Tag Archives: dad

#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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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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Blueberry Muffins and the Summer of Weddings

It is Sunday morning. There are a few blueberry and chocolate chip muffins left in the muffin pans. A pile of muffin cups on the island. The girls are watching The Greatest Showman while my wife is getting ready for church. Yesterday my wife and I attended another wedding of a former student. This summer we were invited to five weddings, two family members and three former students.

At the moment, we are going through one of the roughest times we have ever experienced. I only share this to set up the importance of this blog. There is no “Happily Ever After” for any story, but there are blueberry muffins to be made.

As I have mentioned, I got to see the start of new stories. I saw grooms get teary eyed as the bride walked down the aisle. I heard vows. Watched rings placed on hands. And witnessed the couples kiss for the first time as a married couple. The beginning of a new story for them.

Weddings feel like Happily Ever After.

But every story has a conflict. In fact, the longer the story, the more conflicts there are. Some last only a page, while other conflicts wage on for chapters. Each conflict has its own resolution. Sometimes for the better, other times the resolution leaves the characters changed.

Stories also have literary elements, like symbols, metaphors, and paradoxes. These are the things that make a story worth reading. That make the characters laugh and cry. Feel joy and pain. Our family has a symbol, as many of you know, and that is blueberry muffins. Throughout all of our plot twists we have had Sunday morning breakfasts of blueberry muffins. A morning when we are family, a foundation that has stood for 20 years.

As my wife and I drove home from another beautiful wedding, we talked about the past (how I was a part of the groom’s story in high school) and about how we were going to get through this conflict in our story. This morning as we made muffins, everything was swimming in my head, and I thought: I don’t wish all the new married couples a Happily Ever After, I hope they write a powerful symbol into their story that they can rely on when the conflicts come.

Blueberry Muffin

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Throwback: Mixtapes

1985

“Dang it!”

I push rewind for the fifth time on the left side player. Then rewind, then play, to hear the end of the song so I can stop the tape. There has to be the right amount of silence between songs, plus this is the last song on this side, so I have to make sure it fits. I have already recorded the songs on the paper cover, in pen even. This is the first mixtape for this girlfriend, so it has to be right.

Cassette with tile of post
2018

Text message: i made u a playlist on youtube http:tube/s6dfe82jn

Text message: some obscure emoji…

My kids are missing out on making mixtapes. And that saddens me, here’s why.

 

One, a mixtape took work. You had to know if songs would fit each side. Had to have the tape of the songs you wanted. If you didn’t you had to borrow them, or try to get the song taped off the radio. And that was always a difficult situation. The DJ might talk right up to the first line of the song, or you were busy doing something when the song came on and couldn’t get to the radio to hit record.

When you handed that tape to her, you both knew the work it took to make it and that meant something.

Two, the challenge to pick the right songs. Depending on where you were in the relationship affected the song selection. So, you would have to listen to every song’s lyrics. You would have to evaluate if the lyrics were too serious for the relationship, while also deciding if she would actually like the song. There was some serious analysis put into song selection for mixtapes.

Third, the joy of sharing something about ourselves. OK, to be truthful this happens now, even with YouTube playlists. Right now my sons and I are sharing our top five songs at the moment (one song each day). A kind of end of summer thing. Over Christmas break we shared our top 10 important songs. My best friend and I have made various mixtapes (and then CDs) over the years. I have a feeling we will make a mix for when we turn 50…

A mixtape, or even a playlist, allows the other person to know us in a unique personal way. Yes, it is nostalgic, but I still think a mixtape is better than a playlist… there are no commercials, only music that I choose to share with you.

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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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