A Scary Moment & A Thank You

Everyone who knows me, knows my motto. Living life “one moment at a time”. I mean, that’s all we really have to live anyway, right? This moment? The one we’re in right now? So let’s focus one the moment. Whether good, bad, so so. Or, in this particular case…..scary.

 So, yesterday I had a pretty scary moment. Now, scary means different things to different people. But I think it’s safe to say that most anyone would have found this situation, scary. It started with a text message from Alexys at 12:20 in the afternoon.
“Can I talk to you? Something is wrong”.
Now, usually when I get these sort of text messages I role my eyes and wonder “what’s she having an issue with now”. She does tend to over exaggerate on occasion. So I replied back to her saying “sure”. After about a minute, I decided to call her instead. She answered, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. I thought we had a bad connection. But I’m not totally sure anymore. The call disconnected, and I sent her a text asking if it was something that could be texted. I did not get the reply I was anticipating.
“This is the nurse. She is having what I believe to be an anxiety attack”.
At this point, I started wondering why it was the nurse texting back, and not Alexys. So asked for a phone number, which she provided. I called, and the nurse began filling me in on the situation. Alexys came to her “not feeling well”. But it wasn’t the normal “not feeling well” that Alexys has. The nurse informed me that Alexys was having some blurred vision, a tingly feeling in her arms, she was having a hard time forming a thought, and when she smiled, one side of face didn’t. It was actually a little “droopy”. It was at this time that she told me she wanted to call EMS.
Well, I’m not sure what you’re thinking right now. But I immediately kicked into “First Responder” gear. My mind went back to all of the medical training I had ever received. But things just weren’t computing. I mean, all the signs and symptoms were saying that Alexys was having a stroke. But my logical mind started saying things like “really Steve? Who has a stroke at 13 years old”. It just wasn’t adding up. But I wasn’t taking any chances either. So I told the nurse to go ahead and contact EMS, and I would be on my way.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else. But when an emergency strikes, things go into slow motion. I mean, not like time slows down. But like, I hit EVERY red light. And the only people on the road all of a sudden thought it was Sunday, and started driving accordingly. I won’t lie, I started praying. It went something to the tune of “Lord, please clear the roadways of idiots, slow drivers, and Law Enforcement”. I must have had the same trouble formulating thoughts that Alexys was having, because I’m confident that God heard the complete opposite of what I was praying. And answered accordingly.
I was just around the corner from the school when the nurse called back. She advised that EMS was at the school, and that Alexys had calmed down and her symptoms were starting to go away. EMS was giving a choice of transporting her to the Emergency Room, or allowing me to take her to our Primary Care Physician. I told her that I was almost there, and that I would take Alexys to see her Primary Care Physician.
Once I got to the school, I located Alexys in the school nurses office. She was playing with her fingers like they had fallen asleep and she was trying to wake them up. The nurse let me know that she was doing better, but that she still needed to see her doctor. I asked Alexys how she was feeling, and she tried to tell me, but was still having a hard time formulating her thoughts into sentences. I remember feeling extremely frustrated. I was trying to figure out if this was one of her usual “I don’t feel well” moments, or if there was really something more going on. I remember in that moment, my demeanor was more direct and to the point. Versus concerned, nurturing, and consoling. I wonder now what the nurse must have been thinking about me.
I took Alexys home, and called to schedule an appointment with her pediatrician. I was able to get an appt for 4pm. While I was changing and getting ready to take Alexys to the doctor, she started complaining that she was feeling nauseous, and had a headache. And it continued throughout the entire 40 minute drive to the pediatrician. Once we got to the pediatrician, it got the best of her and she threw up 3 times in the bushes outside the pediatricians office. It was at this time that I was finally able to transition into what I’ve affectionately dubbed “Mom Mode”. I helped her get cleaned up, put my arm around her, told her it would be okay, and then walked her into the pediatricians office.
Now, everything started to move at warp speed. We saw the pediatrician, explained the situation to her, and the symptoms that were displayed. She did a complete work up on Alexys and everything came back normal. However, some of the symptoms that Alexys had displayed earlier were really concerning the pediatrician. She made some phone calls and consulted with a few other physicians, and then ultimately came to the conclusion that Alexys needed to be taken to the Emergency Room. She recommended Arnold Palmer Childrens Hospital, and then called ahead for us so that they would be ready for us when we got there.
As we were on our way to Arnold Palmer, Alexys started asking questions. She wanted to know what had everyone so concerned. I debated briefly as to whether or not I should tell her what I was thinking, but decided that if I didn’t, she wouldn’t stop asking. So I figured I’d be up front and honest. I told her that her symptoms were telling everyone that she may have had a stroke. I explained to her what that meant, and the possible implications. And while she was obviously concerned, and voiced as much. I feel like she processed the information well. Didn’t really freak out. Obviously concerned. But ready to face it head on to see what was going on.
While the fears were real, and concerns were not without merit. It wasn’t the case at all. When we arrived at the hospital, the staff jumped into action. I was extremely impressed with not only their professionalism, but also their level of care and concern for Alexys, and me. It was not something I had ever experienced at a hospital before. Now, I’m not saying hospitals don’t care, but Arnold Palmer took it to a different level. They quickly got her back into the ER and immediately started running the necessary tests to figure out what was wrong. In an effort to make sure the story was accurate, Alexys was asked repeatedly, by different nurses and doctors, to recount the incident and symptoms. I know I heard her repeat it at least 8 times between the Pediatrician and Emergency room. Each time, it was exactly the same. It actually became a joke for us. Each time she was asked to recount it, we looked at each other, smiled, and then I would say “8,972,3,4”. And then everyone would laugh.
The Dr’s and Nurses were Fabulous. The took great care of Alexys, and made sure that she was comfortable with each procedure. And if she got nervous, they took the time to comfort her and answer all of her questions. In the end, all of the tests came back normal. It was determined that Alexys had not suffered a Stroke, but an Ocular Migraine. She was discharged from the hospital in the morning. And we were given instructions to follow up with a Neurologist soon to determine how to prevent/treat future occurrences. We came home, and Alexys promptly went to bed and slept from 2pm till 6:30am the next day. I did pretty much the same, just not as long as Alexys.
It’s often been said, that in our greatest time of need, we will find out who our true friends really are. Well, if that’s truly the case, then this adventure demonstrated that not only do I have a lot of people that truly care for me. But I’m also incredibly blessed. Dozens of “FaceBook Friends” commented and acknowledged posts updating on the situation. My phone was blowing up from all of the texts messages asking about how we were doing. Several people asked if I needed help with Andrew. Fortunately, I had AWESOME family looking after him. One of my new friends text me to say that she was in the area and could stop by to pray with us. And when she didn’t get a response, just came anyway and waited till we were done with the doctor to come in and sit with us. She prayed with us before Alexys went back for her MRI. And then waited with our stuff till we got back from it. Other friends stopped by to bring Alexys a “get well” poster. And then sat with her while I went to get some food for her and I. Our Pastor came by in the morning and prayed with us. And then my dive instructor brought me coffee and breakfast in the morning. Every need was met. And was done by friends/family who just stepped up. They went into action as if it had been practiced. And I can’t even begin to tell you just how comforting it was. I am truly blessed.
So, to end this post, I want to express my most sincere appreciation to all of you that reached out to help me in my time of need. Whether you called, text, emailed, came to the hospital, took care of my son, or just acknowledged my post to let me know you heard me and were thinking of me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of people like you, that I am able to continue this difficult journey and still maintain my sanity. Thank you.

