Tag Archives: family

What is it Worth?

Let’s do a thought experiment.

Let’s say I have designed a unique tool you could use every day. For fun, let’s call it a Digital Attention Yielder, or D.A.Y. for short.

Now, what if I told you that it would only cost you a quarter to buy? How valuable do you think it is? How well made?

OK, what if I said it would cost a dollar? Is there much change in your judgment of the D.A.Y.’s value?

Let’s jump the cost to $100. What value does it have now in your mind? Five hundred dollars? A $1000?

The cost of something influences our judgment of its value. 

Hang with me for another thought experiment.

What if I said I would pay you a quarter to spend the day working on your dreams? Would you do it?

What if I told you that I would pay you $100 to be a better friend today? A better husband or mother? Would you do that? Would you read a story to your kids tonight? Text a friend?

How much money would it take for you to live the life you want? 

To be the person you want to be? 

How much is your D.A.Y. worth?

Money is an easy way to measure worth. The hurdle is that LIFE doesn’t pay us with money. Life gives us time. And only so much time. We decide how much our time is worth. Our life is measured by abstract ideas like love, friendship, joy, and hardwork, to name a few. It is difficult to put measurable value on these characteristics. But I believe we know deep in our hearts the answers. We know if we treat our family well. We know if we have worked on our dreams. 

At the end of the D.A.Y. we know if we spent it well.

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An Open Letter to Happiness

Dear Happiness,

I used to think of you as a rabbit.

You would appear just a few feet away, nose twitching, ears up. Always at least one eye on me. It was always cool to see you appear, but as soon as I would try to touch you, to feel your fur, you would dart off. Zig-zagging away. Your fluff of a tail waving goodbye.

RabbitEven when I would stumble onto a moment, unplanned, unexpected. You would be gone in a flash. I could never get close enough to catch you. To hold you in my arms. Feel your breathing, or smell your untamed spirit. You were too quick for me, even in my prime.

I know better now. I know that you, Happiness, are not a rabbit.

I know now that I was chasing other people’s expectations. The rabbits are social definitions of you. Rabbits that I can never catch. I’ll never have enough, or be enough, to catch them. It is still cool to see them in my yard. They still appear, nose twitching, eyes looking at me as if to say, “You can catch me this time! Really, you can.”

It’s hard not to give into the urge to chase them. To finally know how their fur feels, to feel that sense of pride after capturing one. But, I am so glad I finally saw you, Happiness.

I’ve heard the best place to hide is in plain sight. Happiness, you did that well. I remember when I discovered you were there, right by the front door. I laughed out loud because you were there every time I chased a rabbit. The day I figured it out, you were a pair of black Nike running shoes. I was headed out to take a walk to deal with the tension in my soul. And there you were, my shoes.

I see you, Happiness, all the time. You are my dress shoes I wear as a teacher, or when I go on a fancy date with my wife. You are the grass stained, worn out shoes in the garage I use to mow in. Once I figured it out, I knew you were there all the time. You were my football cleats. My track shoes. You were the shoes I bought when I started playing slow-pitch softball. You were there on my first day of kindergarten; nice clean shoes for the first day of school.

red shoesI only wish that I figured it out sooner. Even so, thank you Happiness, for being there every day. I understand that you are not a moment to be captured. You are the moments I live. Even in the rough spots, you are there. I found you in the ditch after my first car accident. I wore you as I boarded that Greyhound bus leaving my biological family behind. I was wearing a pair of Nike IDs when my second son was rushed out of the delivery room. I understand that you are there in everything I do, rain or shine.

I may never catch a rabbit, but I know I’ll have a great pair of shoes on when I run. Or even better, I’ll wear them as I sit on the front porch with my family watching the rabbits play.

 

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Birds on a Wire

For some reason on my walk this morning, I noticed the birds. The sky was clear blue. No clouds. I noticed different groups of birds fly overhead. They all glided to the north, which was the way I was headed. After three blocks I saw many of them perched on the telephone wires. There were robins, grackles, red crossbill, and a few I didn’t know the name of.

