Will Anyone Sit With You?

Crraaacckkk….”Dad what was that!??” Emma Grace asked with a trembling voice.  Crrraaacckkk… “Daddy were those gunshots?!” “Yes Emma Grace” I replied.  Pooowwww…”Daddy I’m scared…Let’s get out of here!” my 9 year old daughter exclaimed.  She gripped my hand and walked in a crouching position like a scared puppy who had just been caught chewing a $40 pair of flip-flops.  “Emma Grace stop!  Be quiet!” her brother Aleck urged.  The truth is….I was overwhelmed because I had never been surrounded by so many soldiers in my life…pooow…craaaccck…pooow.  Three distinct gunshots…followed by…three whimpers, hand squeezes, and tugs from Emma Grace.  “Cooommme on Emma Grace!” shouted Ella.  We paused for a moment as Amy unfolded and looked down at a wrinkled map.  Our family had been combing Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC looking for my Uncle Cecil’s headstone.  I was excited to be starting our children’s spring break on a perfect day surrounded by the beauty of the rolling hills.  I was also in awe of the number of markers displaying the final resting place of heroes responsible for the freedoms so many of us take for granted.  Just a few weeks before our trip I had attended a dinner with my favorite client and good friend Jeannette.  Congressman Trey Gowdy gave an address that night…and it was affecting my day in Arlington National Cemetery in a profound way.  Congressman Gowdy described his flight into Washington DC from Spartanburg SC, a flight he makes quite often.  He described flying over Arlington National Cemetery and seeing the green grass, the trees, the headstones, the symmetry, congruence, alignment…the perfect design and layout of the entire cemetery and everything in it.  As I looked all around me, I saw and felt exactly what Mr. Gowdy described and I was amazed.

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“This way!” Amy ordered…like a wise expedition leader…”This way!” Ella repeated…like a bossy little assistant.  We turned and made our way down a gradual hill…no one else around us.  As we passed a giant tree that was surely hundreds of years old, Amy and I both looked to our left.  On the other side of the big tree a woman sat in the freshly cut green grass.  She sat in perfect posture.  Her legs were crossed.  Her back was as straight as the Washington Monument off in the distance.  She sat and stared at the headstone which was about 12 inches in front of her face.  We slowed our pace.  Our kids softened their voices and then they went silent.  I looked at Amy and she had tears streaming down her face.  My own eyes became teary and the road ahead of me became blurry.  I wiped my eyes and looked at the woman again.  She didn’t acknowledge us.  She didn’t even glance over at us.  She wore big sunglasses and her hair was in a tightly fixed bun except for the few pieces that had escaped the formation and were now rebelliously blowing in the slight breeze.  The woman sat rigidly like a stone statue of a little girl sitting at a fountain…except she was not at a fountain.  Her black dress stood out brilliantly against all the white headstones surrounding her like a thousand bodyguards…a thousand angels.  Her big sunglasses hid the eyes that stared straight ahead only revealing a reflection of the marker symbolizing what must have been a tremendous loss.  Amy grabbed my hand and we continued to walk.  The woman sat…and she continued…just…being.

