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Choosing to be Grateful

We have the opportunity every morning and all throughout our day to determine or adjust our attitude. We can focus on the good things or we can think about the bad things in our life. The truth is the we all have plenty of each.

These 3 young men might look innocent in this picture, but they can be very competitive (especially with each other). They will compete for anything and exhaust every bit of my patience. It is very tough to maintain a good attitude and stay focused on everything that is amazing due to the constant high level of intensity. At times, it can be hard to recognize all of the greatness. Please understand that I am not complaining. I know I take them for granted, and when I do, I know it is my choice.

Today, I really want to share my gratitude for a few of the good things in my life. My wife, my kids, our family, our friends, all of the healthcare workers we work with, our neighbors, our coaches, and our teammates. This morning, I was reminded of what is important and the situation has helped me stay a little more focused on all of the good things.

This is my wife and our oldest son. She is a nurse and this morning she used her assessment and skills at our house. Our son was eating breakfast and started making a weird noise. She immediately identified that something was wrong and recognized that he was choking. He was unable to speak and became obviously scared. She quickly gave him the Heimlich maneuver (5 abdominal thrusts). I will spare you the details of what happened after the fifth thrust. I will let you know it was a positive, but disgusting outcome. I am so glad she was there at that moment.

I am glad Mariah is my partner. I savor the life we have created and prefer nothing else. No words or actions can adequately express my gratitude. My wife, our boys, and our life is priceless. I am not sure what I would do without them.

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Living a dream and protecting a promise

Reflecting on people that I have met in my life, I can think of two people that I know without a doubt are actually living out their dream. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I am surrounded by many happy people who love what they do. There is something different about the two people that come to my mind. They both live a with a satisfaction and joy that I don’t quite see in other people. Their energy seems to infect so many people in such a positive and inspirational manner. They seem to play a symphony they in such harmony with God and all of the world that is absolutely inspirational.

One of those individuals is a guy I have always admired and still admire for being a man of such great character and integrity. I met him in middle school and he always dreamed of being a fireman. Today, he is living his dream and it fascinates me.

The other person is someone I have known for a little over 15 years. I was pretty confident quickly after I met her that there was something very special about her. She was just finishing nursing school when I met her and from the time she was a little girl she dreamed of being a nurse. She has been living her dream ever since graduating and becoming a nurse. She is my beautiful, precious, and wonderful wife and she has not fallen short of her dream. She loves what she does every day.

Tomorrow, she will sets sail on a new part of her dream. She will begin studying for a Masters of Science in Nursing. She is excited and anxious to get started. She knows the path she is taking will not be easy, but she is not afraid. She knows the work will be hard at times, but she is prepared and ready for the challenge.

As she takes the first step on this part of the path in her journey and we begin to organize our family life, I am the one that is afraid. I am not afraid of her failing or struggling in the program. I am afraid of the impact this will have on our family. I am afraid that I will not have the patience, the knowledge, or the skills to carry more of the weight so she can focus. I am afraid I will let her down and get in the way of her dream. I am afraid I will fail her.

I have to stay focused on the promise I made almost 12 years ago. I made her a promise that I would never let her down and that I would always stand by her side. I certainly can’t let myself get in her way. I have to partner with her as she lives her dream. I have to partner with our boys to stay out of her way. The only action plan I know to take is to strap down my armor of God to help deflect any anxiety, fear, uncertainty, or negativity that may meddle with her passion and dream. She deserves to continue to live her dream. She deserves the same satisfaction and joy that I get by being married to her – the best partner I could have ever hoped for in my life.

So, Mariah I am putting on God’s armor along with Madden, Miles, and Max. Together we will stand on guard and protect your path so that nothing gets in your way.

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Is this his purpose?

I believe we all have a purpose and I believe that we are all here to help each other. I think Max may have found his purpose or his calling in life. Every time we leave our house, leave someone else’s house, come home to our house, or arrive at someone else’s house, Max likes to check the mail.

We have no idea why he started doing this. We can’t wven figure out why he keeps going to the mailbox when it is empty more times than not. He checks the mail all the time and for some reason he feels that mail may be delivered many times during one day even thiugh there is rarely anything in it.