Cheerleader

Cheerleader – Noun

:a person who is a member of a group (typically a group of young women) who shout out special songs or chants to encourage the team and entertain the crowd during a game in sports like American football and basketball.

:a person who encourages other people to do or support something.

As with most things I right about, there is typically something that happens that gets me thinking. Something I see, hear, experience. This time, it was a song I heard. I have a friend who is going through their own “season”, and has been posting the “song of the day” on FaceBook. Since I love music, I have enjoyed watching and listening to the songs and videos that he has been posting. A while ago, he posted a song called “Cheerleader”. I hesitated when I saw it, because the picture looked like a bunch of scantily clad women and I thought for sure it was going to be about a bunch of half naked women jumping around. But I know my friend, and I figured there must have been some kind of message, or he wouldn’t have posted it. So I clicked on it. And I’m glad I did.

The first verse of the song goes like this;

“When I need motivation, my one solution is my Queen, cause she stay strong, Yeah Yeah. She is always in my corner, right there when I want her. All these other girls are tempting but I’m empty when you’re gone”

Part of the chorus goes like this;

“Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader, She is always right there when I need her”

Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the artist was talking about his girl, and not making a bunch of sexual references to a group of half naked girls. And as always, I found it quite interesting how it applied to my current situation.

The last couple months have been pretty stressful for me. My new position at work has proved to be a lot more of a challenge than I originally thought it would be. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing. I enjoy a good challenge. The last few months seem to have magnified the challenge.

June has always been a busy month. Not only is it the end of the quarter, but it’s also the end of a year for us. My team seems to have hit a road block, and they’re having a hard time getting past it. Now, this isn’t uncommon. Many new agents get a great start to their career, and then get a little too comfortable. Then they plateau. And they tend to have a hard time getting started again. Some get it going again. And others, well, don’t. Throw all of this into the month of June, and it provides for a very stressful month. Not only have I been trying to help my agents get their businesses moving again. But I also have several new agents that are trying to get started. My biggest challenge has been recruiting. Not the actual recruiting part, but getting the candidates in for the interview. In the month of June, my assistant and I scheduled 40+ interviews, and 9 showed up. By far, the worst month ever. Now, I’m sure it’s an anomaly. As it’s the worst month I’ve had in that respect. But that doesn’t help with the stress. Add to that, home life. Taking care of the kids. Dance schedules etc, etc. Yeah, I’ve definitely been feeling the pressure. And the last two weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a funk as I have really been feeling the loss of Christina. And that song hit the nail on the head with what I was feeling.

It’s like the definition say’s……..cheerleaders encourage the team and entertain the crowd. They encourage other people to do, or support something. It’s that one piece that seems to have been missing for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of encouragement from family and friends. But there’s really no substitute for the support, encouragement, and “cheerleading” from that one special person. That affirmation from the one I chose, and who chose me. That person who could release the stress of the day with just a touch of her hand. Sigh. She had magic hands. I loved her hands. Without it though, the stress builds and builds until it gets almost unbearable.

So what’s a guy to do? Well, I guess it’s at this point that all of my Christian friends would say “Steve, it’s at times like this when you need to lean on the Lord”. “He wouldn’t bring you to it, if He didn’t have a plan to bring you through it”. Yeah, yeah. I know. I get it. And that works to a certain extent. But there’s a certain power in the affirmation from that one special person. And I believe God planned it that way. It’s why he put Eve in the garden with Adam. Genesis 2:18 states “The Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him“. A cheerleader.

Well, my cheerleader isn’t hear anymore. And while I truly believe that the affirmation of my cheerleader is powerful. I also believe that God will carry me through this season. And I will ultimately be better for it. God tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness“. I am grateful for His provision during my time of weakness. I am grateful that I have a heavenly cheerleader, in the absence of my worldly cheerleader. And I’m grateful for all of the friends that He has provided to help me through these tough times. I am truly blessed.