Image by Queven from Pixabay

They would swoop onto the wire. A few would fly away only to return after a second. Some of the birds stayed on the wire the whole time I watched. The morning was filled with their different songs. At one point it seemed like the whole wire was filled with birds. It was a cool moment.

I continued on my walk, thinking about the birds. Thinking about how it didn’t matter what type of bird they were, they all had a place on the wire. Yes, my thoughts turned to our turbulent times, but took a turn to an idea of the wires we have in our society.

Old men at the gas station getting coffee.

Barber shops and hair salons.

Coffee shops.

Fishing at the lake.

I thought about all the games of dominoes and pitch I played in college.

Sunday dinner.

I thought about how sitting on a wire, talking, helped build a community. A bird, any bird, was welcomed on the wire. They were free to stay or leave. Right now, it seems that no one is talking. Right now, it seems there is no wire for us to sit and be, to be welcomed because we showed up. To share stories, to feel like one community.

I so wanted to grow wings to join the birds this morning. To sit with them on that wire and add my song to theirs.

 

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Walking Thoughts

This morning it was about 57 degrees outside. I decided not to wear a sweatshirt because I always end up taking it off and tying it around my waist. My walk started out chilly, and stayed that way. Maybe it was because of the temperature that my thoughts jumped around in my head this morning…

I decided to listen to Dream Academy on my walk. The first song “Life in a Northern Town” has a line that got me thinking about the craziness of the moment.

I considered how many life changing events have happened over my lifetime. How many times people said we would be different when things went back to normal. That’s when I saw a bird hopping along a lawn with a beak full of grass and sticks. Obviously building a nest nearby. I was just passing a cul de-sac where a new home was being built. Three houses down from us, a new family was moving in. They arrived yesterday.

Home has always been a foundation of our lives. Sadly, this pandemic has elevated the sad reality that home is not a good place for all people. Domestic and child abuse cases have risen during this pandemic. Divorce rates are expected to rise after the lockdowns. Home should be the best place to be right now. As a father and husband, I was trying to make sure home was the best place to be for my family.

The wind was a constant on my walk. My bare arms took the blunt of the chill. The cold actually felt like sleeves on my arms. It felt good in a way. As I turned corners, or walked along the curve of a street, the wind would shift from my shoulders to my face. Walking through the wind gave me a defining edge. I felt my arms swing through, my forehead chilled and my eyes squinted. I felt like me, I felt a boundary to my existence which has been blurring like the way days are blending together. Walking through the cold heightened my sense of self this morning.

I followed a curve of a street that led me to a street filled with blossom petals.

I was struck by the beauty and sadness of the scene. The trees in the area were still mostly filled with the blossoms. And the blossoms would be replaced with leaves and the trees would have a different look, a different beauty. But the situation reminded me that everything changes. Endings happen. There are new beginnings. And pain is part of that process. Whether it is regret or the feeling of loss, our heart goes through that pain. If we truly live our lives with an open heart, we will feel both sides of the spectrum. Joy and sorrow. That’s good. Those emotions give us a defining edge too.

I turned the last corner. I had three blocks till I was home. As life does sometimes, the music in my earbuds played a most appropriate song…

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Thank You, Tears For Fears

On March 16 I sat in a meeting on how school was going to be continued in an online environment. Students would be let into the school in waves to get their stuff the next day. Life was changing fast. I returned to my classroom to get things in order. Like many people, I turned to music to help with the situation. I sat down at my desk and turned to the music of Tears for Fears. Honestly, I don’t know why… maybe subconsciously I was thinking of the song “Mad World”, but I started out with their album The Hurting and played through their discography.

That was over a month ago, but I haven’t stopped listening to Tears For Fears. Even this morning on my walk, I listened to the album, Elemental. Now, I have listened to other artists during this time. In fact, I may be listening to more music than I have in a long time. Music has a powerful way of helping us deal with our emotions. During this time, the music from Tears For Fears has been a part of the way I have dealt with this moment in time.

