relationships


 

Sara and I went to the Midtown Music Fest in Atlanta over the weekend.  Sara’s mom watched the kids while we were gone, so Sara left early Friday afternoon to meet her and make the child exchange.  This meant that Olivia would be checking out of school early. 

Typically, Olivia gets out at 2:20.  On this momentous occasion, she got to leave at 2:00.  The way she talked about it, you would think that she was preparing to stand on the podium for Olympic gold.  That was all she talked about when I dropped her off that morning.  She was so excited about the fact that later that day she would be “checked out”.

It’s these little glimpses of insight into the mind of a child that helps me remember where we find some of the simplest forms of satisfaction.  It wasn’t the fact that she was leaving early – she was only getting out 20 minutes earlier than her regular time.  She was just excited because her name would be called out and for one brief minute she would be center of attention in her classroom.  She’s not the type that typically seeks attention – she has been known to clam up in front of crowds – but in this instance, all eyes would be on her without her having to perform or do anything spectacular.

For me, this is a lesson learned.  Most people love recognition.  Few people freely offer it.  In the working world, most of what we recognize is the things that people do poorly or fail to do at all.  As a manager, I know that it seems like I spend 90% of my day dealing with problems.  Most of these problems are because someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do or because someone performed poorly.

We have a finite amount of time and seemingly infinite supply of problems.  This dynamic often leads us to manage by exception – we recognize the bad and ignore the good – thinking that the good things will simply continue to be good without our intervention.  While I’m not a fan fixing things that aren’t broken, I am a fan of recognizing the lack of brokenness.  I’m an even bigger fan of recognizing excellence.  Unfortunately, we spend so much time focusing on the broken until it becomes the only thing we see.  I challenge you to look for something good and recognize it – I know this is a practice I need to adopt at work, at home, and on the highways of Atlanta… maybe that last one is a stretch.

 

Valentine’s Day is here and I was actually ahead of the game.  I sent flowers last week, bought cards for Sara from me… for Sara from the girls… and for the girls from Sara and me.  I even broke down and bought Sara the Breaking Dawn Blu-Ray – that’s the latest release in the Twilight saga.  I haven’t even watched the one that came out before this one, but I committed to watching both with Sara.  Nothing expresses your love like enduring a teenage vampire movie with a script cheesier than a Chicago style pizza!

Sara actually got me to go to theater for the first movie – I had no idea what I was getting into.  The theater was filled with a bunch of girls who squealed every time a new character appeared for the first time.  It was disgusting.  Afterward, I stood outside the bathroom next to a man who brought his daughter and a bunch of her friends.  In my estimation, they were the primary source of squealing throughout the movie.  We just acknowledged each other with a look of confusion that was only equaled by my first visit to the OB/GYN when Sara was pregnant with our first child.

Ladies, here’s the truth – guys just don’t get romance.  I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but Edward is a fictional character (just look at his hair!) and Ryan Reynolds wouldn’t be half as charming without a script from a romantic comedy.  Not only are they not real, but we think they’re wusses and would never want to be like them.  If we spoke the lines from those movies and teased our hair up Edward style, it would only result in daily beatings.

You like predictable movies where the unlikely couple gets together in the end and we like movies with people getting shot.  When I watch those sappy movies where Edward expresses his eternal love for Bella, I can’t help but roll my eyes and wish that the werewolf gang would rip him to shreds.  I guess that puts me on Team Jacob. 

The point I’m trying to make is this.  We may make fun of your movies as we reluctantly watch them with you, but the fact that we’re watching them with you is sometimes the most romantic gesture we can muster.  I know it’s not much, but most of us don’t have much to work with. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It was a typical late summer morning.  At the time, I lived in central Florida and worked at a manufacturing plant that made needles and syringes.  I know – exciting.  As I walked between rows of mold press machines, the supervisor of that department stopped me and asked if I knew anything about the plane that hit the World Trade Center. 

