relationship is more complex than that moment, and a father-child relationship may be the most complex relationship in this life.

So, that brings us to Charlie’s story (at least what is shared on the podcast), an absent father that walked on the moon, who in a unique way, will have his family live forever in a picture on the moon.  Imagine when someone finds that photo, thinks about the people in the picture, standing and smiling, a happy family. Another type of mask. Charlie’s relationship with his family was tested, if not actually present.

Balance

Responsibility

Goals

Career

Family

Fatherhood is a balancing act. Yes, I do believe you can pursue your passion, reach your personal goals. Yes, I believe that nuclear family relationships are the most important relationships we have. What is the balance? How do you find it? I don’t know. If I did, I suppose I would be the famous author I dream about. But I hope that this post got you thinking, reflecting, and moving forward toward your goal, and when you come home your children run up to you with a hug, glad to have you home because it is a beautiful day and they want to play outside.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Share this with anyone who would enjoy it.

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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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