So, as a thank you to them, I thought I would write a blog post sharing a song from each of their albums that I connect to during this time. Grab your headphones, sit back to enjoy some music from Tears For Fears and some writing from me. And Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith if you get the chance to read this: Thank You for the music.

Album: The Hurting

Song: “Change”

Yes, “Mad World” would totally fit our times. But “Change” connects with me because of the idea that there will come a time in life when it is too late. Too late to mend a relationship. Too late to follow a dream. The song has that repeating line though, “You can change.” Just a touch of optimism.

Album: Songs from the Big Chair

Song: “The Working Hour”

The build up of the layers of instruments in the first two minutes of the song just put me in a deep thoughtful mindset. Then comes the lyrics, “These things that I’ve been told / Can rearrange / My world, my doubt / In time, but inside out” address my state of mind right now… honestly, I think it does for all of us.

Album: The Seeds of Love

Song: “Famous Last Words”

The music starts slow. The lyrics set the scene of lovers in the future, just being together, but then at about the 2:20 mark in the middle of the line “And we will carry war no more” the sound explodes, making my heart jump… in desire to have a time to sit with the people I love and have the chance to “Listening to the band that made us cry / We’ll have nothing to lose / We’ll have nothing to gain / Just to stay this real life situation / For one last refrain”.

Album: Elemental

Song: “Break It Down Again”

This song makes me happy, in a sad intellectual way, especially the lines “And all the love and all the love in the world / Won’t stop the rain from falling…” It may seem odd, but I enjoy thoughtful lyrics, even if they make me feel sad. I enjoy analyzing songs, movies, and even though this song isn’t totally about that, it reinforces for me to break it down.

Album: Raoul and the Kings of Spain 

Song: “Sketches of Pain”

This song speaks to my poetic side. How art often reflects our pain, our heartache. Art can bring beauty to our pain. This moment in history is providing me with a different kind of muse. This song reinforces the need to share my writing with you.

Album: Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Song: “”Closest Thing To Heaven”

Even during these troubling times (which is the setting at the beginning of the song), there are good things in my life. The line, “Make love your destination,” is a powerful motivation to choose love every day. Family and friends, making new recipes, watching Miami Vice, is heaven right now.

Music helps us through tough times. For me, Tears For Fears is the music I need. Thank you, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith for your music.

Let me know what you are listening to during this pandemic.

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I used to

I used to get up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready for the day. One cup of coffee, yogurt, and a banana. I would get back into bed (on my wife’s side) for a few minutes as my wife would finish getting ready for the day. I would shower while she ate breakfast.

But now, we get up at random times.

 

I used to teach in front of students. I could tell who was having a bad day. I could tell if my hyper class would have to be reined in because the lesson needed focus from them. My day was a roller coaster of grading, answering emails, and teaching.

But now, I answer emails and grade assignments as they are completed online.

 

I used to believe that I would live forever. That I had time to do everything I wanted with my life. Life was an open highway.

But now, well actually, I’ve realized that my days are numbered for some time now. This moment in time dealing with the COVID-19 situation has reinforced the reality that life is fleeting. As a society we are forced to deal with so many factors we take for granted in our everyday life. A handshake, eating out, graduations, and just the joy of an open highway.

 

I used to distrust people. OK, to be honest I still do, but that is a personal journey.

But now, I wonder what the effects of this pandemic will have on our culture. We were already dealing with anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Dealing with screen time and its connections to these emotions.

 

I used to go to church with my family, shake hands with others during The Liturgy of the Eucharist (Peace Be With You).

But now, we watch Mass on TV. Hearing the echoes of the few people in attendance during the filming of the service.

 

I used to make one box of blueberry muffins. When the boys were young, 12 muffins were enough for the family.

But now, we have added scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage, and we will have to start making 24 muffins as my oldest son has moved back home to finish his semester of college online.

 

I used to believe in love…

But now, I still do… There is no greater force in this life than Love. Oh, I know hate and other negative forces seem to gain more attention and seem to be more powerful. That the world is falling apart… but Love is what will rebuild the world.