Sympathy vs Pity

I’ve been pondering this one for a little while now. And I’ll admit, I’m still a little flustered with it. But as always, I had to go back to the definitions to try to figure this one out. So let’s start there (and forgive me, I stole parts of this one).

 
Sympathy, [sim-puh-thee], noun
1   harmony or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another
2   the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions
 
So I guess what it’s saying is that for someone to feel sympathy, or be sympathetic to someone, then they too must understand what the other person is feeling. Whether it be good or bad. But then, I always felt that was more “empathy”. Sooooooo, let’s look at that one;
 
Empathy, [em-puh-thee], noun
1   the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another
2   the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself:
 

Yeah. Not helping. I mean, it does. But doesn’t. I think I get it, sort of. But having a hard time explaining. Because it just confirmed what I was originally thinking. It’s all so flustering. So I decided to ask Google what the difference is. It took me to Dictionary.com for the best explanation that I couldn’t put into words:

“Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally “feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning ‘having a fellow feeling’. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person’s postion and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t.”

So I guess what I’ve learned from this little word study is basically a confirmation of what I already knew…..I can feel sympathy for someone, even if I “haven’t been there”. I can still fee a sense of loss, even if I haven’t experienced it. Or even a sense of accomplishment in something, even if I haven’t experienced the same accomplishment. But ignored to empathize with someone, I have to have been in their shoes. Experienced what they’ve experienced. And be able to feel the same feelings with that person. So where then, does Pity fall into this?

Pity, [pit-ee], noun
1   sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy
2   a cause or reason for pity, sorrow, or regret

And this is where it get’s frustrating (worse than “flustering”). I’ve always thought of pity as a negative thing. To “feel sorry” for someone. To….pity them. It just feels negative. But as I write this, I’m finding my thought process change about pity. Reading the definition, it doesn’t sound negative at all. In fact, it reminds me of something else…..compassion.

Compassion, [kuh m-pash-uh n], noun
1   a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering

Yeah. Not much of a difference there. With the exception of the “strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. But again, there is no negative connotations in any of the above definitions. So where then is the line, between feeling sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion, and causing harm by enabling a victim mentality in those we feel sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion on?

For the last few years, I have had a conversation with each of my kids teachers during “meet the teacher” night prior to the beginning of school. I explain to them that the kids Mother had passed away, and they have still been known to have their “moments”. Each time I speak to a teacher, I explain that I am telling them this for the purpose of understanding, NOT as an excuse for an actions that may occur during the school year. I have NEVER allowed my kids (or myself) to use Christina’s death as an excuse for bad behavior, or as a reason for not being the absolute best that we can be. We are NOT victims. We are participants in this wonderful thing called Life. And sometimes in life, bad things happen.

In my own life, I meet a LOT of different people. As I get to know these people, “my story” always seems to find it’s way out. Not because I’m looking for sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion. But because it’s part of me. It’s part of who I am. And while it has aided in shaping who I am today. It doesn’t rule my life. and yet, the knee jerk reaction of everyone who hears it is to say something to the effect of “I’m sorry”, “gasp!!”, “oh no”, or an other variation of an expression of sympathy, empathy, pity, or compassion. And (after doing tonights research on this topics) I must admit, I feel bad about my own knee jerk feeling (I try not to let it show)…..I hate it. I’ve learned to take these comments and gestures in stride. Since they only last a moment.

What I don’t tolerate, is a victim mentality. Ironically enough, I personally don’t get it much. But I see it a lot with my kids. Those close to me know how I feel about this. And while they try (they really do), I often see them giving my kids special treatment. Doing things for them (over and above the norm). Or even letting them get away with bad behavior because they “feel bad for them” or because “they’ve been through so much”. And I have to say…….I HATE THIS!!! It does nothing for them except breed a sense of entitlement. A sense that they deserve more because their Mom died. And this does nothing but fuel the victim mentality that is so prevalent in today’s society. It does nothing positive.

I’ve always been told (and have also experienced evidence of the same) that adversity breeds success. Whether in business, or in life. In fact, Jesus tells us the same thing:

Romans 5:1-5 say’s “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured our His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us”

So I will end with this; as you hear me talk about “my story”. Or start to feel sorry for my kids. Stop for a second. And think twice before feeling bad for us. We are not victims. We don’t need to be treated differently than others. We are no different than anyone else. We are all participants in Life. And we have all experienced our own trials and sufferings. Ours is just……different, from yours. Maybe. But NOT worthy of special treatment. Instead, rejoice with us! For we are in the process of being strengthened. We are building perseverance, character, and hope. God is working in our lives. He knows what He is doing. And He’s doing awesome things.

And since it’s now 3 o’clock in the morning, and I have to be up at 5 (but will likely sleep till 6:30/7), I will say……….good night, and God bless. 

Seasoning

I am always amazed at how sometimes, the simplest concept can just blow me away. And when I say “blow me away”, I mean really “wow” me. Make me really think. Not just about it’s profound nature, but also at how simple it is, and yet I still didn’t think of it. Well, one of these moments happened to me last week. I was having a conversation with a recently acquired new friend. We were meeting at a local Panera Bread and getting to know each other a little better. Now, I’ll be honest, I felt as though I was the one in the hot seat. But that’s okay. It gave me a chance to reminisce a little bit about Christina as I related my journey to my new friend. We had such a great time, chatting, getting to know each other, and brainstorming (but that’s for another post).

