February 29, 2012

AFTER THE POST II: Book's Questions
and Insight Deserve to be Mentioned Again

For a book I recommended people NOT to purchase, I keep referring back to it. (Good thing I haven't taken my copy of "How Do You Kill 11 Million People?" back to the library yet.)

There were a couple insightful comments made by the author, Andy Andrews, that I can't shake. They are in my brain and splintering off in a countless number of directions.

I wanted to share.

Andrews writes: "....there are currently 545 human beings who are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for every problem America faces: one president, nine Supreme Court justices, 100 senators and 435 members of the House Representatives."

Then he asks this question: "Have you ever noticed that if any one of us lies to them, it is a felony? But if any one of them lies to us, it is considered politics."

Hmmmmm.......

The other point that stuck with me was his breakdown of the world's greatest civilizations, which average around 200 years.

Andrews writes: "Why do these civilizations all seem to follow the same identifiable sequence – from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and finally from dependence back into bondage."

His questions: "What is our nation's course? Do you believe that one can determine a probable destination by examining the direction in which one is traveling? If so, where are we headed."

To understand the context of Andrews’ insight, I wanted to remind you about the basic premise of his New York Times Bestseller:

• The book puts an emphasis on World War II and the holocaust;

• Andrews firmly believes "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;"

• He expresses concern about where United States is headed – without calling out a specific leader and/or particular political party;

• He doesn’t say that the U.S. WILL be the site of the next holocaust, BUT he said that it COULD be;

• He attacks the integrity of leadership in this country;

• He points to the apathy of the American people,

• And he challenges Americans to get educated, engaged AND vote.

To read my original blog post about this book, click here.

February 28, 2012

GAME ON: I'm Ready to Give Back in Unique Way,
While Putting Other People's Dreams in Spotlight

On January 24, I decided to “adopt” six people and help them mark something off their life lists. I simply wanted to give back in a new and different way, writing about the experience along the way. (Original post)

Well, I’ve chosen six people AND I’ve identified something on their lists that I feel like I can help them accomplish.

Some of these people had a Bucket List (big-ticket items they want to accomplish before they die), while others had a list of life’s simple pleasures they wanted to embrace sooner than later.

It didn’t matter to me – I just wanted to help them accomplish something that was significant to them.

NOTE: It was important to me that “helping” didn’t revolve around monetary support. Example:

LIST MAKER: “Buy a new house”

ME: “Here is a check for $300,000”

I wanted to focus on the skill sets that I could bring to the table, my connections and/or my ability to take their excuses and flush ’em down the metaphorical toilet. (Besides, I’m unemployed and poor.)

It has taken me almost a month to take the next step, because I’m being extremely deliberate in mapping out the process. I want to be able to re-create this over and over and over again.

Why?

Because I firmly believe this could turn into a global movement – encouraging people to temporarily take the emphasis off themselves and help someone else. Like I mentioned before, I feel like this is a completely unique way of giving back.

I'll explain.....

Feeding the homeless at the shelter and mentoring at-risk kids is important, but so is putting an emphasis on someone else’s hopes and dreams.

While people sleeping on the streets is tragic, so is seeing people going through the motions and not truly living life. While it’s heartbreaking to realize there are hungry and sick people in the world, it’s just as sad to see people living in a haze of complacency and excuses.

My goal for this project is four-fold:

• Help pull people out of their ruts (before they end up in a ditch);

• Inspire others to live boldly;

• Reinforce the importance of taking the emphasis off yourself and helping others,

• And motivate people to pay it forward.

I will accomplish all of this by putting God front and center (yeah, I said it).

<<<

When I created my 101 List, I decided to dedicate it to God. I wanted to treat it like a gigantic thank you note to Him for allowing me to truly live an adventurous and amazing life.

This “adoption” project is another chapter in that thank you note. It’s about making my faith come to life.

In a recent sermon at church, the pastor stressed the importance of not just “talking at people about Jesus and the promise of God.” He encouraged members of the congregation to let their actions do the talking.

The sermon notes stated: “The way we live will show others that what we believe has life.”

Through this project, I want to inspire others to adopt this same mentality: A gigantic thank you note to God and a road map to truly live an adventurous and amazing life.

It all revolves around love and gratitude – the two things that have the power to change the world.

So....GAME ON!

It’s my pleasure to introduce three of the wonderfully great people who agreed to help me launch this project. (I’ll introduce the other three in a future post.)

I wanted to share a little about them, the task I’ve chosen to help them accomplish and their insight on this wild and crazy idea.

Jason Smith
Jason is a local business associate of mine that has become a friend over the last couple/few years. He has an entrepreneurial spirit and refuses to stop looking until he finds what he’s looking for in life. (I think that’s why we’ve become fast friends.)

He’s a TCU graduate (Go Frogs!) and he was born without a right hand. The ONLY reason I bring this up is because Jason wants to meet Jim Abbott, the former baseball player (right) who overcame the same disability to pitch in the Major Leagues.

I told Jason, who played baseball at TCU, that I’m going to use my contacts and resources to make this happen. I also told him that I think this has the potential to be a wonderfully great story.

When asked about where he’s at in life, Jason said: “Confused.”

“I’ve had some great accomplishments,” he explained, “but am without a clear direction for my career.” He hopes this endeavor helps him gain some insight on what he’s supposed to do next.

“I’ll also have a cool story to tell,” he added.

GAME ON!