I hadn’t heard anything about it.  In my mind, I pictured a small private plane that got off course or had some kind of mechanical failure and hit a building.  I was busy doing something that must have been irrelevant because I can’t remember what it was now.  I didn’t give the news a whole lot of thought and got back to my daily irrelevancy.  A little while later, someone else told me that a second plane hit the other tower.

I decided to go to a conference room that had cable and see what was going on.  It was there, along with a handful of other managers, that I realized the planes that hit the towers were anything but small private planes.  Moments later, the news reported that a plane hit the Pentagon.  Not long after that, the South Tower collapsed.  Almost immediately, the news came of Flight 93 crashing.  My mind started racing.  What was going on?  Who was doing this?  What was going to happen next?  Was this the end?

Finally, I watched as many of you did, as the North Tower collapsed.  I didn’t know what to think at this point.  I felt anger, pity, fear, and confusion simultaneously.  By this time, I realized that whatever it was I was doing all of sudden seemed completely unimportant.  For about 24 hours, we were numb – our emotions drained, we just watched the news for more information and kept asking the same question – why?

I also remember those days and weeks that immediately followed September 11, 2001.  For a little while, we were nice to each other.  We talked.  We listened.  We cared.  Heck, even Republicans and Democrats stood side by side and sang God Bless America together.  All of the sudden our differences didn’t seem to be that big of a deal.  We were more interested in helping each other out than putting each other down.

Let’s not wait for the next tragedy to remind us that we’re all in this thing together.  E pluribus unum.

As the South recovers from the second-deadliest outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. history, I want to take some time to reflect on what’s really important.  While we didn’t have any damage, the tornadoes were all around us and many people suffered great loss.  Times like this help put things in their proper perspective.

I stayed at work late Wednesday to take a final for my MBA (the last final of my MBA… EVER!).  I got home around 9:30 and while the storms were all over the news, we hadn’t had so much as a drop of rain.  Tall trees surround our house and our girls’ bedrooms are on the second story, so bad storms always make us a little nervous. 

I’m usually the one on storm patrol.  I watch the radar, keep an eye on all the warnings, and make the decision to move to the basement if the weather warrants doing so.  Since I knew I wouldn’t be home until late, I told Sara to make sure she watched the news and to get the girls in the basement if she needed to.  After I got home, I ended up staying up past 12:30 – watching the weather updates until I was satisfied that the threat had passed.

The next day, I went down to the basement and saw Sara’s preparation.  We’ve had lots of tornado warnings, but this one had her particularly nervous, so she prepped the basement accordingly.  There was a mattress, a couple of bicycle helmets for the kids, and some supplies.  Included in the supplies were a gallon of water, a bowl for the dog to drink out of, Pop Tarts, candles, and a flashlight.  Next to this bag of survival gear (who could live without Pop Tarts?) were family picture albums, keepsakes, and another bag filled with shoes and clothes. 

Our basement is sort of a catchall for various junk that includes lots of old clothes waiting to go to Goodwill.  At first, I thought this bag was clothing waiting to be donated.  I’m no fashion expert, but I’ve seen enough What Not To Wear to know that these were not old clothes.  In fact, they were very nice clothes.  It turns out that as Sara moved through the priority of list of things she wanted to keep in case a tornado demolished our house, the top three were survival supplies, family photos, and her “prettiest” shoes and clothes.  I don’t even know if they were in that order, but that was the top three. 

I did’t see a first aid kit, any medicine, a telephone, a radio, diapers, or any of that frivolous stuff, but I did see several pairs of shoes that would be absolutely useless if our house was destroyed.  One of my wife’s favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz.  I guess she thought that if a tornado took us away, she could click the heels of her pretty shoes together and repeat, “There’s no place like home.”

I know this story is a little flippant in the wake of a true tragedy, but humor is an important ingredient to recovery.  For the record, Sara is not so shallow that she esteems her clothes as prized possessions; she just isn’t the best at making quick decisions under pressure.  I, on the other hand, am a decent decision-maker, but she has to dress me.  It’s those complimentary aspects – the incorporation of each other’s strengths and flaws – that makes us complete.  Yeah, that’s a little sappy, but I had to add something to keep her from getting too mad at me for writing about the shoes.

