Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Growing up I had a couple pets. Hobo, was my dog when I was really young. I even had a stuffed animal that looked like him. I barely remember. Then there was Gizmo, a stray day. Then Spuds, our cat, who we first met when we were camping at Philpot Lake. Somehow she crawled up into the undercarriage of the van and rode home with us. My dad found her under the hood, by the engine, the next day. Crazy.
Shortly after getting married, Tara and I got Miko (cat) from one of my real estate customers. He had found her in a woodpile, where a mother cat had left her litter. While living in Florida, she was attacked by an alligator. We could not find her. Two months later, she came home with scars from the leviathan's teeth running down her legs. She is still around today and watches over the boys at night like they are her children.
It was inevitable that the boys would want pets. Enter Webkinz, stuffed animals that you interact with online. Surrogate pets that you don't have to clean up after. You do have to feed them, build them a house, groom them... The boys love to play with them and on some level I think it teaches them responsibility.
Being away from home, where we don't have Internet, the boys ask me to log on and tell them how their pets are doing. Would you believe it, the other day, when I was checking on Cole's raccoon, he was sick. This sent the boys into mild panic. If the one online was sick, then the stuffed animal was sick. So while they cared for the stuffed animal, I was charged with checking the one online and nursing him back to health.
It's a computer program! I did it though. Because they care about it and because I care about them, I care about what they care about. A few days later Ra-coon (his name, a throwback to Thundercats) was feeling better. Maybe tomorrow, I will feel better.
When we care about someone, we care about what they care about. Jesus, teach us to care about the things that delight you and the things that break your heart. Teach us to care.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Do you remember when life was about living in the moment, not about winning or losing?
This week I came prepared with my own zany game, "Poop Deck". I learned it hanging out with the Kid Kraze crew on Sundays. Imagine being on a ship...you have the top deck, the middle deck and the poop deck. When the particular deck is called you have to run to that area. If I say "hit the deck" you have to get down. If you are the last one to the base, you are out. It goes on until the last survivor is standing.
We started with about 10 kids playing in our little corner of the playground. As the giggles and laughter increased, so did our crew. Every once in a while someone would slip away and bring back a couple friends. After a couple rounds, we had 3 full kindergarten classes running from one corner of the blacktop to the other. No one wanted to be left out, no one wanted to miss a moment of the action.
It leaves me wondering, how can we harness that in our adult lives? A movement starts with one person deciding to do something different, to stand up for what is right, to make things better. It starts small, but grows bigger as people are attracted to your group. We saw that in the presidential campaign this year. We see it through Facebook. We see it in certain churches. We see it in groups like ONE.
Movements start with one person choosing to lead. Are you the one?
Monday, January 26, 2009
Each of us has the unique opportunity to be who God created us to be. Some of us will embrace that, while others will spend their entire lives running away from it. We hide like Gideon in the pit, threshing our grain where even the wind can not reach. We look in the mirror and tell ourselves we can not do it, when really we fear what it may be like, if we did. We have heard it is lonely at the top, and it is, if you don't bring anyone along with you.
As we take small steps toward achieving our dreams, we touch lives that will forever be altered. It may be in a direct way as you help others see their potential. It may be someone watching from the wings, who decides to take a bold step toward their dreams. The greatest honor is that in our moments of greatness we can reflect back on the one that gave us that light in the first place.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
It started well, until we got to "Boss". If you are a boss and want to know what your employees think ask their kids. Without any coaxing, the responses were bossy, mean, commanding, don't pay you and pushy.
Chances are, they have never had a job, so where do these answers come from? Obviously they have either heard these adjectives used by those that have a boss or they have been conditioned to believe that way through television or some other stimuli.
That's horrible. I imagine that these impressions help job performance? They are your next employees, and this is what they expect. Imagine if they would have said leader, helped my dad/mom do great, challenging, exciting, motivator... How do we get there?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Cole took off running at one point and we thought he was going to reinact a scene out of Forrest Gump. No matter how much we called he would not stop, which gave us a start. Winded from chasing him, I found him up the hill under a tree. He said he was looking for a place to rest. In a completely empty park, why he chose to run a quarter mile to a particular tree, I may never know.
The crowd was rather raucous, rivaling an NFL playoff game, moaning or yelling with each new ball called. I really did not think I would get into this as much as I did, but the closer I came to winning the higher the stakes became. Watching as they checked the winners cards to make sure they did not cheat, I only needed one more spot. Why won't he call my number? Are the fates against me?