Paige Rodges
Paige and I met each other when we worked together at J.O. Design. Confession: We worked together for almost 6 months before I realized how much of a kick-ass all-star she is. Smart. Funny. Tremendous perspective. Need a writer? This girl is quick, sharp and on-point. Everything she writes makes me laugh – EVERYTHING! (I’ve NEVER expressed that about ANYONE.)

I knew I had to “adopt” Paige based on her answer to this question: Are you an optimistic person?

I’ll paraphrase her answer: “Glass half full...BUT glass breaks...blood...hospital...doctor tells you that you have cancer...death.”

Wow!

Optimism, realism and tragedy collide in the same metaphor. (That’s hard to accomplish...unless you have a creative mind that is spinning out of the control like hers.)

The task I want to help Paige accomplish is easy: Take her husband, Barry, on a date to a dueling piano bar.

How am I going to help her accomplish this? That’s still a secret, but it’s super simple. (Reminder: Excuses. Flush. Metaphorical toilet.)

When asked to characterize this off-the-wall endeavor, she explained where she is at in life: “I’m trying to deconstruct and rebuild my outlook,” she said.

Then she quoted the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. She described the premise of the book by saying: "Set backs beat you down, and you have to regroup and decide to write a new story for yourself.”

GAME ON!


Will Berend
Will and I went to college together. We lived across the hall from each other in the dorms and were fraternity brothers. After all these years, we’ve kept in touch, even though he’s lived in Minnesota for almost 10 years.

I think we have the power of social media to thank for that.

Will and I are a lot alike. He recently sent out this update to family and friends – see if it sounds familiar:
“I wanted to send an update about my business Open Door Consulting. Due to several circumstances Anna and I have made the decision that it is time for me to look for a job. Please know that this is not a failure as the past year has gotten me ready for a new career and has provided the opportunity to make many valuable connections. I certainly was striving to make Open Door Consulting a serious contender in the social media consulting market, but the time has come for me to return my focus on finding a job to help provide more stability in our lives.”
Will lives boldly. I applaud that and love that about him.

I also love the fact that he’s embracing this opportunity with both arms.

“Some times I need a push and someone outside of my every day life to help provide a little more drive to do something different,” he explained. “On top of that, the last year has been a very interesting one for my family. We've learned that we must follow what makes us happiest. It's not always easy to do, but I'm going to take advantage of any opportunity that I’m presented.”

I’m actually going to help Will
cross two tasks off his life list:

• Go on a vacation with his wife alone

• Take his wife to New York City for the holidays

My wife and I are going to babysit his sons next December so they can jet off to New York. We’re also going to utilize some airline passes that my wife has to get them there.

Easy and doable, but potentially very impactful. (Again, just helping remove excuses.)

Will’s response to our offer reminded me of the potential power of this project. He said: “First of all, we accept. I can't believe what you're offering and I'm very thankful for how thoughtful you all are. I never expected this. THANK YOU!”

GAME ON!




February 27, 2012

AFTER THE POST: Perspective Makes This Book
a MUST Buy, a MUST Read and a MUST Share

In a post last week, I referenced the New York Times Bestseller "How Do You Kill 11 Million People?" by Andy Andrews.

I was thrilled when Mr. Andrews – or a member of Mr. Andrews' team – reached out me on Twitter. He said he liked the post – despite the fact I told people NOT to buy the book.
(I simply suggested checking it out of from the local public library instead.)

He had a sense of humor about it,
adding a friendly "Ha!" in the Tweet.

The ironic part: The exact same day I received the Tweet, I finished ANOTHER book by Andrews – "The Noticer".

This wonderfully great book IS a "buyer." (Not to mention a "sharer.")

"The Noticer" is an easy read that is profound, thought-provoking and inspirational. The theme of the book revolves around its subtitle: "Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective."

GREATNESS!

Andrews' web site, The Noticer Project – which deserves its own blog post – describes the book perfectly:

"Based on a remarkable true story, The Noticer beautifully blends fiction, allegory, and inspiration. It provides simple, yet powerful distinctions about love, relationships, value and integrity and will inspire readers to take that first step towards a major life change."

I'm not sure why I'm just now being introduced to Mr. Andrews' fabulous books, but I've already started No. 3: "The Traveler's Gift." (Sorry Mr. Andrews...I got it from the library.)

I'll keep you posted.

The Worst Thing to Fear: Failure


We put so much emphasis on winning that if failure is even a remote possibility, some people won’t even try.

Tragic.

I wanted to share a tremendous illustration of that heartbreaking mind-set. I was introduced to this story at church a couple weeks ago. While the example of God's love is powerful, I think this story can be told without any religious undertones.

This distressing story revolves around people selling themsleves short and being paralyzed by failure:

You Already Have an 'A'

Robin found herself in a very difficult English Literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of. She sat there on her first day and thought, “If I don’t transfer out of this class, I’m going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me. I can’t do this.” She came home and with tears in her eyes begged her dad to help her get out of the class so she could take a regular English course.

Her dad said, “Of course.”

So the next day, he took her down to the school and went to the head of the English department. The dad’s account:
She (the head of the English department) looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter and could tell that Robin was about to cry. I said, “I’m here to get my daughter out of that English class. It’s too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she’s too conscientious. So, can you put her into a regular English class?”

The teacher said, “Mr. Brown, I understand.” Then she asked, “Can I talk to Robin for a minute?”

She said, “Robin, I know how you feel. What if I promised you and 'A' no matter what you did in the class? If I gave you an 'A' before you even started, would you be willing to take the class?”