The other day we were leaving my parent’s house and he ran outside ahead of us. We thought he was going to jump in the car first.  When I got to the car, he wasn’t in it and this is where I found him:

I was hoping that baseball would excite him like it did me when I was growing up, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to excite him as much as checking the mail. Whatever Max decides to do when he grows up, my only hope is that he is happy and enjoys the lifestyle he has chose.

I am not sure if it is possible for Max to do a ride-a-long with a mailman or not, but I do think he should be considered as someone’s next apprentice. To all the mailmen, keep it up because this is one little boy you are inspiring.

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Am I listening?

I have worked hard to try to be an avid listener. Several years ago, I met with a friend and shared with her that I wasn’t a good listener. I asked her to help me become a better listener. She was excited to help me. She even worked with me for a whille to get better at this important skill, but I am not sure how much I have improved. At one point, I thought about giving up and just accepting that I am not a good listener. Thankfully, I am not good at giving up and am still trying to get better at listening.

I was at a conference this week and attended a session about supporting others. The main focus of the discussion was listening. The speaker even asked the audience “Are you listening?” When I heard (I was actually listening) the question, I immediately thought I need to hear this and pay attention. 

Mariah reminds me all the time that I never listen. She may be right and I will say the boys motor mouths are sometimes just too much for my ears. As I sit here with the boys, Max just told me that “I never pay attention.” I have even been told by a colleague that she “wonders sometimes if I am even here.”  Surely, I am listening because I heard all of these things. The fact that I heard that has to demonstrate that I was listening, right?

We all know that there is active listening and passive listening. What Mariah and my colleague were both communicating to me was that they don’t feel that I am listening. I may be good at passively listening, but maybe I am not so good at actively listening. Furthermore, I worry that I haven’t honored my friends effort and I may have more work to do to be a better active listener. 

I really don’t think I am the best judge of myself since I am not the one trying to feel heard. Therefore, I need your input. I am going to ask a few questions and I need honest answers. I need the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so that I can really now if you are feeling heard by me. Here are the questions and your answers will help me know how well I am doing at being a good, active listener:

  1. How would you describe a good listener?
  2. Do you feel that I am a good listener?
  3. Do you feel heard when you talk to me?
  4. What can I do better so that you feel heard by me?
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A Pleasing Passport

I have to share that I am so pleased that Mariah has been accepted into the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner MSN program at Vanderbilt University. She is beyond ecstatic about this adventure and she deserves it more than anyone I know.

I remember meeting her in 2002 and she was working as a care partner at Vanderbilt. She was also working to finish her Bacheler of Science in Nursing from Austin Peay State University. I remember how hard she studied and worked to finish the program. I also remember her thinking that I was dreamy. Unfortunately over time, she has learned as I have shown her that I am anything but dreamy. 

I think it is important to know that she has realized  her dream against the odds. She has lived with me and my 3 mini-mes throughout her journey. We have not made it easy for her by any means. Can you imagine? 

Let me explain how she has had to overcome tremendous adversity. 

First, consider me. Enough said. I am nothing but difficult.

Second, let me share how Miles felt about her getting into the program. As you can see from his congratulation note, he has had no idea what she has been doing for the past 13 years. I would ask you how he could miss this, but I can be just as clueless so why would I have expected anything different.

    Third, let me share an example I experienced with Max today:

    • Me: Max, I love you
    • Max: Quit asking me that

    I am not sure why he thought my statement was a question or why he was so frustrated with my statement. The point is that we can be ruthless and this is what Mariah experiences from all four of her boys on a daily basis.

    Fourth, let me share one last instance with you.

    • Max: do I go to school tomorrow?
    • Me: No
    • Max: Uggggh! I want to go to school tomorrow.

    This came from the little boy that we have to battle every day to get to school and now he was begging to go to school on Sunday (a day he didn’t have to). This is the type of frustration that we put her through on a daily basis. She has to feel like none of us are ever happy. It is amazing to me that she has been able to stay focused on her goal.

    Being a nurse has always been her desire and she has been nothing less than tenacious throughout her journey. Today, she certainly feels like a champion as she has been given a passport to the luck and fortune she has wanted to conquer her entire life. 