My wife and I are planning a trip to Estes Park, Colorado in a few weeks.  We love to hike and will have unlimited opportunities to do so in this beautiful part of the Rocky Mountains.  There is one slight problem.  What she calls hiking seems to me more like a leisurely stroll designed to give one an excuse for knocking out a pint of Ben & Jerry’s later. What I call hiking, she calls painful and terrifying.

Here’s a case in point.  A few years back, we went to Glacier National Park.  On a hike up a mountain to see Grinnell Glacier, she decided that it was time to turn back less than a mile from the glacier.  I thought we should push on.  I was wrong.

After we made it back to the trailhead and got a burger at a nearby restaurant (post-hike food is incredible, no matter what it is), I gave her enough grief over turning back that she agreed to do the Highline Trail.  I didn’t tell her this was a fourteen mile hike… that started at an altitude of over 6,500 feet… and we would need to hit the trail around 6 am.

Anyway, I’m planning on doing some big hikes and she’s planning on getting a massage at the chalet.  There will be some sort of compromise in which I’ll back off on my Lewis and Clark enthusiasm and she’ll put in more miles than she would care to.  Since I work out regularly and am too stubborn to admit that I am tired during a hike, I should be good to go for the hikes.  When it comes to workouts, I am definitely in the “no pain, no gain” camp.  While Sara does work out, most of her “workouts” consist of sitting on a recumbent bike and occasionally moving the pedal in a circular motion while watching teenage vampire movies.

We agreed that if she were to hike with me in a few weeks, we would need to get a little more serious about her workouts.   I went through a simple body-weight leg workout designed to strengthen her legs and improve her lung and heart capacity.  The introductory workout consisted of speed squats, lunges, jump lunges, and jump squats.  Just three sets of each exercise.

During the workout, she kept calling me a drill sergeant.  I can’t tell you what she called me after the workout.  She was so sore the next day she wobbled around like a penguin with hemorrhoids.  She was unable to stand up, sit down, or look in my direction without letting out a pain-induced moan.  I don’t know what she does at work when she sits on that little doctor’s stool with the seat about eighteen inches above the ground.  My guess is once she sits on it, there’s no getting up and she just wheels around the office like R2-D2.

I keep telling her that the preparation will be worth the pain because she will get more out of the hikes while we’re in Colorado.  She keeps telling me I’m a lunatic.

***INTERRUPTION***

True story – as I am writing this, I went to check on Sara because she was supposed to have already left for a meeting.  I found her sitting on the edge of the bathtub straining to buckle her shoes but unable to do.  The look on her face said it all.  I had to buckle her shoes for her and encouraged her by letting her know that worst soreness actually comes two days after the workout.  I’ll let you know how this turns out.

I went for a run at 3 pm over the weekend… not one of my wisest decisions.  You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that an afternoon run in Atlanta during the summer is brutal.  While running, I learned that 3 pm is that magic time of the day when the temperatures reach about their highest point and the humidity that precedes the afternoon thunderstorms makes the air so thick you feel like you’re breathing soup through a respirator.

Stubbornly, I ran.  With about a mile left in my run, I hit the wall.  If you’re a runner, you know about the wall.  It’s that point when you feel like you can no longer continue and the idea of running while not being chased by something with claws and fangs is just ridiculous.  I almost convinced myself that I would have stop running and walk the remaining mile back to my truck, but before my legs stopped moving, I began reasoning with myself on how I could continue.  This is what runners do to justify their obsession.

How many more steps could I run before I had to give up?  Ten more?  Twenty more?  A hundred more?  I finally convinced myself that no matter how hot I was, how tired my legs were, or how much my lungs burned, I could always take one more step.  I mean, what’s one more step?  It takes less than a second and doesn’t require a ton of effort.