My daughter is not dumb! She started sniffling and said, “Well, I think I could do that.” The teacher said, “I’m going to give you an A in the class. You already have an A, so you can go to class.”
Later the teacher explained to Robin’s father what she had done. She explained how she took away the threat of a bad grade so that Robin could learn English.

Robin ended up making straight A's on her own in that class.

– – –

I often refer to Max Lucado's wonderfully great stance on fear. I thought it would be appropriate to share again:

"Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors."

February 24, 2012

Follow the Leader? Only If They're Qualified

When you write a book entitled “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” people are going to take notice.

I sure as hell did.

I was out on a run earlier this week, listening to the Dave Ramsey radio broadcast
(great way to kill two birds with one stone – staying in shape physically AND financially.) Author Andy Andrews was a guest on the show, pimping his new book, “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?”

The book’s title obviously got my attention, but it’s something Andrews said during the interview that made me tuck my lips, nod my head and say: “Wow...he nailed it!”

To understand the context of Andrews’ statement,
you have to know the basic premise of his
New York Times Bestseller:

• The book puts an emphasis on World War II and the holocaust;

• Andrews firmly believes "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;"

• He expresses concern about where United States is headed – without calling out a specific leader and/or particular political party;

• He doesn’t say that the U.S.
WILL be the site of the next holocaust, BUT he said that it COULD be;

• He attacks the integrity of leadership in this country;

• He points to the apathy of the American people;

• He challenges Americans to get educated, engaged AND vote;

So how DO you kill 11 million people?

Andrews: “You lie to them.”

It’s an interesting book, a 20-minute read – short, sweet and to the point.
(It’s such a quick read, I wouldn’t recommend buying it. Just check it out from your local library.)

Back to Andrews’ comment on The Dave Ramsey Show...he said:

“The question is not ‘who is going to lead us.’ The question is ‘what are our standards for being led.’ "

Tuck lips.

Nod.

“Nailed. It.”

Andrews was specifically talking about government and elected officials, but I quickly applied his rhetorical question to ANY leadership position – a boss, a coach, a teacher, a preacher, etc.

It didn’t take me long to realize that’s what I’ve been missing recently in my professional life – solid leadership.

Have I worked for good leaders? Absolutely. I’ve actually worked for GREAT leaders.

But I’ve also worked for some poor leaders. (They were simply “managers” with a fancy title.)

I wanted to share a letter I wrote to one of my former employers before I left and moved on to another opportunity (reminder 11 jobs in 11 years). I’ve removed all the names from the letter, and it was important to me that I didn’t identify the company/organization. (He or she knows if they're my muse for this blog post, because they received a copy of this letter on my last day.)

The only reason I want to share this letter is because Andrews’ question is powerful:

What are our standards for being led?

Mine are high and will always be high. That's why I refuse to stay in a bad situation. I guess I’m hoping this letter inspires you to take action:

• If you’re in a position to lead...THEN DO IT!

• If you’re in a position to follow...make sure you’re being led by the right people and hold those leaders to the highest standards.

Dear (name removed),

I just want to thank you for this tremendous opportunity – to briefly be a part of your incredible vision.

Even though this business relationship did not work out, I hope you know how much I believe in what you are trying to do. I’ve said this to MANY people (family, friends, random people in the community): I definitely drank the “Kool-aid” and was ready and willing to help take you where you wanted to go.

What happened?

I simply wanted to be a legitimate part of the team. I thought my experience and skill sets could truly help you accomplish your goals. After several conversations over the last two months, I realized that you were unable to facilitate that need/desire.

You asked me on several occasions to be a “team player” – pick up the slack where necessary. And even though I was hired to tell your story in the role of marketing and communications, I was willing to adjust on the move since I believed in what you were doing.

The most recent request – splitting my time and energy in other departments – definitely caught me off guard. However, my decision to be proactive with an “exit strategy” had nothing to do with the request and everything to do with how it was handled.

From my initial meeting, to my earnest request to be a more integral part of the team, I was disappointed. But my biggest frustration came when we were discussing the details of my new role within the company. The fact that my meeting was scheduled at the exact same time as a singing birthday telegram was unprofessional and disrespectful.

It was a complete and utter joke.

I tried to push it aside. I tried to let it go. I couldn’t.

BUT with all that in the rearview mirror, my sit-down meeting with you this morning was going to be the determining factor. You only gave me 10 minutes and that was enough time to make me realize that this wasn’t going to work out.

I wish you the best of luck. You ARE going to do wonderfully great things. I encourage you to be flexible with the “structure” of your company and focus on the strategy and the people. Those two things will take you where you want to go.

Please don’t ever forget where you came from and who you are – never, never try to be someone or something you’re not.

Thanks again,

Drew

___________________________________

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, CHECK THESE OUT:

February 22, 2012

En-Listed Opportunity Turns Into
Life-Changing Experience for Two Runners

I’m starting to fall in love with the idea of helping people mark things off their life list. It’s taking everything narcissistic about creating a Bucket List – “me, me, me” – and turning it upside down – “you, you, you.”

It’s temporarily taking yourself out of the spotlight and helping someone else reach their hopes and dreams. It’s a completely unique and different way of giving back.

I love it!

I’ve shared this concept with several people, and I’ve gotten a fantastic response. The best yet came in the form of a text message I received last week from my friend, Mike. It said:

“In the spirit of helping people mark things off their list – going to Austin this weekend to run the marathon with a buddy’s visually impaired son. Pretty stoked.”

LOVE. IT.