    Mariah, whether the boys know or understand what you do, we love you with all of our hearts and are so excited for you. I am sorry the four of us have made your journey so difficult, but we never had any doubt in you. I am trying to convince myself that that we were training and preparing you in some way. Now that you have made it to the last part of your journey, we can lighten up our training and watch you shine your light a little brighter on the world.

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    Can I be Mariah’s superhero?

    Oops. I did it again. I continue to mess up. I must be an ignoramous since I keep repeating the same mistake over and over. I really wish I could make the right choices but for some reason my emotions keep getting the best of me.

    We are going through a series at church called “The Other Side of Me.” I can imagine what that is like and I think it must be plain awful. I am reminded of the time I introduced Mariah to one of my aunts many years ago. My aunt told her a story and clarified that as a kid I was awful. In fact, I will never forget sitting there hearing her say to Mariah “he was awful, just awful” with a serious look on her face. I am glad Mariah didn’t take that information and run for her life.

    I guess I continue to live up to that reputation because I think living on the other side of me right now is pretty awful. At least that is what I think Mariah is trying to communicate to me in a nice way. Mariah let me know tonight that she couldn’t wait until I went to bed. In other words, she couldn’t wait until she didn’t have to put up with me any longer. Believe me, I get it because I have to put up with myself all day long. I understand her feeling because I don’t think I could live on the other side of me either.

    The good thing is that I think I have figured out the problem. Every day I fight an internal battle. A battle between two perspectives. Both perspectives are pretty stubborn and return to fight the battle the next day. Some how both perspectives are indestructible and keep coming back. One perspective is good and one is bad.

    I will describe the bad perspective first. This perspective is the one that makes me believe that Mariah doesn’t view me as her superhero. This perspective makes me feel like I am a burden to her and put to much pressure on her. It causes me to feel like I am causing problems and not being helpful. It causes me to have a bad attitude, crushes my self-esteem, destroys my courage, robs me of any hope.

    Now, I will describe the good perspective. This perspective is the one that makes me feel that Mariah does believe in me. This perspective makes me feel like I am a good husband and a good dad. It causes me to feel like I am doing something right. It causes me to have a good attitude, a good self-esteem, a lot of courage, and a lot of hope.

    I think the key to being Mariah’s superhero is up to me. I am the only one that is responsible and accountable. It isn’t up to anyone else. The only person standing in the way is myself. I can be Mariah’s superhero if I can get out of my own way and can defeat myself. The choice is mine.

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    The imbalance of desires

    I wish I could tell you in all seriousness that Mariah and I don’t fight. The truth is that we are human and we do fight. I am ashamed to say it, but we are both stubborn and we are both fighters. In a lot of ways, our persistence serves us well, but in some ways it can be a problem.

    I guess you can probably figure out that Mariah and I got into a fight tonight.  Now that the devastation is done and I am past the overwhelming emotions, I can finally be more aware of what I have done. However, in the heat of the battle, I have a tremendous urge to speak out in an effort to be heard. The bad thing is that my emotions and feelings come out in a way that is anything but graceful. I can be an emotional vigilante. Mariah says I have apocalyptic thinking and I think she is right. 

    Most of the time, I am a very simple and logical person. When my emotions reach the threshold, I become unable to resist the urge and end up destroying all of the peace and solitude. My emotions get so strong that I resort to being a child and act like my boys. For example, tonight they argued over who would go first. We decided to flip a coin to help us determine who would go first. As I started to flip the coin, they argued about who was going to be heads versus who was going to be tails.  It was heads and then they argued about what heads meant. As you can see, the fighting can be ridiculous and can really make you tremble.

    My desire to get my way can be very similar. It can be ludicrous and it certainly was tonight. Unfortunately, just as I have many other times, I became self-centered and selfish. I let my emotions lead me. I allowed a stupid desire to get in the way of a much more important desire – the desire to make my wife’s heart full and happy. The end result is that I push Mariah a little further away and cause her to believe a little less in me. In other words, the next time I make an effort to fulfill her heart, she will be less likely to believe it. Plus, this isn’t the right example for our. Boys.

    I would really like to find a way to recognize the next time this happens. I want to be Mariah’s protector and superhero, not her enemy. I also want to be the right example for our boys. If you know of any good methods, please be so kind to let me know so that I can figure out how to get this right for Mariah, our boys, and their future wives.