Okay, so what does that have to do with seasoning? Well, if you know me, then you know that I love to experiment with cooking different things. And when you experiment with cooking, you start learning about which seasonings work better with/than others. Sometimes it works out. Other times…….not so much. But I still LOVE to experiment. Figuring out which seasons work best with others. Which ones work better with different foods. I’ve gotten pretty good with matching seasonings to foods. Although I still sometimes get a little over enthusiastic in their application of the seasonings to those particular foods. If you would like to hear more about my disasters, feel free to ask the kids. They’ll be happy to point out my flaws to anyone who asks……..with, of course, the proper dollar amount. But don’t worry, it’ll be money well spent, going directly to their college education.

Now, contrary to what you might think, I didn’t start this post for the purpose of discussing my cooking inefficiencies. No, it’s much deeper than that. Our discussion turned to a different kind of season. See, just like the weather will go through seasons over the course of a year. We too will go through seasons over the course of our lifetime. Now, I personally prefer Spring and Fall. But that’s me. I know this other guy (I think he’s a little crazy) who absolutely LOVES Winter. (Don’t worry Dad, I won’t tell them it’s you). It’s kind of like cooking. I have a couple of seasons that I like to use more than others. And then there’s some that I have absolutely no use for. I wouldn’t say that your wrong because you DO have a use for it, but it wouldn’t make you right either. Okay, all kidding aside now (I love you Dad!!), there is a point here. During my conversation with my new friend, he gave me a quote that was so incredibly simple, yet so profound. He said “Seasons, season seasons**”. Yes, I had to stop and think about that for a second. But it’s so true!! Just like in cooking, we season our food to add flavor and make it better. What would Spring be, if we didn’t first go through Winter? I can tell you that I probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much if it weren’t for how much I dislike Winter. And so too in life, every season we go through, adds season and flavor to the next.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking……”but Steve, what about all those times you put the wrong seasoning in you food and made it taste bad?”. Yeah, I get it. Not every season in our life is a good one. And if given the chance, we would likely put it back on the shelf. But if we take a moment to think about it, it works. See, just because a season didn’t taste good in one dish, doesn’t mean it won’t taste good in another dish. So in experimenting, we learn were to apply that particular season. We have to be proactive in our approach. The same process applies in life. We may go through some tough seasons. Seasons we would much rather not have gone through. But if we are proactive in our approach to life, we learn where to apply the season so that it makes the next season of our life a little (or a lot) better. But it’s up to us to apply it properly. It may take a lot of trial and error. And we may screw up some other seasons. But like in cooking. If we screw it up one way. We learn from it, and don’t do it that way again. We try a different way. Until we get the desired result.

Jesus said in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. I mention this because, while I REALLY enjoy experimenting, there are still times when I have to consult an expert. Someone that can direct me in the desired direction. Someone who wants to give me hope for my future of cooking (or has pity on my kids). So too in life, we may need to consult an expert to direct us in the desired direction. Someone who wants to give us hope and a future. And I personally, am incredibly grateful to Him for helping me through my seasons, and giving me the direction I need to make each subsequent season, the most flavorful of all of them. Don’t be afraid to let your seasons, season your seasons.

** Quote credit to my new friend Mark Goldstein. Thank you sir!!

Expectations

So tonight, I’m at Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure chaperoning several thousand 8th graders as they enjoy themselves in their 8th grade Gradventure. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was in for. I imagined an absolute mad house of teenagers with a few hundred chaperones pulling their hair out. And then when Alexys informed me that the group I was charged with was made up of four teenagers that didn’t want to be grouped together……..well, yeah. You can probably imagine the nightmare that was playing out in my head. To my surprise (and relief), it’s been nothing like that.