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“This it.  This is the section” Amy said.  She called out the row and headstone number.  Aleck, Emma Grace, and Ella scurried like excited kids looking for Easter eggs.  “We found it!” the three of them exclaimed.  As I walked up to the marker I felt my steps become heavier and my breathing more shallow.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about my Uncle Cecil over the years since I had had my own kids.  But, now that I was trying to explain to my children who he was, I became emotional about all the memories and stories that resurfaced in that moment.  My Uncle Cecil was in three wars…three…World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  When I was a boy, my family would visit Uncle Cecil and Aunt Kitty(who is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery) almost every week.  Uncle Cecil was a funny man.  His bald head and big glasses perfectly fit his commanding voice and pudgy belly.  He would often sit in his big chair and bark out things to my Aunt Kitty that were designed to make the men(and the boy playing with his matchbox cars in the floor) laugh while causing the women in the kitchen preparing lunch to roll their eyes.   Occasionally the women would come back at him with a pointed response.  He had a room just down the hallway on the right that always called my name…prompting me to work up the courage to finally ask him “Uncle Cecil…um…can I…um…look in your war room?”  “Sure” he would always say.  I would dash into the room and not exit until my mother physically pulled me out so the rest of the family could say grace and start eating.  You see…in that room was a miniature Smithsonian Institute…floor to ceiling… awards, medals, newspaper articles, swords, knives, piles of pictures, German and American helmets, other weapons, Korean things, Vietnam things…things…stuff…more things…it was unbelievable.  After we ate, I would quickly disappear back into the “war room” and the women would start cleaning.  I would read and touch and flip through different items…sporadically hearing “Kiiittty!!!!”…followed by some smart remark from my Uncle Cecil who had made is way back to his big chair with a full belly.  I stayed in the room, again until my mother… father… or sisters sent by my parents came to lure me out.  We would make our way out to our car where my Uncle Cecil would stop each kid and say “What’s this?” as he grabbed our ear.  He would pull his hand from the side of our head and flash a quarter and sometimes a fifty cent piece.  “There you go.  That was sticking out of your ear.” he would say…EVERY time.  Even at my young age, I knew when I walked in his room, I was in a special place…in the middle of history…almost like a time traveler…and it was amazing.  I also knew my Uncle Cecil was a hero…a good man.  I knew it then and I quickly remembered it as I talked to my children beside his headstone in Arlington National Cemetery.

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As we walked away, we heard more gunfire.  The 21 gun salute…the firing of three shots by seven soldiers.  We had been hearing it all day and seeing horses pulling the fallen through the cemetery.  Arlington National Cemetery holds 27-30 funerals per day…27-30.  As I read and thought about that number and those people, I remembered something else Congressman Gowdy said.  He said as he sits in his plane seat looking down on the cemetery, he often thinks “If I had a chance to meet these men and women and ask them a few questions, I would ask “Was it worth it?  Was what you fought and died for worth it?”  He said he wonders also if they could answer whether or not we are the country…the people…the society they thought we would be.  He would ask “Would you do it all over again?  Would you be proud of what our country is today?”

 

We started walking up a hill and on the right the hillside stood out.  It stood out not for what was on it, but instead for what was not there.  It had the familiar freshly cut grass but nothing else.  It was an empty field and it amazed me.  It amazed me because I began to think about what it represents.  It is a field waiting for the 100% guaranteed arrival of more men and women who will sacrifice for our country…for us…for our freedom.  Suddenly I began to feel…small.  I began to feel…insignificant.  I thought about how great these people were…how great they are…and I thought…”I can never be them…I can never be Uncle Cecil.”  I have never fought in a war let alone three.  I haven’t made this kind of sacrifice.  Sure, I say I would sacrifice ANYTHING for my family.  I say I would fight for my country if it came down to it.  I say I would die for the people I love…but these people ACTUALLY DID die for something they believed in…something bigger than themselves.  “What am I supposed to do with this feeling?” I asked myself.  Then I remembered a story Congressman Gowdy told before he closed.

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On January 13, 1982 in Washington DC, passenger flight Air Florida Flight 90 struck the 14th street bridge, crushed seven vehicles, and plunged into the icy Potomac River.  Four motorists were killed on the bridge.  The aircraft was carrying 74 passengers and five crew members.  Four passengers and one flight attendant survived the crash.  Many of you remember the footage of the icy rescue using a helicopter.  Many of you remember Lenny Skutnik stripping his coat and boots and jumping into the ice water helping to save a lady who had become too weak to swim after falling from the rescue rope(this is a fascinating rescue story…and if you get a chance read it….and/or pull up actual rescue footage on YouTube)…but as Trey Gowdy said…few of us know a man named Arland Williams.