Ok, really it's only Bingo, my life did not come crashing down around me when I did not win. But sometimes life feels like the Bingo game. For the most part everything is good, there is just one thing I still need. There is only one space left to be filled...maybe it's a desire to have a child, maybe it is achieving a certain position at work, maybe it's finishing college, getting married...you get my point.
The absence of that one thing can ruin everything else that is good. In my case, my desire to have my family with me. We still have yet to sell the house and for the foreseeable future don't see a way to fill that gap. At times, I feel desperately out of control, just wanting to "fix it." If I let it, I can let that one thing consume me. It can make life chaos.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7
Why is it that it is so hard to "not be anxious"? Maybe because I still want to be in control. I want the results and want them now. I want to feel like I have some say in how my life turns out. Which only leaves me anxious, without peace. Peace. Not a lack of concern, but real peace in the midst of the storm, knowing God is in control.
God. Help me find that peace.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Snap. 1..2..3 steps. You are looking, looking. This is the moment of truth. Waiting, watching for just the right moment. Footsteps like bass drums, gnashing teeth and grasping hands. For a brief heartbeat a window opens, you let fly. As the ball rolls off your fingers, you notice something you did not see before. You reach, trying to draw the ball back to you through some mystical force. It calls back, like the Raven, "Nevermore...nevermore."
While the analogy may be football, I think we have all found ourselves making decisions and then wishing we could take them back. It could be something you said, something you did...the result is the same. Your mind starts to play tricks on you with "What if..." games, but you can not go back. All it becomes is mental anguish to play those games. Instead, you must ask "What's next?"
Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. -Og Mandino
My towel will be waving next weekend...Go Steelers!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
-an excerpt from Barack Obama's Inaugural Address
Driving down the road, I listened as our nation's 44th president was sworn into office and shared his opening address. If you want to read the entire speech you can find it online. These words spoke to me, about our part in what is to come. While we have elected a new President, we share his burden and responsibility. We can embrace that or we can bicker and moan and find our situation even more bleak four years from now. Today, if nothing else, we can celebrate a new hope that has embraced people that never before had that opportunity. Tomorrow, our our work begins in earnest.
Mr. President, you have my prayers.
Tonight on I-64, I was trimming right along when out of nowhere comes a shopping cart. Luckily not in the road, just turned over on the side, as if something out of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. What made it weird is that the last exit I passed was over 3 miles back and the next exit was another 4 miles down the road. That does not even count the miles off the interstate to the closest grocery or big box store.
It set my mind to wandering how it got there...had someone absconded it from the local Walmart and took it joy riding down the side of the road, was it the refuse of some alien abduction dragged partway up in the tractor beam only to be released to fall amongst the roadside clutter, was there someone quivering in the weeds hoping I would not see them? I know one thing, there has to be an interesting story there.
Sometimes our lives become well worn paths, like the ones I have carved across Virginia. We find ourselves on autopilot, making the turns and arriving at our destination without even thinking about it or seeing whats going on around us. The people we pass in our travels every day are like the shopping cart, interesting stories waiting to be told, only for want of an ask. When we take the time to listen, in some small way, we become part of their story.
If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. —Barry Lopez
Monday, January 19, 2009
If our first impressions are so important in the foods we eat, what other areas of our lives does it make a difference?
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Traveling back to Yorktown, last night, took what seemed like forever. No wanting to extend the endeavor, I waited until I arrived to get something to eat. Already late, I thought I would just grab something quick. I have not had nachos in a long time and the thought of gooey cheese and jalapenos was inspiring.
I pushed the button to dispense the cheese and nothing happened. I asked the attendant, who told me just to push the button, so I did again....until, "You broke it!" Followed by, "Give me the gloves, this guy has broke the machine and got cheese all over the inside!", just loud enough for those waiting in line in the next county to take notice. In case you did not hear, this guy broke the machine so if you want cheese or chili you will have to wait 30 minutes while we clean up his mess! (OK, not quite that bad, but close.)
Dejected I walked away, head down, avoiding the stones and Big Gulps thrown by the Pharisees.
It got me to thinking about communication and leadership. It becomes real easy to blame the user/employee/volunteer/customer for not getting it right. We can hide behind questions, like "how hard can it be?" We can write and enforce policy or systems, but if we have not communicated in a way that those we lead understand...it's not their fault, it's ours. We choose who "gets it" (and who does not) in how we communicate.