Mike was asked to run with the young man after someone else had a last-minute conflict. Since he’s a running machine, Mike was able to knock out 26.2 miles on a whim.

That’s what I love the most about helping list makers – it’s an opportunity to use one of your skill sets and/or utilize your network base to assist someone. (It’s not about just bank rolling someone’s dream.)

That’s why I think this concept is so powerful.

Mike is a runner – an ultra-marathoner, to be completely fair and accurate – and he helped a 16-year-old young man who simply wanted to run.

For Mike it was a training run. For Brett Matlock it was a dream come true.

When I asked Mike about the experience, he said:
“The best part was doing a race that was not about me, which was something that I hadn't expected or experienced before. The joy on Brett's face through the whole race was an awesome reminder that it's important to enjoy the whole experience, and it's not just about the finish line.”
I don’t know Brett Matlock, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he’s a remarkable young man. He is the reason that this good story is wonderfully great!

And it’s not because he’s legally blind. It’s because he refuses to make any excuses AND his outlook on life is beyond his years.
(The only thing that kept Brett from running a marathon before last weekend was the age restriction. He told Mike that he’d been waiting for this for 3 years. )

Brett never used his limited eyesight as an excuse when it was time to do his training runs – even the 15-milers he ran on a treadmill.

He never used his disability as an excuse when he was running the five half marathons before turning 16.

During an interview on an Austin news station, Brett offered some stoic advice: "Follow your dreams. Don't let anyone tell you you're crazy. Do what you want to do and just try your best at everything you do, no matter what it is."

Brett’s “best” is pretty impressive. He finished the marathon in 4 hours and 21 minutes, pacing right at 10 minutes per mile. He hit the metaphorical wall at Mile 25, but he pushed through.

He was ready for that moment, though, because this is what he told the news station prior to the race:

"I just say you have to push through the pain to obtain your goals...when someone feels pain whenever they're running, I say, 'Just block it out. Just go out there and do it again.' Pain ends and pride is forever."

Brett
should be proud.

So should Mike.

Congratulations to both you guys!

___________________________________

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST, CHECK THESE OUT:

A Gift That Keeps on Giving
(story about Mike and his son's first birthday)


February 20, 2012

Music to My Ears: Social Experiment
Provides Eye-Opening Perspective

The “stunt” was simple, but brilliant: Arrange for one of the world’s greatest musicians to play in a public place, during an inconvenient time, and see what happens.

The results of this social experiment were profound
AND eye-opening for me.

I’m not exactly sure how or why this 2007 Washington Post article recently re-surfaced, and I’m not sure how or why it grabbed my attention.

I stumbled upon it on my Facebook News Feed last week. (I’ve actually seen it posted a couple/few times since then.) The first post I saw teetered on the edge of uninteresting and pointless. It was a grainy surveillance camera photo (below) and the accompanying text read: “A man sat at a metro station...”


I wish I could say that my “friend” sold it with his supplemental comment, but all he wrote was: “This is so awesome. Please take a moment to read.”

For some baffling reason, I followed my friend's passive call to action.

And I’m glad I did. It was awesome!

There was one poignant question – buried right in the middle of the 7,353-word article –that summed up the greatness of this experiment and the powerfulness of the editorial:
“If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that – then what else are we missing?”
The musician was Joshua Bell, and he played for 43 minutes in the lobby of the Metro station in Washington D.C. Three days before the “stunt,” Bell – considered “one of the finest classical musicians in the world” – sold out Symphony Hall in Boston. According to the article, decent seats for that performance cost $100.

– – –

During morning rush hour in our nation’s capital, 1,097 people passed by Bell. The article explains:
“Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?”
The Washington Post wanted to see if beauty would transcend in an ordinary setting at an inconvenient time.

The results:

• Seven people stopped what they were doing and listened to the performance for at least a minute;

• Twenty-seven people gave money,

• And Bell collected $32.17 (“Yes, some people gave pennies.”).

That’s the humorous part of the story. (Humorous, like if Kobe Bryant got picked last in a neighborhood pick-up game.)

Unfortunately, I found some tragic parts that don’t go anywhere near funny or ironic. Again, I lean towards profound and eye-opening. I had to share these:

A Ghost Story

Since the experiment was videotaped, you’re able to watch Bell’s 43-minute performance. The Post issues a warning, though: It is extremely sad. (Even sped up and bundled in a 3-minute montage, it’s distressing.)

The author writes: “Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler’s movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience – unseen, unheard, otherworldly – that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost.”

Then the most profound phrase of the article is written: “Only then do you see it, Bell is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.”

WOW!

Bell expanded on this after watching the video. He said he understood why he didn't draw a crowd – it was rush hour, people were focused on getting somewhere. “I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t pay attention at all,” Bell said puzzled. “As if I’m invisible.”

It baffled him because: “I was makin’ A LOT of noise.”


What We Really Want

The second part of the story that I wanted to share wasn’t necessarily “tragic,” but it definitely slapped me across the face. It piggybacks on Bell’s comments above about being invisible.

In another part of the article, Bell explains that he had butterflies during the “stunt.” He said he was a little stressed. This was coming from a world-class musician who has packed concert halls and played in front of royalty across Europe.

Really?

Really.

“When you play for ticket-holders, you are already validated,” Bell explained. “I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence...”

Isn’t that what we ALL want? To be recognized? To be validated? To be noticed?

If your answer is “no” – then: You. Are. Lying.

Bell said it was an odd feeling being completely ignored.

