Life Thoughts: Pruning

So I was mowing the lawn last night. Headphones on, music on shuffle. Thinking about life.

And as I was mowing the edge of our landscaping, I noticed how each plant was in a different stage of growth. But all of the plants still had signs of winter, of dead material that was still visible.

Plant with dead stems and spring growth

Then I had a weird thought… What would we look like if our growth was as visible as plants? What signs of our old self would be visible? What would our growth look like?

It is still early for the plants around our house. Some have almost shed all the dead material and are close to being in full bloom. Others are still at the beginning stages of growth with more dead stems than green leaves. But isn’t that the same for us? Each of us at different stages of our development. Individually fighting through the dead material so that we can fully bloom. And, like the plant pictured above, that stage of shedding our past is not pretty. It takes time and nurturing.

No matter what stage you are at in your season of growth, summer is almost here. Take some time to finish pruning winter’s effects so that you can bloom.

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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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Bittersweet Blueberry Muffins

Like most Sunday mornings I awoke at 6:30 to start making Blueberry Muffins. Maybe it is the coffee, or the quiet of the house, or the playlist I listen to, but I always find myself thinking about life as I get out the eggs, pour the milk, and get the muffin mix ready for the cupcake pans. I wish I could say that this post will be positive, but today the muffins were bittersweet.

As you know we have blueberry muffins every Sunday morning. We have added chocolate chips muffins (after trying out a few different kinds), scrambled eggs, and sausage or bacon to our breakfast routine. Time has forced some changes on our family.

So, let me take you back a few days. One evening my oldest son asked if I remembered this song:

This was a favorite song when he was younger. His younger brother was in the living room at the time and all three of us sang along. It was a reminder of a time when life was simpler. But now, as teenage boys, they have already learned some hard lessons about life. They have had their hearts broken, they have had their trust broken by adults. And sadly, through different avenues, they have learned that hard work alone doesn’t pay off. (That is for another blog.) Yet, for a few minutes we were back in time, riding in the minivan, singing along to Kids Place Live.

Jump to this morning…

As I was making breakfast my youngest daughter appears in the living room, ready to play My Little Pony. She scampers over to the kitchen, eyes wide, smile wider, a few My Little Ponies in her hand. She asks if I am making muffins. I answer yes. She replies, “I love muffins.” Then returns to the living room to play.

As I mix the batter for the chocolate chip muffins I consider how life changes for us. No matter how much I want to be Holden and keep my children from falling off the cliff in the middle of a rye field, I know that I am helpless to do that. Even our tradition of blueberry muffins has changed because our family has.

But I smile, too, as I place the pans into the oven. Blueberry next to chocolate chip. The heart of our tradition is still there. And that won’t change, no matter how much time passes.

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Decisions in Seconds

I am still amped-up. Less than 30 minutes ago I was almost in a serious accident.

This is a diagram of downtown Hastings, which has a number of one way streets. Second street is a one way street (west to east) downtown. I had to drop off some mail at the post office this morning. I was heading south on Colorado, which is one way also. There is a light at the intersection of Second and Colorado, but it only faces the traffic flow of the one way streets. I was half a block away from the intersection when the light turned green. My lane has a green arrow (Colorado turns into two-way traffic after the light) and I slow down a little to make the turn. The roads are still snow packed from the snow storm on Sunday. That’s when I notice the headlights of a beer truck coming the wrong way on Second street, right where I am supposed to turn.

I wish I could tell you everything slowed down in my mind and I handled the situation like a hero. It didn’t. I remember everything now. But at that moment everything seemed to move into hyper drive.

I could see the truck’s left turn signal blinking on the hood of the truck. I remember thinking in my head, “What is he doing?” because he doesn’t seem to be stopping. There is no traffic light for him because he is traveling the wrong way on the Second street.

Decisions. Choices. Sometimes we see the results of our decisions immediately. Sometimes the effects of our decisions manifest themselves later; maybe a minute, a day, a year, or sometimes never. Making a decision can be a heavy responsibility… in fact every decision we make actually creates the life we live. And most of the time our decisions affects other people’s’ lives. I don’t know when the driver of the truck decided to drive down the wrong way. I don’t know why he chose to do it. Maybe he didn’t want to navigate the extra turns it takes to get through all the one way streets downtown, so he decided to take a short cut. What I do know is that his decisions and my decisions (to drop of the mail and drive down a certain street) was about to meet at the intersection of Second and Colorado.

I decide not to slam on the brakes to try to stop. The intersection was snow packed and helped me in this case. I was able to drift into the right lane on Second street. Missing the truck who also decided not to stop and turned left onto Colorado to drive away. I came to a stop to watch his taillights disappear at the corner of a building.

Decisions. Choices. Some of them seem more important than others. But in reality, every one of them matters. Everyone of them makes an impact in our lives. Makes an impact on other people’s’ lives. This morning I am glad that the driver’s choices and mine did not collide, literally.

 

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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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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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Find Faith in the Battle

The lyric above comes from a song, “Fix My Eyes,” by for King & Country.

 

This is a postcard I have kept from my coaching days at Pawnee City, it is on my cubical wall right above my computer.

On January 20, 2013, David Goggins broke the world record for the most pull-ups in 24 hours, 4,030. But he actually failed twice before he broke the record. In an interview on Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, David shares that he did 67,000 pull-ups just in training for the record.

What goal are you pursuing today? Or is that goal on the back burner, always nagging at you but life, job, car payment, or any other reason you want to talk about keeps getting in the way.

You can’t achieve anything unless you’re in the process of achieving it. You can write your goal down, post it on Twitter, even have a Vision Board. But until you put yourself in the middle of actually doing something to achieve that goal, nothing will change.

I know all the hurdles, the fears, the doubts, I fight them, too. But you don’t know your strength, you don’t know your heart, until you fight for that goal. Yes, you will fail. Get knocked down. It will hurt.

Get back up because that simple, powerful motion will reveal more about you than any mirror.

We find more than faith in our battles, we find ourselves.

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