When we fail and blame them, we may save face in our own eyes, but we lose our influence in theirs.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Over the years I have tried my hand at poetry, actually her hand too, as I wrote a poem on her hand the first time I said "I love you." In a recent international poll, it was found that in most countries 20-30% could not remember the last time they told their spouse "I love you." The US was at 21%. That's sad.
So, let's have a little fun today. Stole this idea from the book Six Word Memoirs on Love & Heartache. Using six words, no more and no less, express your love of someone of something.
C'mon don't be shy...let's write poetry together. Mine will start the comments.
Talk but Also Listen...surround yourself with people that will complement you and those that will challenge you. Create partnerships not divisions.
Reread the Constitution...before you can uphold it, understand it. I have not read the Constitution since the 4th or 5th grade.
Act Justly and Walk Humbly...do what is right, not just what is politically expedient. Make mercy a passion. Always remember your position/relationship with God.
Remind Us What it Takes to Be Great...belief, sacrifice and hard work
A few other mentionables; Fight Extreme Poverty, Stop the Cycle of Debt, Reunite the Country, Commit to the Environment, Be Brutally Honest.
This coming week, we will inaugurate a new president, and while through his leadership things can be accomplished, why do we expect that the changing of position at the top will make a huge different? Is that the only "position of power"? Can we not bring change from the bottom, if we listen to our own advice, we seek to give the man at the top? Or by giving it to him, do relieve ourselves of the responsibility and ultimately the blame?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
But, there was one meal that was coveted...pizza day! There is just something about those rectangle slices the kept me coming back. Friday being the only day I get a chance to eat with Logan, I have been on a year and a half journey toward pizza day. Last Friday the stars finally aligned and pizza was served on a Friday.
I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Rectangles have become trapezoids and the taste was just not the same as I remembered it from my childhood. I think we have all felt that way at some point in our lives, on some level we want things to stay the same. There is a certain comfort in the familiar.
In this day and age, change happens pretty quickly. Change and progress don't come easy, especially if the change affects us in a way we perceive as negative. How do you deal with change?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Leaping from the safety of our ship, we landed on the planking, skittering quickly so as not to lose our balance. At the end of the dock, we traverse the obstacles and slid quietly past the building. Nearing the corner, we spied our quarry, the golden ball.
"Arggghh!", our pirate band screamed, rushing from cover with our swords drawn. Finally, the ball resting in our hands, we danced our pirate jig in celebration...until someone kicked the golden ball over the fence of the playground.
No one really cared, because now we had to sneak back passed the teachers perched on the bench to get to our ship. Off on another adventure...
I got to hang out with Logan's class on Friday. It's fun being a kid, even at 35. Stay young. Live adventurously.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Our heat pump died today. It dying gasps flooded the house with frigid air last night, then it passed. Because of efficiency improvements, we can not just replace the unit, but the whole system. The good news, we'll be more energy efficient and do our part for the environment. As far as bad news, well only about 5900 reasons why this is bad. And to think I kidded my wife about getting a kerosene heater for Christmas.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we do not take.
I texted myself this quote. We are each given many different opportunities in life to do great good, or great evil, to take risk or play it safe or maybe just to be alive. The ones we embrace and the ones we exclude define who we are in person and in character.
Have I ever told you I have been struck by lightning seven times. Once, I was... ~An old man in the retirement home
This guy was funny. He would randomly show up and say the same thing, but each time he would give a different story to go along with it. Good comedy relief in what was a sad movie at times.
Benjamin's love interest in the movie was a ballet dancer. Seeing her dance made me think of my wife who was a dancer for many years. She is my graceful swan, leaving nary a ripple as she trims across the stage. Beautiful memories...
I'll leave you with a quote from the end that will not spoil the movie for you but give you something to chew on...
For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit... start whenever you want... you can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that stop you. I hope you feel things that you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life that you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again. ~Benjamin Button
If you want more review, check out Rob's blog.
Monday, January 5, 2009
I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky, but why, Why, why can't it be, can't it be mine.
~Pearl Jam, Black
I was reminded by a friend tonight that you really don't understand divorce until it is your relationship. I accept that and so I speak from first hand ignorance or maybe someone that has lost something important, in the past.
Infinite possibilities arise as what was once an intricate picture has been washed away to leave empty canvas, awaiting the artist brush. The only color that seems to drip aimless with each stroke is black. Even the most Innocent scenario becomes tattooed with memory. Seeing the thing or person that has been lost, in the eyes of those that you meet. Those that seek to give comfort or solace, rub like sandpaper across the exposed heart. The mantra in your head screams "why".