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Arland Williams is often referred to as “the sixth passenger”.  He was floating on the wreckage with the other five survivors, unable to unstrap himself.  As the helicopter dropped the rescue line, Arland Williams caught it, and passed it to another survivor.  The helicopter returned…Arland Williams caught…and selflessly passed the line again.  Everyone was towed to shore…and when the helicopter returned for Williams, the wreckage he was stuck in rolled, submerging him.  He was the only passenger to die by drowning.  Then I realized the answer to my question about what to do with feeling small and insignificant when compared to heroes…lies in this story.  These heroes didn’t set out to be heroes.  Arland Williams wasn’t trying to be a hero.  They simply believed in something bigger than themselves…they believed enough to die.  Their legacy lives on because of how they did things…how they faced adversity…how they loved…fought…sacrificed…how they treated others.  If I could have the day we spent in Arlington National Cemetery back, I would do one thing differently.  I would walk my family right up to the woman sitting so perfectly in front of her loved one’s headstone and I would ask her to please tell my family all about the person she was spending time with on such a beautiful day.  I want to know because I wonder what in the world “it” is that is so special about a person that would make a loved one come and sit…for hours…just to be with them…when they can’t speak, hug, kiss, hold, or laugh anymore.  I want to know and I want to live “it”.
The truth is we don’t have to be famous.  We don’t have to be heroes…like I said, I will never be my Uncle Cecil, Arland Williams, Lee Haney, Jesus…I will never be my heroes…BUT I can be LIKE them.  I can be driven like my Uncle Cecil.  I can be selfless like Arland Williams.  I can be persistent and full of work ethic like Lee Haney.  And Jesus…think about this…think if we could ask God the questions Trey Gowdy wanted to ask the soldiers.  If we asked “God…is this world what you want it to be?  Is this what you gave your only Son for?  Was it worth it?”  Though God would never say he wants us to be perfect…I’m sure he would say…we could be doing better…much better.  I’m also sure he would say “YES…it’s worth it…because I love you.” …….And that is the answer my friends…We are to BE the love…the compassion…the empathy…BE IT…LIVE ITBE WHO God designed us to be while never forgetting He DOES NOT make small…insignificant people.  This is how we make a difference…how we pass the rescue rope.  We become aware, purposeful, intentional, and unselfish.  We do the little things in this life because the little things matter.  We say good morning, smile, pray with and for our children, encourage, forgive, volunteer, send notes, say thank you, make phone calls, make visits, teach, listen, eat with our family, spend time with friends, be unselfish, and love each other.  Annnnd then…we go to sleep…and wake up…and do it ALL over again…and again…and again…and again…EVERY day….day after day…there are a million things…but it is the consistency in doing those million things that really matters.  Consistency changes lives.  It is the selfless, courageous, urgent, driven, purposeful consistency in the little things that adds value to people and to this world.  These things are the “it” that make a big enough difference in someone’s life to make it a blessing…an honor… for that person to sit perfectly still in a cemetery with a loved one no longer physically here…no words to be spoken…just…gratefully sitting…and being…and you know what? It is worth it…and it is perfect…just perfect.

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“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” – Shannon L. Alder

The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:6-8

“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-7

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How to Feed a Wolf…Revisited

Something just told me to re-post this…It is one of the shortest I have written…and one of my favorites.  Not sure if it’s because of things I’m going through in my own life…or because of the past week hearing what many of you are going through…or if it’s just a tug to my heart and kick to my backside from God telling me to stop playing basketball with the kids…in the house(Amy is at the grocery store) for a minute and send this to you.  If you’ve read it…great…I hope it hits you in a different way this time…If you haven’t…God bless you…and I hope this helps you…Everyone have a great week….and thank you for allowing me to share:) ………..

A few years ago, one of my clients gave me this old Cherokee story.  It still hangs on my office wall today…..

“TWO WOLVES”

A Cherokee man was teaching his grandson about life.  He said, “A fight is going on inside me…it is a terrible fight between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, and superiority.