You guessed it, after another mile of taking “one more step”, I was back at my truck and relieved that I didn’t give up.  Instead of focusing on the daunting task of one more (mostly uphill) mile in 95-degree heat, I just focused on the next step.

Chances are, you’ve hit a wall at some point.  Whether it’s going back to school, changing careers, fixing a relationship, or making an important life change, you’ve probably faced something that just seemed too big to do.  No matter how challenging the situation, taking the next step usually isn’t too intimidating.  After enough of those “next steps” you’ll look back and be happy you took them.

The marina where we keep our boat had a summer kick-off event last Saturday. They occasionally have these events to show their thanks to the customers. I have a better idea of how they could show their thanks – not have these events and charge us less to keep our boat there.

This event had a pirate theme. The dockhands were dressed up like pirates, there was a giant inflatable pirate ship for the kids, and we enjoyed our “free” pizza (who knew there were Italian pirates?). It was actually nice and I do appreciate these events. We finished our lunch and listened to Jimmy Buffet on the loudspeakers for a little while as the girls entertained other families. The great thing about Jimmy Buffet is you could be in an Igloo at midnight and his music can make you feel like you’re on a beach in the Caribbean.

After downing our pizza, we headed out to one of our favorite beaches to swim for the first time this year. Olivia loves to swim and has nagged us to get in the water each time we’ve been out since March. It was a hot, humid day so I gave in.

I lowered the ladder and stuck my hand in the water. It felt comfortable. It’s amazing how the water temperature seems to drop about 30 degrees when your entire body is immersed.

Olivia got in the water and we stayed around the boat for a while to make sure she would be fine in the cool water. Of course, kids have antifreeze in their veins and could care less about the temperature of the water as long as they are swimming. I finally decided it was time to swim over to the beach and kicked my legs to begin swimming.

I wasn’t immediately sure what happened to my foot, but I knew it wasn’t good. It didn’t hurt that bad, but I knew something was wrong. I held onto the ladder for a while as I composed myself, and then climbed up to the swim platform. I knew my toe hurt, but didn’t know why. For a second everything looked fine… then the blood came.  Lots of it.

Apparently, when I kicked away, I kicked the boat propeller. It sliced between by big toe and my second toe on the top side of my foot. We were about 4 or 5 miles from our marina, we had both kids with us, I was bleeding, and Sara is not comfortable driving the boat (especially on a busy day like it was last Saturday).

Fortunately, Sara is a dermatology PA and is much calmer in these situations than I am. She stopped the bleeding and wouldn’t let me look at it. I took the boat back to the marina, docked it, and made sure all the covers were on and the lines were stowed neatly (I’m such an engineer).

Sara drove me to her office and stitched me up. She did a great job – I really couldn’t feel a thing. The girls were great too. Olivia knew that daddy got a bad booboo and took care of Amelia while Sara took care of me.

The interesting thing is I saw the whole thing coming. We were anchored in pretty shallow water, so I trimmed the drive up to prevent it from hitting anything on the bottom of the lake. This means that the part with the prop was tilted up as high as it would go. When I did this, I thought that I would need to be careful not to hit the drive unit while we were swimming–that is exactly what I did.

Many people generally regard King Solomon as the wisest man who ever lived. He once said, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Prov. 27:12)

I saw danger, but I kept going… and I suffered for it. In this case, the extent of my suffering was only a few stitches and a sore toe, but our failure to take refuge when we see danger can have much greater implications.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be brave in the face of danger and cower away every time you get scared. The danger that I think Solomon is referring to is the danger of continuing to do something that you can see will have negative affects in the future–those things that, if you continue to do them, can destroy families, relationships, marriages, cholesterol levels, or your finances.

Maybe you’re just like I was in the boat.  You see the danger, acknowledge it, yet fail to seek refuge (do something about it). I can assure you that simply recognizing a danger is not enough. You have to do something about it… I have the stitches to prove it.

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