Confession: That’s MY biggest fear of all-time, and I’m a long way from being world-class in anything.

This part of the article was a tremendous reminder that we’re all human beings with very similar wants and needs.

How many times can I use the adjectives profound and eye-opening?


Are You Kid-ding Me?

This is the part of the story that really got me. (It made me tuck my lips, shake my head and whisper "unbelievable.")

Every time a child walked past Bell in the Metro station that morning, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

The article shared a specific moment to drive this disturbing point home. It was about Sheron Parker and her 3-year-old son, Evan.

The article says: “You can see even clearly on the video. He’s the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.”

Evan’s mom, who said she was rushed for time, moved between her son and Bell– blocking her toddler’s line of sight. As they left the lobby, Evan can be seen “craning” to get a look at the world-class violinist.

WOW!

The article referenced poet Billy Collins, who once expressed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the mother’s heartbeat is in iambic meter. “Life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us,” Collins said. The article was implying that it may be true with music, too.

– – –

The article ends just like it started, very matter-of-factly. It definitely stirred something inside of me, though. I didn’t realize exactly what it was until I skimmed the editorial again in order to write this blog post.

It was the question
The Post writer asked: What else are we missing?

Those five words capture the essence of this “stunt.” It is what makes it impactful and relevant. It makes me want to start answering that rhetorical question and start doing something about it.

That “something” is simply opening my eyes and ears and paying attention to the little things.

Not to completely dumb this down, but the infamous quote from Ferris Bueller has stuck with me since I was introduced to Joshua Bell (pop culture meets classical music):

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I’m glad I didn’t miss this article.

February 16, 2012

Advice: Enjoy Every Minute of It –
Especially the 'Oatmeal Kisses'

EDITOR'S NOTE: To celebrate my son turning 2 years old today, this is the last post in a four-part series describing my Crash-course initiation into Daddyhood. This blog post was originally posted on March 24, 2010.
– – –

I received a lot of guidance – some solicited and some forced on me – prior to Crash's arrival.

The best piece of advice that I received actually came from the sales clerk at Hallmark.

I was buying TK a Christmas gift – one of those Willowtree sculptures. I think the one I purchased was called, "Motherhood" or something apropos like that.

Anyway, it tipped off the sales clerk that we were expecting a baby.

CLERK: "Is this your first child?"

ME: "Yes. Why? Do I look terrified?"

CLERK: "Can I give you some advice?"

I had an internal wince and answered with a forced, "Sure."

I was waiting for the stereotypical "Get your sleep now" or "Enjoy every second of free time you have between now and then."

Then the sales clerk shocked me with some of the most thoughtful guidance that I had received. She said: "It goes so fast...enjoy every minute of it."

She explained how her kids were already in junior high, and she was baffled by where the time had gone.

I remembered this profound advice the other night when my parents came over to eat dinner and see Crash. I told them that I had started this blog, and my dad (right) said the same thing as the sales clerk.

"Enjoy everything – even the crying," he said. "Because before you know it, they'll jump in their car and drive away forever."

As a son, his thoughtful remarks made me smile, but as a brand new dad it made me very sad.

My dad went on to tell me about an Erma Bombeck column he read right around the time I left for college. He said it pierced his heart and brought him to tears.

After some online research and a trip to the library, I finally found the column he was referring to. It centers around parenthood, kids growing up and empty nest syndrome.

Again...smiles and tears.

I HAD to share.

Thank you, Hallmark lady. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Erma.

"No More Oatmeal Kisses"
by Erma Bombeck

One of these days, you'll shout, "Why don't you kids grow up and act your age!"

And they will.

Or.

"You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do...and don't slam the door!

And they won't.

You'll straighten up the boys' bedroom neat and tidy: Bumper stickers discarded, bedspread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closet. Animals caged. And you'll say out loud, "Now I want it to stay this way."

And it will.

You'll prepare a prefect dinner with a salad that hasn't been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing, and you'll say, "Now, there's a meal for company."

And you'll eat it alone.

You'll say, "I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?"

And you'll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti. No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms. No more gate to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothes-pins under the sofa. No more playpens to arrange a room around.

No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathroom. No more iron-on patches, rubber bands for ponytails, tight boots, or wet knotted shoestrings.

Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby-sitter for New year's Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn't ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.

No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11 o'clock at night. Having your own roll of Scotch tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark. No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, "Why don't you grow up?" and the silence echoing, "I did."

February 15, 2012

A Boy's First Baseball Game:
The Infamous Tale of Concourse Joe

EDITOR'S NOTE: To celebrate my son turning 2 years old on Feb. 16, this is Part III of a four-part series describing my Crash-course initiation into daddyhood. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in one week, this is the PERFECT post to share. It was originally posted on June 6, 2010.

– – –

I've had more than one person say,
"I really hope Crash likes baseball."

My college roommate was the first person to plant this nightmarish seed of doubt in my head. He was admiring the Texas Rangers mural painted on the wall of Crash's nursery (right).

My response (in all seriousness): "I didn't know that was an option."

My friend tucked his lips, which created an unsure smirk, and shrugged his shoulders.

Me: "Crash will love baseball, right?

RIGHT?!?!?!

If Crash's first Rangers' game is any indication of his "love of the game," my buddy's rhetorical comment is actually valid.

Before I get into the details of this failed experiment at the Ballpark in Arlington, I will acknowledge that Crash might be a little too young for this kind of adventure. That became obvious when the 14th person said, "I never would have brought my infant to a game."