 

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pandemic thoughts

Today is March 22, 2020.

Tomorrow our school will be continuing learning online.

Yesterday, at three different times, cars ran red lights. When I returned to my van after grocery shopping there were four, FOUR, shopping carts around my van.

We made chocolate chip muffins today.

The newspaper today had an article about what to do if a person’s home life is violent during this time.

Sports, concerts, and eating out have come to a halt. But home cooking, games of pitch and speed, and movie nights are popular in my household.

And just like other times, I wonder about the deeper meaning of it all.

Another article’s headline in today’s paper read “The New Normal”. But I disagree with that idea. This will pass. It will take time, but it will pass. Will anything change? Does it need to? Here is what I’ve learned so far…

First, everyday life can change for so many reasons. We have the popular idea to live life before you die, but honestly, our lives can “change” at any moment. This pandemic is forcing people to evaluate their lives in new ways, to actually see what their foundations are.

For some people they are forced to spend time with their family. You would think this would be a good thing. Sadly, it is not. As an educator, I know that some students are hungry right now, lonely, and even afraid. My heart has trouble with this knowledge for two reasons. One, because of my past. The second part is the question on how this is possible. I don’t know the answer. Family is one of my WHYs. I am not a perfect father or husband, but I take pride in building a home for my wife and children. I don’t understand why others don’t.

Activities are part of our culture and part of my family’s everyday life. Many people are talking about how the pandemic is revealing who is important in our country. The situation shows the disproportionate importance we give to athletes and celebrities. I agree, but that is not the factor I am talking about. This situation has taken away the opportunities many people have worked hard for. This is a negative outcome of our current state that hurts.

Nebraska was one of the few states to still play their boy’s state basketball tournament. As a dad, I was blessed to see my son play. However, all spring activities are on hold and will mostly likely be cancelled. I am the senior class sponsor for my school. That means I am responsible for graduation. We haven’t dealt with that situation yet. Our school’s musical is on hold. My second son is a high jumper. My oldest daughter doesn’t get to take her art field trip.

Sports, concerts, all activities are good for us as individuals and as a society. Honestly, even when you go out to eat at a local restaurant you are experiencing someone’s dream come true. Have we placed too much importance on these activities? Yes, but it is the wrong importance. Being a fan of a football team should not be a life or death situation. It should be a celebration of the opportunity to witness someone realizing their goals. To share in the joy of individuals doing something that sparks their spirit. This situation is disrupting people’s pursuit of their dreams. That is a heavy cost.

But maybe as a society we can celebrate these activities when we get to chase our dreams again.

I think that is enough rambling for now, thank you for reading.

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Blueberry Muffins as the World Changes

Earlier this morning the scene in our kitchen was the same as it is most Sundays. The family eating blueberry muffins, eggs, and sausage. Except we were eating at 8:10 a.m. We usually eat around 7 a.m. so that we can attend church at 9 a.m. Today, we are watching the service on TV.

Our oldest son was not at the table, he was heading back to college to get stuff from his dorm because his college was going online only in a week.

The mood in the kitchen was joyful and tired. We were less than 24 hours from watching our second son win the consolation game for state basketball. We were tired from all the emotions we experienced during the tournament. From winning the first round game, losing in the semifinals (a tied game with 6 minutes left), and winning the third place game. But only family was allowed to watch the games.

In a time when we are supposed to be practicing ‘social distancing’, I saw sons hugged by fathers and mothers after the semifinal loss. Hugged for minutes. Tears shared by all. And I saw the same after the team’s victory yesterday, just with a different emotion. Of course the senior parents held their sons the longest during the celebration.

This morning life felt normal while outside our doors things are crazy. Uncertainty fills the air as we wait to see what changes come next. What I do know is that next Sunday we will have blueberry muffins as a family, no matter the changes that occur in the world.

 

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The Power of Together

I bet you have heard the word Synergy before.

Or maybe have read about how two horses can pull three times the weight of one horse. If you add in the factor that the horses were raised together, they can pull four times the weight. This is the example many people use to show the power of synergy.