We arrived at Universal Studios around 4:30. Half an hour later than expected (not a bad thing, just different). After going through security, we started discussing which rides the kids wanted to go on first. At this point, it’s an open park and the kids are required to stay with their chaperone (and they hated that). I did my best to remain as invisible as possible. Allowing them to make their own decisions as to what we did next. To their credit, they all got along quite well (for not wanting to be grouped together). We rode a few rides, got some ice cream, and then headed over to the stage area to wait for the coveted hour (7pm) to arrive when they could bid farewell to their awesome chaperone, and spend the rest of the evening wandering around the two parks by themselves. And sure enough, when the clock struck 7, it was like cock roaches when someone turns the lights on. I gave them their final instructions (next meeting time and place…..don’t be late…….be early instead), and they were off. And I was left alone. And all of a sudden, a song started playing through my head………..”🎼 All, buuuy myyyy seeelf, 🎶 Sigh. Time to hit the Chaperone lounge. Get a water, a snack, and chill out in the air conditioning before venturing back out to keep an eye on things and be visible in case one of the kids needed something. As I wander throughout the parks, I’m thinking about how different the night could have turned out, had I let my original expectations dictate my attitude. And being glad I didn’t.
So the time has come for the first check in. So, at 9 o’clock I sent a group text reminding everyone of the 9:30 time hack. And by 9:15, all four of my charges have checked in, and probably didn’t need the reminder text. They’ve been having a great time, and are off to continue their evening of fun and freedom, leaving me once again with my thoughts. Which is why I’m currently typing.
So I’m thinking about my original expectations about the evening. And as I sit here trying to put my thoughts together, I look up and see that I’m sitting in front of a huge green ham. I’m sure there’s a green egg somewhere, but at the moment I don’t see it. And I’m thinking about how that story relates (in part) to where my thoughts are wandering. I’m thinking about how neat this adventure has been. The first two hours went NOTHING like I had expected. Rather than attitudes and grumbling, we had a great time! I had no clue what to think as I waited for them to check in at 9:30. But I promise that I was NOT expecting them all to check in by 9:15. After check in, Alexys spent a little time hanging out with me…..even though she still had a friend with her. And she didn’t appear to be embarrassed that she was sitting with her Dad. In fact, it was almost as if she enjoyed it (I know, enjoy it while it lasts. It won’t be long til she wants nothing to do with me). And then I smiled as she asked if I could hold their bags while they went on a couple of rides (aaaaahhhhh, the alterior motive presents itself). I said okay and watched as they skipped away to find a ride.
So, expectations is the thought of the night. And how they impact the way we think and act on a regular basis. I wonder how often we allow an expectation to ruin what would otherwise have been a fun evening/event/opportunity? Or maybe in a relationship? Do we allow an expectation to start or prolong an argument? Naturally, I think this has happened to all of us. And if we take a minute to think about it, identify a situation where we allowed an expectation to negatively impact what we are doing. And I’m sure we could also justify our own actions or reactions based on those expectations. But what if we took a moment to step outside of ourselves, and think about whether or not the failure to meet the afformentioned expectation was really a bad or wrong thing. Or was it just different from our expectation? Maybe it didn’t meet the expectation, but was that really a bad thing? Worth causing a problem or argument? Let’s take tonight as an example……..
I’m a pretty positive person. I like to try to make the best of things. But I’m also human. I’ve also been accused of being a bit of a Drill Sgt with my kids, and those that I’m put in charge of (for field trips or outings). So when Alexys talked me into chaperoning for this particular adventure, my initial thought went to having a list of rules and instructions that the kids would have to memorize and recite back to me before leaving for the park. Buddy system for bathroom breaks. No more than 5 feet away from me at all times. Don’t listen? “Front leaning rest buddy! And give me 20!”. Yup. Totally prepared for this. Then Alexys says “Dad, you know we aren’t going to stay with you the whole time, right?”. Really?! No problem. We’re not going. Problem solved (sort of). After calming her down, I settled on a compromise and began ordering GPS tags off of Amazon so that I could know their location in the park at all times. Get too close to an exit? I’m on your heals dragging you back in. Then I go to the chaperone meeting and find out that the groups are anywhere from 2 – 8 kids per chaperone. WHAT?! How stupid is that? Why would you give one chaperon 2 kids and another 8? That makes no sense at all!! Even it out!! So now I’m wondering how many I’m going to have. And why didn’t they have that information for the meeting? Yes, I know it was a strategic move. Because all the parents assigned 8 would quit. So I go home and ask Alexys how many are in our group. “I don’t know Dad. I should find out tomorrow”. So naturally, when “tomorrow” comes, I ask. And find out that I have four total (including Alexys). But theres a kicker. None of the kids “like each other” and don’t want to be in the same group together. Yeah. This just keeps getting better and better (how long do I have to do this?). Okay, so I’m back in Drill Sgt mode. Preparing my “suck it up and drive on speach”, ready to present prior to boarding the buss. “Okay, I know you all don’t like each other. And none of you want to be together. And I certainly don’t want to be with a bunch of whiners either. But this is the hand we were dealt. So we all need to deal with it”. Yeah, you can imagine how that would have gone over. And the tone it would have set for the rest of the evening. Instead, I just let the evening play out, and see where it goes. And as I mentioned before, I’ve been pleasently surprised. But it could have been a lot different.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that expectations are a bad thing. I think they are really good things actually. They can also motivate someone to action. And that can be a GREAT thing. For example…….prior to allowing the kids to run free, I let them know what my expectations for check in at 9:30 was. I expected to have them all check in as close to 9:30 as possible. The head chaperone expected me to have a report back to her by 9:50. But they also knew the consequences for their decisions. Check in early, and your off to spend the rest of the night with their friends. Check in late, and they’ll be spending some time with me until they can convince me that I can trust them to make the next check in. Don’t check in at all? I have your picture. The entire security staff will be looking for you. And we will find you. And then you get to be my special friend for the rest of the night. Of course, I’m confident that knowing my expectations is why they all had checked in by 9:15. 😉
Okay, so what’s my point? I guess my point is that if we can take a step back and evaluate our situation, and our expectations, before we initiate action, then maybe (just maybe) things turn out better than we expected. Maybe we don’t get upset so easy. Maybe we get a pleasent surprise. Or maybe you sit here and think “hmmmm, I expected something more and just waisted how many minutes of my life reading the ramblings of some guy that thinks too much”. And if that’s what you’re thinking, no worries. Just remember that while you waisted a couple minutes of you life to read it, it took me about 2 hours to write. And with that, I’m expecting my kids to check in soon. So I’m going to head to the next meeting location.

&%$#!!!!!!!

Well, I was going to title this entry something to the effect of “Lonely”, or “Lonesome”, or something else to that effect. But the more I tried to piece it together in my head, the more pissed off I got. Then I looked up the word, and it just doesn’t quite capture what I’m feeling at the moment. See, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Lonely” as:

: sad from being apart from other people
: causing sad feelings that come from being apart from other people
: not visited by or traveled on by many people

Dictionary.com got a little closer with it’s definition:

: affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome
: destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc

The reality is, with few exceptions, by the definition, I’m not lonely. I have many friends. Family. A very large support network that keeps me surrounded with people. People that love me and care about me, and want the best for me. So, by definition, I’m not lonely. So what is it then? What is this feeling I have that I just can’t seem to shake. So I thought “Troubled”? Why not check that one out also. Here’s what Dictionary.com has to say about “Troubled”:

: to disturb the mental calm and contentment of; worry; distress; agitate.

Hmmmmmm. “disturb the mental calm”. Yeah, that pretty much hits the nail on the head for how I’m feeling. But only because I can’t put a finger on the real feeling. Is it “sad”? Hmmmmm. What’s the Dictionary have to say about that one:

: affected by unhappiness or grief; sorrowful or mournful

Wait!!! There’s that word. You know, the one that’s haunted me for years. The one that everyone tells me will crush me one day. Bring me to my knees, unable to function. You know the one……”Grief”.

: keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret

Okay, well I can’t say that I have any regrets. But what is this word “keen”? And how does it apply to this definition? Keen:

: finely sharpened, as an edge; so shaped as to cut or pierce substances readily

It’s interesting really. I had never actually looked at the definition of Grief until I started writing this. But wow. “Keen mental suffering or distress”. Yeah, I think I can relate to that. But I think I would describe it a little differently. See, “mental suffering” doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what this is like. It’s tricky. It plays games with you. Just when you think you’ve got it licked, it jumps up and stabs you again. Sometimes it’s a flesh wound, and you’re able to continue the battle. And other times it’s a near mortal wound requiring help. Sometimes your able to shake it off. And other times it leaves you curled up in a fetal position praying for the pain to go away. It’s not really anything that can be put into words. It has to be experienced, to be known. But one can always try, right? So let me see if I can do it. “Grief”:

: waking up in the morning…………alone
: standing in Church on Easter Sunday, watching as everyone around me is holding hands, have their arms around each other, heads leaning on shoulders, and realizing that you’re the only one who doesn’t have anyone
: leaving the office and wanting to call that one person to tell her about your day, and hear about hers, but not being able to
: searching the house for something that might possibly have her voice recorded on it so that you can hear her one more time.
: walking in the front door, and not getting a hug and kiss from her
: making dinner for 3
: seeing a family picture with 3, instead of 4
: seeing a family picture with 4, instead of 3
: hearing my kids tell me how much they miss Mommy
: watching a movie alone on the couch
: staying up till 12/1/2 o’clock in the morning, knowing you have to be up at 5/6 in the morning, but dreading the thought of going to bed alone……….again
: staying up late, and not hearing her call me to bed
: going to company meetings……….alone
: going anywhere……..alone
: wanting to feel the touch of her hand, the kiss from her lips, her gentle embrace, her head on my shoulder, her feet touching mine under the sheets, her head on my chest, my head on her lap, her hand in mine, my hand in hers, cuddling on the couch, cuddling in bed, sex (yeah, I said it)
: longing for the smell of her hair, her perfume
: not hearing the excitement in her voice when I call to say “I’m on my way home”
: not seeing the excitement in her eyes when I finally get home
: that first kiss in the morning, and the last kiss at night
: realizing just how much she did………and how much I haven’t done………and how much still needs to be done……..and how much time I DON’T have to do it.

I could go on. But I digress. Because even I can’t really put it into words. Because that’s MY grief. That’s MY “keen mental suffering”. This is my hell. And I wish I could tell you there’s a happy ending to this one. But the bottom line is, this sucks. There’s no way else to describe it. I miss my soul mate. My bride. The Mother of my children. The yin to my yang. My better half. My muse. My wife. My best friend. I feel like I’ve lost part of my life. And it SUCKS!!!!! And I just want her back.
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. Okay. My temper tantrum is over. I just needed to vent. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I love you all. And I’ll be okay. This just REALLY SUCKS sometimes.

The Ripple Effect – Part 1

So this week has been pretty taxing on me. Andrew has been in rare form, and really testing the boundaries of my sanity. It all started this past Sunday night when he announced that he didn’t want to go to school because he didn’t like it. Okay, nothing new or surprising there. However, he then proceeded to demonstrate how much he doesn’t like it over the course of the week. Trust me when I say that it hasn’t gone well. And it all blew up tonight and resulted in restrictions being implemented. A strong lecture. And the proverbial “shortening of the leash”. And no, he wasn’t happy about any of it.

After everything was said and done, I got the kids situated at their grandparents house and then went back home to prep for my Mens Bible Study. I love these times with my brothers in Christ. And I always feel great after our meetings. And tonight was no different. Except I did have some pretty incredible “ah ha moments” tonight. Let me explain………..

We were discussing our Bible Study topic “Stepping Up”. Tonights lesson was focused on determining at what point a boy becomes a man. I know, deep topic. Anyway, one of the men referenced a stone being dropped into a lake, and the ripple it caused that kept expanding outwards (can’t say what this had to do with the topic, but it hit me pretty good). The course of the conversation ultimately went down the road of “actions & consequences” (see “The Ripple Effect – Part 2). But I immediately thought about Andrew and how he has been pushing his limits and really testing my patience. And as I visualized that ripple moving outwards, I found myself stepping back a dimension or two and wondering if this frustration I felt towards Andrew, is how God feels towards me sometimes.

See, I keep telling Andrew the same thing over and over again. Wondering when he’s going to get it!! It’s so frustrating to watch him struggle with his decisions, and know that if he would just do what I tell him to do, everything would work out alright. And as our conversation continued I found myself wondering, “am I that different from Andrew in Gods eyes?”. How often does God sit there, look at me and say “if you would just do it the way I told you to, we wouldn’t be having this conversation”. This, of course, made me start thinking about my own spiritual age. Am I still a child when it comes to my faith? Drinking from a bottle? Or have I matured in my faith? Worked my way to a better understanding of who God is and what he want’s for me? I regret to say that I am not quite sure. I’d like to say that I am mature in my faith. But the cold reality is, I don’t always feel that way. And if I’m “still a boy” in my faith, when do I “become a man”?

Food for thought. I got no answers on this one. Except to say “thank you God, for your grace, and your forgiveness”.

Social Media……..A Love / Hate Relationship

Okay. So before I go too deep into this one…..let me just say, I HATE Social Media. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “But Steve, I always see you on Facebook”!? So, first off….no you don’t. Because I don’t really post a whole lot anymore. Second, you see me on Facebook, because I LOVE Social Media. I know. I’m crazy. So let me explain.