Our thought process: Since Crash loves being around people, loves being outside and has the ultimate baseball name, we thought this was going to be a wonderfully great exprience.

WRONG!
– – –

I really thought our biggest hurdles were cleared before we ever got inside the Ballpark.

We wanted to get to the game a little earlier than usual – we normally allow just enough time to grab a cold beer and sit down before first pitch. But I wanted Crash to experience it all – from the National Anthem to the Rangers taking the field for the first time.

I'm so glad we gave ourselves the "extra time" – we used it to haul the full set of luggage we brought with us to the game. (I've taken less bags on a week-long vacation.)

There were a couple other things that cut into our pre-game festivities:

• We made a couple trips back to the parking lot for things we forgot in the car (e.g. pacifier)

• We were stopped countless number of times by people who wanted to share their parenting beliefs. (Reminder: "I would have never brought my kid to a game that young!")

It was all good, though – we were going to the Rangers game, and we still had plenty of time before first pitch.

After single-handedly bottlenecking up the Bag Check line, we finally made it inside the stadium.

Again, I thought the biggest hurdles were cleared.

Instead of chasing down the Beer Guy – like previous trips to the Ballpark – we were on a mission to make Crash's first Rangers' game "official." I had heard rumors that kids could receive a certificate – signed by Nolan Ryan – to recognize this fantastic milestone. Two very sweet Ranger employees (below) hooked us up.

You could tell Crash was soaking it all in – so far, so good.

We still had a little time prior to first pitch, so we walked around the concourse. We were fishing for compliments on how cute Crash looked in his Rangers' gear and taking advantage of any and all photo opportunities.


After finding our seats, we ran into trouble, though. We quickly realized the noise and the heat of the June evening were going to be issues.

As soon as the Rangers' public address announcer (Chuck Morgan) said, "Your Texas Rangers!" – Crash was on edge. His sweaty little body was also a warning sign of things to come.

His mom was very sympathetic to his situation (wiping his face with a wet rag – not pictured).


In regards to the highly anticipated first pitch (mentioned several times already in this post because of its importance to ANY baseball game)...it was highlighted by TK giving Crash a bottle.


My thought process: "He'll be good to go after this, right? He'll be eating peanuts, keeping a box score, chasing after foul balls and trying to sneak a sip of my beer!"

BUT after his bottle, our 3 1/2-month old son turned into "Concourse Joe."

While sitting in the stuffy, warm seats – with the speakers blaring right behind us – Crash was miserable. BUT walking around the concourse, he was in heaven – he was still outside and there were still a lot of people. The only difference...in the concourse, Chuck Morgan wasn't shaking his baby brain.

HEAVEN!

Not necessarily for TK....

She will admit that taking care of "Concourse Joe" makes it hard to enjoy....ANYTHING. She would sit in the seats for five minutes at a time and then dash back to the concourse before he had a melt down. TK ate her hot dog and drank her only beer of the night while watching the game on closed circuit TV.

(Special thanks to her for letting me enjoy the game and visit with an old friend who went to the game with us.)

As the game went on, Crash became extremely restless. In the fifth inning, Team Myers went on a tour of the entire concourse – walking around the whole stadium.

Crash was already over it, though. He didn't enjoy this journey, which even included a stop by the "misty fans" (right).

Needless to say, the wheels were coming off.

Towards the end of our long walk, Crash actually started to fall asleep. We debated whether to return to the seats, knowing that him snoozing through "Now batting Michael Young!" was a long shot. (Actually, it would have scared the yellow poop out of him and turned him into a screaming banshee.)

We didn't want to give up on this experiment, though. This was his first Rangers' game DANG IT!

TK offered to walk him until he was sound sleep and then bring him back to the seats. She said, "If he starts crying again...we'll go home."

Defeat had already started to set in for me. I agreed.

We stayed for another half inning, but when TK removed Crash's socks and stuffed them in his ears – I heard the words of my college roommate as he stared at that mural in Crash's room:

"I really hope Crash likes baseball."

I turned to TK, smiled, and said, "Let's go."

– – –

Then it was time to write this blog post:

• Where do I start?

• What should I leave out?

• What part(s) should I poetically enhance (Remember the complete luggage set? Confession: We only had two bags.)

• How do you capture excitement AND disappointment?

My biggest issue: "How do I wrap this up in a nice, neat, poignant package?"

During a conversation with my neighbor – telling her the tale of "Concourse Joe" – she tied it all together for me.

Neighbor: "I bet he would like to watch the game in a suite."

YES!

It made complete sense: Crash wasn't upset by the crack of the bat, the smell of fresh cut grass or the cheering crowd. He wasn't pissed off because of the excitement in the air or the grace of the game.

He wasn't upset that the Rangers can't hit with men in scoring position. (This might be a stretch...)

Crash was hot and the speakers made his baby brain rattle – that's it.

Those two things can be fixed in snap – his dad needs to find some rich friends who have a suite.

"Anything for you, Concourse Joe."

February 14, 2012

We Love Signing Off:
3 Simple Letters, 1 Powerful Message

EDITOR'S NOTE: To celebrate my son turning 2 years old on Feb. 16, this is Part II of a four-part series describing my Crash-course initiation into daddyhood. This is a PERFECT post to share on Valentine's Day. This post was originally published on April 4, 2010.
– – –

Before TK and I knew we were having a boy, we were prepared like most parents-to-be. We had a girl's name AND a boy's name picked out for our little "space peanut."

The girl's name we decided on was Ily (pronounced eye-lee).