My heart breaks. I can not imagine ever losing my wife, my family. You have my compassion, my prayers. My first hope is that you work out your differences. My second hope is that you find new life, that new dreams bring vibrant colors to your pallet from which you paint. What may seem impossible to us, God can heal.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I think I have an ADD prayer life...I start with the best of intentions...Dear God, thank you for today and for my family and their health...when does Cole need to go back to the doctor? Did I pay that bill for the last trip? Trip...where are we going on vacation this year...how will we afford it...better start saving money now...oh yeah, I was praying...sorry God...
I have tried various books on prayer...Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence is one of my favorites. Body Prayer by Doug Pagitt, um...interesting yoga style praying, that was fun until my wife walked in on me praying the reverse barking dog... A good friend of mine told me about "popcorn prayer". He and his wife lay in bed and just make short prayer statements, kinda like popping popcorn. This works great for ADD, but the thought of popcorn makes me hungry.
I have heard enough sermons on "praying without ceasing" to make me sick. I can't last 5 minutes...sometimes. It left me thinking I just need to sit there until I get it right.
What has helped me the most is realising that prayer is really all about communication. It is not about the form, or position, or the right words or really length. I try to pray short little prayers through out the day. As something gets brought to my mind, I'll drop God a mental email or try to jot it down in my notebook so I remember it later. There are times I can pray forever, there are others that it's like short attention span theatre.
The good news is that every time I call him, God's waiting, right there, even if it is a quick chat, or to tell him a joke I just heard, or sometimes when I need to shout, or cry, or say thank you. He's right there, waiting. Go ahead, talk to him.
Friday, January 2, 2009
I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious. ~Vince Lombardi
Today we arrived home from our holiday exodus, a whirlwind of family activity. Tired, ready for a nap. Sometimes, the holidays can feel like a fun park ride. The one you that for months you begged your parents to take you to, waited for in incessantly long lines with people that had not taken a shower in... You pull the bar down, nervously make unintelligible comments as you climb the first hill...and 30 seconds later are left wondering, "That's it?"
A few snapshots from our trip...Christmas at our house for the first time, coloring the big cardboard house the boys got for Christmas, Merry Christmas from the Bedford police, sneaking into Bristol Motor Speedway, Cole got pneumonia again (another trip to the hospital), playing with the boys, Starbucks with my wife, three friends in the midst of divorce, time with extended family (even the Duke fan), running from wolves New Years Eve, and being home. Many of these I blogged already, the rest are yet to come.
Don't let memories fade as you drift off into post-Holiday coma, share your stories. What is your favorite memory from this Holiday?
"You can do it."
"No, I really need your help!"
There is a big pile of gravel by the family cemetery. The rain has washed it's slopes slick and steep, but that does not stop our young adventurers quest to conquer the peak. As they ascend, the gravel slide from beneath their feet, and Cole finds himself in a precarious predicament. He calls out, but I just encourage him as I know he can handle this feat. Shifting lower to the ground and using his hands he scrambles to the pinnacle. Standing atop, he beams with delight before descending with the grace of a snow boarder.
Sometimes, we find ourselves on losing ground, slipping closer to the edge, fearful we will not make it. We cry out, with seemingly no response from our Father...does that mean he is not there, watching, encouraging us, giving us the strength to tackle the obstacle set before us? That He is not smiling down as we overcome?
Thursday, January 1, 2009
New Years Eve. For many of us we find ourselves at a family get together, watching a ball of light drop, giving the first kiss of the year to one we love, missing Dick Clark or playing charades. I have a theory that more charades gets played on New Years, maybe it is just my family.
For the last two years, we have rung in the New Year to ESPN. Yeah we watched the Carolina game (Go Heels!) but we flipped back and forth to the New Year's No Limits. It's the adrenaline junkie in me. Watching Robbie Maddison jump his bike more than 120 feet high and land on top of the 96-foot high replica of the Arc de Triomphe in front of Paris Las Vegas,then drop off the Arc and free fall 50 feet to a massive landing ramp. Oh yeah! Gimme more.
Being a risk voyeur, makes life pretty easy. We can live vicariously through other peoples experience and never put ourself at risk. Look at the meteoric rise of reality TV over the last 10 years. While I find this caution healthy in jumping off large buildings, too many of us carry it over into our relationships, our work environment,our faith...the list could go on. The point is, we can settle for the safety of mediocrity and fool ourselves into thinking we are living life to the full.
What risks are you being called to in the New Year?