But synergy is not just for horses, it is an important element to our lives. There are a few aspects to understand about the synergy concept to gain the most from it.

One, the idea of synergy is often renamed depending on the environment. In sports we call it team. In life it is family and friends. In business it has been labeled tribe and team. At the heart of the matter, it is the idea of everyone working together. Working together for a common goal. That is the second aspect.

Horses don’t just pull 30,000 pounds around the field for fun. It is work and there is a destination for the load. No matter the situation: a basketball season, a happy family, reaching a sales goal, there has to be a unifying destination for the work. A WHY. Simon Senik’s book, Start with Why, is a great resource for diving deeper into this part of synergy. At the surface, though, it means everyone working toward a common goal.

A hard truth here, synergy has always been used to highlight the positive. The truth is that synergy can also destroy. In real life you can have a group of people who build momentum in their negative attitude and destroy a team. Destroy the culture of a business. So called friends that bring you down from accomplishing your goals. Synergy is about how much a group can accomplish together. That means both positive and negative outcomes. This truth highlights the importance of the destination. It also explains the importance of the third factor, the right team.

The example of how much weight horses can pull has an interesting twist. As the story goes, a single Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian draft horses that are “strangers” can pull over 20,000 pounds. But a pair of horses that are raised and trained together can pull over 30,000. Consider that idea for a moment.

A team that has been together over time, who have gone through the same training or life experiences, has the greatest outcome. I hate to bring it up again, but that means both positive and negative outcomes. It is important to remember as we deal with changing things for the better. Back to the idea of a team that has grown together and the work they can accomplish.

This is powerful. This is a factor in an outstanding life. At the moment of writing this blog it is state basketball time. Eight teams in each class have made it to the state tournament. Teams have grown together over the season to reach this goal. You will hear the word “team” in the interviews, from both the winning and losing coaches. It might be a cliche in a way, but it is true. It takes a team to get to this level. A group coming together for a common goal. Synergy in action.

The same happens in our personal lives. Our friends, our family, are part of our personal synergy. The difficult part is that there is not always an end goal with these relationships. Sometimes the reason, or the why, of our relationships is lost. Then we feel like we are drifting. Relationships feel shallow. Understanding and working for the WHY of our relationships is paramount. A strong marriage or friendship takes work. There are many ways to do that work. One example from my life is our tradition as a family for each person to choose a word of the year, then displaying that word in a unique way in our home (Living by One Word). Throughout the year we check-in on how we are doing with our words. We grow together.

Creating positive synergy is a powerful element for any team. No matter what type of team you are on; basketball, sales team, or family.

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Skip a Rope

I am a sucker for countdowns. Every weekend I listen to the top 40 countdown from the 80s on XM radio as I run errands. Over the last couple of days XM has been broadcasting their top 1000 country songs of all time. So of course I’ve switched over to that channel at times just to listen to the countdown for awhile. I’m not a huge country music fan, but I enjoy certain songs and artists. I flipped to channel 30 and Tim McGraw’s “My Next 30 Years” was playing, so I left the radio on the countdown. Next was Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  I was enjoying the countdown. As the next song started, I could tell it was a classic country song. Since I was into the countdown I decided to listen. I’m glad I did, it got me thinking about life.

The song was the only number one hit for Henson Cargill, “Skip A Rope”.

I had never heard the song before. It was released in 1968. Besides the music, sadly, this song could have been written today.

Can’t we do better?

Seriously, I could share so many links to news articles about kids being abused or neglected by parents. There is a never ending supply of examples of the hate we generate in our society.  Links to heartache. Examples of cheating.

Can’t we do better?

I know that I can not save the world. It’s hard not to get downtrodden with the never ending negative examples on the news.

What I can do…

Is read a book to my daughters tonight before bed.

Is say hello to a stranger with a smile.

Is return the shopping cart to the cart corral (even the ones sitting between cars around me).

Is smile when I see my wife at the end of the day.

What I know for sure is that I can try every day to live this life with love. To be a little more humble and kind (yes, this was on the countdown).

 

 

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