We loved it because it was unique, but the story and meaning behind Ily made it wonderfully great.

Every time my mom closes a letter, e-mail or text message, she writes "ILY" for I love you.

"Call your grandmother. ILY, Mom"

"Dinner Thursday night? ILY, Mom"

"I need computer help! ILY, Mom"

The name was perfect! Three simple letters but very powerful in so many ways.

But God had other plans. He gave Ily a penis and blessed us with a beautiful little boy.

Most people know our precious angel as Crash, but his given name is Truett Greer Myers.

So now – when TK and I close an e-mail, text, or note now – we write "TGM"...for I love you.

"Can you pick up the dry cleaning? TGM, Drew"

"On my way home. TGM, Tanya"

"Kiss my boy for me! TGM, Drew"

As I've expressed countless number of times since Crash was born – he
is the essence of love.

He represents God's love.

He represents the love between me and TK.

Every time we sign off with "TGM" it reminds us of that.

Parent On!

February 13, 2012

My Crash-course in Daddyhood Started 2 Years Ago

My son turns 2 years old on Feb. 16.

WOW!

I thought I would celebrate our voyage into the "Terrible Twos" by revisiting several blog posts that I wrote since his birth. (That little sucker was a tremendous source of fodder right out of the womb.)

This is the first of four blog posts in four days describing my Crash-course initiation into daddyhood.

This four-part series is dedicated to all our wonderfully great family and friends who have provided love, prayers and support over the last two years. It takes a village to raise a child, and our “village” is nothing short of incredible. Thank you!

– – –

There are some blog posts that simply write themselves – the content is so compelling and/or poignant and/or humorous that you simply let your fingers go crazy and hope your brain doesn’t screw anything up.

This should be one of those posts,
because...

I’m proud to introduce my first-born son – Crash Myers – to “the world.”

(I’m putting an emphasis on “should write itself,” because my sleep-deprived brain is working at the same capacity as a bowl of instant oatmeal.)

Right now, Crash is celebrating his 1-month birthday comfortably pressed against his mom’s chest, sucking the varnish off his vanilla-flavored pacifier, and counting down the minutes until he gets to enjoy the steak and baked potato that TK ate for dinner.

It’s so cool – not just the sweet scene described above – but EVERYTHING.

Here is an e-mail that I sent to several family members and friends right after he was born:

I just wanted to share this picture with you. (It was taken by our neighbor, Arlene.)

Update: Crash is a STUD and LOVES his mommy.
(I think it's the whole breast milk thing.)

You think you're ready for something like this, but as I was singing him to sleep after his morning feeding, I broke down a little
(in a good way). I don't mean to be over-dramatic and sappy, but this is the coolest thing EVER! How can people look at a baby and not believe in God and/or love?

Thanks for all of your support through this amazing adventure.

Love,

Drew

That incredible feeling – that hit me like a wave on Feb. 16th at 10:39 a.m. – has only gotten stronger.

Actually, this blog post is kind of difficult to write – because there are so many wonderfully great things to share.

To make it easy on my numb brain – I thought a logical place to start would be the delivery room.

There were several things that
really stood out to me:

• My wife was an all-star. I even asked her between pushes if she had done this before. They broke her water at 7:30 a.m. and Crash was stealing our heart before 11 o’clock.

TK rocked the pregnancy, crushed the delivery, and she could have received an honorary degree in lactation consulting. (“Are you sure you haven't done this before?”)

While we’re on the subject of my wife: She is the toughest, strongest, most wonderful woman that I know. She has such a huge heart – more than enough to love all her boys. Crash is a very lucky little man.

• I didn’t lose it, like I anticipated. I thought I was going to cry like...well....a baby. I didn’t. There were a few tears, but the confidence and clarity, that Crash instantly provided, dried me up.

• I’ve always been terrified to hold a baby under the age of 9 months old. Changing a diaper? Ha! Right! When Crash crashed into this world, I instantly became Super Dad. God flipped a switch in my brain, and I just started doing what ever was necessary to provide for my son. It goes back to clarity and confidence. It was awesome!

– – –

After Crash was born, he was catapulted into the middle of his first battle. His arch nemesis: Low blood sugar. This fight sent him to the NICU, but he came through like a warrior.

The experience really brought me and TK closer together, and I was so proud of my boy – but it was all the babies in the intensive care unit that stole my focus and attention.

My Facebook status after we were discharged: “WE'RE GOING HOME! Thank you for all of the prayers. I have one more request, though. Please pray for all the families who still have a baby in NICU – there are almost 40 at All Saints alone. I bet you even know someone living this horrible adventure right now.”

– – –

Since we pulled into the driveway as a family, it has been a “trying” and “educational” experience. Those both carry negative connotations, but it’s totally opposite. In a sick and twisted, former football coach kind of way – this is fun.

I love trying to figure it all out – what works best...can we tweak his schedule just little...what if we did this...how can we improve that.

What do we need to do
in order to "win" today?

The funny thing is: Even if Crash screams his head off for a couple of hours and signs off with an up-the-back blowout...it’s still so wonderfully great.

WIN!

Even though he doesn’t know me from Gus (our dog), I still love coming home and holding his perfect little hand and kissing his soft little cheek.

VICTORY!

Even if I'm forced to function on less than 3 hours sleep, it all fades away when Crash falls asleep on my chest during my quite time the next day.

CHAMPIONSHIP!

You know what...several people have encouraged me to write a regular blog and/or a book about being a dad.

They may be on to something.

