Tag Archives: dad

Little Treasures

My morning routine is different this year. My wife heads to school with our two middle daughters. My oldest son usually heads to school soon after. I wait another 40 minutes to take my youngest daughter to preschool.

This week my daughter and I have been playing a game she created, “Treasure.”

We start at the front door.

Our river.

Which is really a river. We cross the river by rope, or bridge, or however she decides we can cross. Next, we find a treasure hiding in the jungle (living room).

Our treasure chest.

On the drive to preschool she retells of our adventure with joy in her voice.

But what I have discovered this week is that little treasures are everywhere. Most of them are right in front of us.

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When is it the Right Time to do the Right Thing?

Sometimes it feels like a losing battle.

To reinforce the importance of doing the right thing. My wife and I spent the weekend at a youth basketball tournament with our two middle daughters. As you can imagine, there was all kinds of people and craziness. Youth basketball tournaments have a unique chaos to them.

First, understand we do enjoy seeing our kids play. We are thankful for the hard work it takes to run these tournaments. This post is not about that. It’s about people.

I’m not going to rant about all the stuff that goes on. From the yelling at refs, yelling at their own kids as they head to the car, or the way people disregard others around them. One child throwing popcorn all over everyone while his parents did nothing.

I’m going to use one situation, parking, to ask the question: When is it the right time to do the right thing?

If you have ever attended an event like this, you know that parking is difficult. There is never enough parking. Plus it is the middle of winter. But what is worse is the cars that blatantly take two spots by parking their cars so that the car is over both yellow lines. Or the person who parks so that the handicap spots can not be accessed. How about the cars that park away from the curbs so far it is hard for others to drive between the parked cars and the car six feet away from the curb.

My favorite is the glare you get because someone is driving the wrong way for the entry drive to the parking lot and you had the audacity to drive correctly and they have to pull their car to the side.

So, when is it the right time to do the right thing?

When no one is looking?

When we are all dealing with the same situation?

When there is an emergency?

 

When?

I believe we should do the right thing every time.

 

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A Year Without a Smartphone

I don’t know if you have heard, but VitaminWater is going to give one person a chance to win a 100,000 dollars if they can go without a smartphone for 365 days.

Yes, I have entered for the chance.

Have you? Could you go a year without your smartphone? I doubt I will be selected. To enter you have to post on social media how your life would be different for the year. As I write this, Instagram says there are 59.3k posts with the VitaminWater’s contest hashtag, #NoPhoneforaYear. So, I doubt my three entries will even be seen.

But it is an interesting question to ponder. Two of my entries were focused on writing more and being more involved as a father and husband. Common ideas from other people. My third entry was based on what I would miss…

Smartphones do enhance our lives. I listen to music. I take pictures all the time. In fact, I was going to do the 365 photo challenge again for 2019, but decided to wait till VitaminWater chose the person for their contest. I would miss the instant communication with my family. Even the quick text to let them know I love them. Yes, I even play games on my phone. I have played Puzzle and Dragons for 1661 days (this is why my oldest son doesn’t think I could make it a year without my phone).

When I told my students about the contest, one student said 100,000 dollars wasn’t enough money to give up their phone.

Now, I could reference all the articles and studies about the power of screens in our lives. This is a cultural debate, but also still a new development in our society. The iPhone is only 11 years old. Think about that… both the positive and negative of what smartphones have done for us.

But again, this post isn’t about that, either.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for 100,000 dollars? I think I can.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for your goals?

I’m trying. I’m not giving up my phone. But I am putting it down to write this blog. I am leaving it on my nightstand more. Yes, I have played Puzzle and Dragons today. I have texted my family. Took a crazy photo at lunch. But I am letting my life dictate my phone use. I’m not letting my phone dictate my life.

Would you live a year without a smartphone for your goals?

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Not Under the Tree

Yesterday at church Father started his sermon talking about which experience was better: Attending a Husker game in person or watching it on TV. He expanded on the idea to discuss how important it is to be present in our faith, to be present in our lives.

Then my youngest daughter noticed that time moves. I let her wear my watch during church. At first she was fascinated by the backlight button. She would push the button, then cup her hand over the face to see the numbers light up. Toward the end of the service, she noticed that the numbers changed. My daughter updated me every minute through the last song.

“Dad, it’s 10:28 now!” she announced.

She was fascinated with this new knowledge… that time moves on… no matter what we do.

We can spend it on a phone. We can spend it on a computer. We can spend it learning. We can spend it with friends and family. Are we present as time moves forward?

Being present means that we have to deal with both the positive and negative of our lives. This is the biggest hurdle for us. It is easy to be present in our life when things are good. But to be present in life when things are tough, when you have to face the truth of your life, to face your fears and doubts; that takes strength.

The other hurdle is the simple task of being present in the routine of life. We work, we clean, we post on social media, we eat a snack, we live everyday. Being present in the routine is hard. It is easy to just let time move forward. “It’s 10:17! Time for bed.” And another day goes by without us really living it.

To be present everyday. To embrace the complexity of this existence. To face our fears. To love with an open heart. To find joy in this world. That means living our life. That is opening a present that can’t be found under the tree.

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#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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Filed under Education, Family, Life

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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