I think Facebook is great. It allows me to keep in touch with family members that live far away. It’s allowed me to reconnect with some REALLY awesome people (you know who you are ;-). It’s allowed me a glimpse into the lives of friends from LOOOOOONG ago. And to continue to build relationships with new friends. So yeah! I think Facebook is great. But it’s only one piece of this phenomenon we have come to know as “Social Media”.
So first, lets answer the question……”What is Social Media”. So, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Social Media as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content”. So let me sum this up for you. If you communicating with someone and they’re not standing in front of you (or reading a letter you snail mailed), then you’re probably communicating using some form of Social Media. Facebook. Twitter. eMail. Text. Phone. eHarmony. Match. Heck, even my FitBit has me logged into a virtual community. And that’s just to name some of the more common methods. So now you ask “Steve! What are you fussing about?”. Well, I guess this is where I get to the point. I’ve had an epiphany.
It all started when I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about how much I text. But before you judge! I’m on the phone ALL DAY LONG!!!! I hate the phone. I don’t want to be on it when I’m on it. Let alone pick it up voluntarily for……………pleasure. I mean really? Can I not convey the same thought through a quick text message? It’s really not that hard. Why do I have to pick up the phone? I mean, if you really want to talk to me, lets go get coffee and talk. Face to Face!! Why do I have to pick up the phone?!?!?!?!?!?! Okay. I’m done my tantrum. So, I’ve had this conversation, and then I get slapped in the back of the head with the sermon on Sunday. It’s all about relationships and how we build and develop them………..and how Social Media may (or may not) be helping.Ugh. Alright already!!! I get it!! It’s not always the best form of communication!! But NO!!! That wasn’t enough. You see, because Monday (as I was helping cook wings for dinner on the grill) when I snapped a pic of the wings grilling on the Weber and promptly shot it to my friend with the caption “Oh Yeah.”, the thought came to my mind……”wouldn’t it be nice to hear her reaction when I describe to them the smell of the grill, the sound of the chicken wings sizzling, the popping of the charcoal, and the mouth watering taste as I chowed down on the home cooked deliciousness”? Oh yeah!! And it would be one more thing to talk about on the phone or in person!! Yeah!! So when the conversation starts to fade, but you still want to talk, you could bring it up! But NOOOOO. You had to snap that picture and send it right away!! Okay, so I recognize that last one was a bit silly. But!! That’s what we would have done years ago before we could text, right? And then there was this morning. I had a parent/teacher conference with Andrews teacher. It was the first one since I met her at the beginning of the school year. Now don’t get me wrong. We communicate. Through email and something called “Class Dojo”. But this was the first face to face meeting…….and it was at MY request. Now at this time I’m thinking…..’you know, his teacher last year cared so much more about Andrew. She was ALWAYS asking for input on how she could help Andrew. I was ALWAYS meeting with her…..at HER request”. And it wasn’t until I sat in front of Andrews teacher this morning that I realized, “wait, she does care”. The difference was, we communicate via a different method. And that’s when it really hit me. The epiphany. Social Media is evil!!!!! Okay, not quite. But I get it now.
There’s one thing that Social Media just can’t do. No matter how many emoticons you put in a message. How many words you spell in ALL CAPS. Or how many exclamation points you put after a sentence. It doesn’t matter. You still can’t get the true feeling of what someone else is feeling unless you are standing Face to Face with them, seeing the look on their face or able to hear the tone of their voice. It’s just not possible. And it’s been proven in studies that I quote all the time at work, and yet I only just now get it. That 93% of our daily communication is NON-VERBAL!!!!! NINETY THREE PERCENT!!!!!!! 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). It’s no wonder everyone feels so misunderstood. We’re only communicating 7% of what we want to say to each other!! Maybe, just maybe, if we all put down our cell phones, tablets, computers, iPods, nose pods, your pods, my pods, whatever pods, we could get down to communicating properly, and make some progress fixing some of the messes we’ve gotten ourselves into. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just a crazy man with a REALLY thick skull who just rambled for an hour about an idea that only just now makes sense, that’s been preached around the world for how long now? Just sayin. I can be pretty thick sometimes.
In conclusion, I will answer my previous question. NO!!!!! I can NOT convey the same thought through a simple text message. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been misunderstood because of a text message that wasn’t worded properly. A message that would have had at least an additional 38% chance of being interpreted correctly had it been given verbally. My point? Okay, so you can’t always talk face to face. I get it. But let’s face it. Long distance rates are at an all time low………FREE!!!!! Pick up the darn phone and call someone. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone and let them hear your voice. Let them know you care enough to take a little time to make sure they hear you correctly. You never know. You might just learn to like it. I know I did. 🙂

Words

My dearest Christina,
It always happens at the oddest moments. Something happens. Somebody say’s something. And all of a sudden, we’re reduced to tears. Sometimes it’s me. Sometimes it’s the kids. Sometimes it’s all of us at the same time (THOSE are fun times). 😉 And while we all grieve in our own way, nothing breaks my heart more than to see the kids grieve. It’s an indescribable pain. And sometimes, it hits when I’m feeling my own grief. And it’s at these times that I feel at a loss. For example………….

I was out in the field for most of the day today with my new agent Jane (changing the names to protect the innocent). We met up for our first appointment on I-Drive. Since we had a few other appointments, we left my car in a parking garage, and I let her drive (she knew where she was going). Our last appointment was at the home of a really nice couple. The only down side…….they had 1 cat, 3 kittens, and a dog. A very, VERY hyper dog. As you can imagine, within about half an hour, I was starting to feel the effects of the animals. My chest started to get heavy, and I was finding it increasingly hard to breath. Fortunately, we didn’t stay long. Since we were so close to my house, I asked Jane to take me home so that I could get/use my inhaler. While I was home, I snatched up the kids, and we all went to get my car. On the way back to I-Drive, we all decided that it would be fun to go get something to eat, whether it be dinner or dessert. We opted for Carrabba’s, but somehow found ourselves in Outback. Still not sure how that happened. This is where the fun started.