This was the easiest blog post I’ve ever written.

February 12, 2012

Happy National Random Acts of Kindness Week!


Who knew!

Once I figured out this wasn't a bogus chain e-mail, I embraced the mission with both arms. I encourage everyone to take the emphasis off themselves periodically throughout the week. Who knows where a random act of kindness will take you.

Your daily call to action:







February 9, 2012

Question: Eat a Bowl of Crickets
OR Take a Long, Hard Look in the Mirror?

Someone recently told me: “You ask a lot of questions.”

I’m not sure if she meant the point-blank comment as a compliment, but that’s exactly how I took it.

“Thank you,” I replied with a smile. “What’s your favorite food?”

I think asking questions is an important part of life – it’s the only way you’re going to get answers. It’s the best way to obtain information. I also think it’s the only way to start and/or carry a conversation.

My family has always been “question askers.” We even had a book around the house when I was growing up, creatively entitled: “The Book of Questions.” (I’ve referenced it on this blog before – it was the source of some inquisitive gems: “Would you eat a bowl of crickets for $40,000?”)

Obviously, I’ve taken this practice to a championship level. (Reminder: “You ask a lot of questions.”)

But I feel like my question asking has evolved from the “What ifs” and “Would you rathers.” While I’ll still throw out these conversation starters from time to time – I’ve recently determined that the best questions are the ones we ask ourselves.

The champion of this self-induced interview: “Why am I doing this?”

This question cuts to the heart of the matter – especially when you point the barrel of the question gun to your forehead.

Whether it’s your career, a specific project or a random act of nothingness, answering this question honestly can put everything into perspective. Maybe it’s a project you’re working on around the house, a hobby and/or a blog you write occasionally.

“Why am I doing this?”

Maybe it’s something you do when no one is looking, a guilty-pleasure TV show that you watch every week and/or your chosen career path.

“Why am I doing this?”

In my idealistic world, I’d hope that everyone had an altruistic and/or inspiring answer – even if it’s nothing more than: “I love doing it” or “It makes me happy.”

Tragically, I’m convinced that many people don’t have a clue. They just do – whatever it is they do – over and over and over again without knowing why. They just continuously go through the motions.

The worst part: Instead of a little self-analysis from time to time – most people just gripe.

“I hate doing this!”

“I can’t wait until it’s over!”

“Damn, this sucks!”

Confession: I recently fell into this go-through-the-motions trap (and complained about it the whole time).

During a volunteer project gone-wrong, I put on my victim hat and started to bitch and moan. I was screaming from the rooftops:

“Woe is me!”

Here is the colorful story:

I was painting trashcans at a local community center all by myself. I hurriedly slung green paint on these rusted cans as the sun raced for the horizon. My hands were green and sticky from the oil-based paint, and my back ached. (I won’t even discuss the smell coming from the trashcans.) I knew I wasn’t going to finish before the sun went down...which meant a return trip on another day...which meant another day away from my family.

After a few curse words and head shakes, I asked myself with torment and angst: “Why the hell am I doing this?”

No answer.

After a little more green paint, and a couple passers-by inquiring if I was almost done, I asked myself the question again. This time there was a little less distress (and no foul language): “Why am I doing this?”

Then it happened: Darkness set in, my green paint looked black and I realized that I was used to the stale odor wafting from the cans. But more importantly, clarity slapped me across the face.

I stopped cold. Black...er....green paint dripped from my brush and on to my shoe.

In a very level-headed and intrigued manner, I asked myself the same question again – this time in a confident whisper: “Why am I doing this?”

When there was pain and agony behind the question – it was nothing more than rhetorical. The emotion overshadowed the question. But as the anguish subsided, the question became clear. More importantly, it sparked poignant follow-up questions:

“Do I want praise and recognition for painting these trash cans?”

“Am I trying to prove something to someone?”

“What am I getting out of this?”

I can’t say that I had any answers, but simply asking the questions without despair was refreshing. I started to see things more clearly, which started a domino-effect of questions that all centered around “why.”

Again, there was no grief or misery – I was calm, cool and cross-hair focused. If nothing more, I had sparked my internal curiosity.

“Why do I give back?”

“Why does it seem like I care more than other people?’

“Why do I think painting trash cans is impactful?”

No answers – just questions.

I said a short prayer as I packed up my supplies to head home: “God, I’m not 100 percent sure why I was out here painting these trash cans – but it must have been for a reason. I think I’m starting to see why. Thank you for this opportunity.”

I wish I could explain the clarity I’ve had since that moment.

Now, these questions of self-analysis come faster. They’re more poignant. And they are pointed directly at every facet of my life.

I feel rejuvenated and alive.

I wish I could put a pretty little bow on this blog post and write a poetic conclusion, but I can’t. This is almost like a mid-term status report.

What I DO know:
• This mentality helped me walk away from two bad professional situations – “Why am I putting myself through this every day?”

AND

• Asking the right questions has inspired me to utilize the gifts God has given me – “Why am I not writing on a regular basis?”

I’ve never felt this empowered, focused and driven.

Asking myself these difficult questions gives me direction.

So, I’ve decided to take this quest for answers and apply it to this blog (if I use God’s gift and no one is paying attention – what’s the point?). Questions I've asked myself:

“Why should people care about what I’m writing?”

“Why should people read my blog?”

The wonderfully great part, I’m starting to wrap my mind around the “whys” and coming up with strategic answers.

I’m so excited about what’s next.

The countdown is on...I’m about to start Defining Audacity.
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