We were seated quickly, and our waiter (who was absolutely fabulous) arrived shortly after. At one point, our waiter addressed me and referred to Jane as “your wife”. After he left, I mentioned it to see if anyone else picked up on it. None of them had. It happened a couple more times throughout our meal. I didn’t think too much of it. It was an honest, and innocent mistake. He didn’t know any better. I mean, let’s face it. Anyone of us would have made the same mistake. No sense really in making him feel embarrassed by pointing out the mistake, right? After about the second time, I started to feel that “tug” at my heart strings. And I realized……I really miss hearing that. It’s really interesting what gets me sometimes. And of all the things to get worked up about. Missing hearing someone say “your wife”. I hadn’t heard those words used with me for so long. And as I sit here typing this, the meaning of those two little words just really hit home for me. You were “my wife”. I was “your husband”. We chose each other to spend the rest of our lives with. You wanted me. And I wanted you. It’s one of the things that made being married to you so awesome. Knowing that no matter what happened, I could always come home to you……and you would always be glad to see me. It’s interesting to sometimes to realize the things that we miss. Something as simple as hearing the words “your wife”. Yeah. I had a bit of a moment. A moment that was short lived.

The last time our waiter slipped up, he addressed the kids referring to Jane as “mom”. I saw immediately in Alexys face, that one hit home for her. I could tell she was trying not to let it bother her. But then the anxiety symptoms kicked in. And as I tried to talk her through it, I could see the tears starting to well up in her eyes. At this point I decided that the waiter needed to be corrected. Fortunately for all of us, he didn’t make the mistake again. But the damage was already done. I had Andrew switch places with Alexys, put my arm around her, and try to comfort her as much as possible. And as we sat there, I couldn’t help but think that she must have felt something similar to what I felt. It’s been two years since anyone has used that name like that with either of the kids. And like me, Alexys probably hadn’t realized just how much she missed hearing that. I know how I felt. I can’t even begin to imagine how it made her feel.

There’s an old saying that goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. And while I understand what this is intended to do, and I agree with that intent. It does tend to undermine the fact that words are important. It’s our words that communicate things like love, compassion, trust, empathy, excitement. But I also think that the lack of words can sometimes have an even more profound effect on us. We may not realize it at the time. But eventually we will hear a word used, and realize just how much it meant to us to be able to hear and use those words. So while I’ll echo the words of a childhood song “be careful little mouth what you say”, I would also say “be careful little mouth, what you DON’T say”. Because it’s those words we use all the time, and so take for granted, that we will miss the most when gone. So use the words that build each other up. And don’t use the ones that tear each other down. Treasure those you love. And hang on every word they say. Because one day, you may find yourself realizing just how much you miss hearing those words.

Disclaimer: It’s almost 1am. I’ve been up since about 4:30am. Just throwing that out there in case it sounds like I’m talking crazy talk. 😛

Peace

My Dearest Christina,

Wow!! What a great night. I continue to enjoy the Grief Share classes I have been attending. Tonights class specific topic didn’t really apply to me per se. But the direction the discussion took totally did. I continue to be amazed at some of the realizations I have during these classes. So many times I hear something and think “yes! that’s totally how I feel!”. Or I just have a realization that what I’m feeling is okay, or right. It’s really been a great experience.
Tonights epiphany was a pretty cool one. I’ve gone the last couple years wondering when I would have my “meltdown”. You know, that moment when I finally crash into a valley of self pity. Unable to function. Questioning EVERYTHING!! I have been told several times by several people that “it will happen. It’s part of the grieving process.”. Apparently, I’ve been so strong for everyone else during this whole season, that at some point I would have to crash. It’s the rule. And while I won’t deny having my moments (to be honest, they happen all the time), I just cannot see myself “melting down”. But if it’s “the rule”, why am I not having mine? And there it is. The big question.
One of the best parts of Grief Share is that it dispelled the myth of “steps of grieving”. I’ve never really thought about it much. But I’ve always been taught (and have taught) that there are 7 steps of grieving……Shock & Denial – Pain & Guilt – Anger & Bargaining – Depression/Reflection/Loneliness – The upward turn – Reconstruction & Working through – Acceptance & Hope. And while I certainly feel that there are some that will experience all of these feelings, I officially don’t believe that EVERYONE will go through ALL of them. The reality is, we all experience grief in a different way. And while we may all share a similar journey. Our journeys are all unique. And the even bigger question then being…….where am I in my journey?
In our discussions tonight, one of the other attendees started expressing similar feelings to mine. So I began listening pretty intently (not that I wasn’t listening, but, you understand……I hope). And that’s when I heard the comment that turned on my light bulb. She said that while it still hurts, she is at peace. I thought “yes! I think that’s me!”. But of course, I can’t just jump on the bandwagon. I had to go to my trusty Merriam Webster App and look up the definition of “Peace”. It’s pretty extensive. But there is a part that resonated with me……..
                         “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions”
Yeah. I think it’s safe to say that sums up the status of my journey at the moment. Don’t get me wrong. This sucks. BAD. I miss you SO much. But………..I’m at peace. Life is still good. And God is GREAT!! But then, you know that first hand. 😉
I love you Precious. Can’t wait to see you again. XOXOXOXO
~If my heart had wings~
Stephen