The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The same fight is going on inside YOU, and inside EVERY OTHER PERSON, too.”

The grandson thought for a minute and then asked his Grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Many of you have probably read this story.  And for those of you who have just read it for the first time…it seems pretty easy right?  This story does a great job of simplifying the way we should live our lives.   Separate the bad from the good…feed the good…and you never have to worry about the bad wolf right?  The problem is…Life isn’t so easy to navigate.  I’m not saying it’s hard to LIVE life…I’m just saying it can be hard to make your way through…some days…some weeks…some months…some years.  Reading this story over and over…one question keeps popping into my head – Why is it hard to figure life out?

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.” 

I think we make life hard because we expect to know EVERYTHING.  When we don’t have the things we think we need…or the solutions we desire…or the clear path to follow ahead of us…guess what?….We start feeding the hungry hungry bad wolf.  Take a look above at all the things the bad wolf represents…It is such an ugly list.  I suggest taking each one and thinking about how powerful the bad wolf becomes if you feed it even a little.  For example:  Fear…we all know how feeding fear can make us crazy…like a snowball rolling down a mountain…becoming bigger and bigger and bigger until we are paralyzed…afraid to do anything in life.  Anger…regret…arrogance..etc.. I could go through them all, but I want you to do it for yourself…because everyone is different…YOU know YOU…What is making YOUR bad wolf so powerful and strong?

I think a life changing point to remember is this : We aren’t supposed to know everything.

Can you imagine being one of the twelve disciples?  Can you imagine being approached by a guy…dropping what you are doing on the spot…and following him?  Do you think they knew exactly what was coming?  It’s easy for us to say yes because we KNOW the story…but they WERE the story.  They didn’t have it figured out…but what did they do?…They fed that good wolf…look at the list of things the good wolf represents.  Jesus and the disciples were the ultimate feeders of the good wolf.

Now can you imagine being a prisoner of war?  If you haven’t read the book “Unbroken” by : Laura Hillenbrand, I highly recommend it.  It is an amazing story of survival, resilience, redemption, forgiveness, and faith.  Louie Zamperini survived a bomber crash in World War II, the ocean and sharks, and a Japanese POW camp(s).  The story will leave you inspired…and extremely extremely extremely…grateful.  When I think about the Cherokee wolf story and Louie, I can’t believe his good wolf survived.  How in the world do you feed your good wolf through terrible times?

Ultimately…It boils down to Faith.  We may have faith in God and his guidance, but we start to feed the wrong wolf when we simply rely on our own plans, reasoning, and expectations.  The wrong wolf gets stronger when we sit worrying…or feel sorry for ourselves…or let our pasts prevent us from moving forward…or let our failures define us…he eats and eats and grows and grows.  So what is the answer?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5

Look your bad wolf in the face when times are tough…but do not feed him…starve him…leave the bad people…do not give them your time…and show others how to do the same.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”

Hang out with good people.  Have faith.  Pray.  Feed your good wolf…make him strong and powerful…and show others how to do the same. :)

 

A Jar Full of Screws, Bolts, Nuts, Washers….& Lessons

“What’s this?” Aleck asked as we walked into an old barn.  The two of us were up early taking a walk to explore while visiting my parents on the coast a few weeks ago.  “It’s an old wood stove” I answered.  “Ohhh Dad…There’s a sign with your name on it!  Cool where did they get that!!” Aleck asked with a huge smile on his face.  “Uhhh that…uhh…well my friend Shane…he…he gave me that street name sign” I answered(somehow leaving out how scary obtaining that sign was…and how we were almost arrested were it not for our Ninja/Navy SEAL/Special Ops get-away skills…ok…so maybe the police officer was cold…and tired…and just didn’t feel like looking for a few dumb kids holding an “ANTHONY RD” sign…covered in briars…in a ditch).  We wiped off the sign…I snapped a picture of him holding it…and just as I lowered my phone… a jar on the barn wall caught my eye.  I picked it up and shook it.  The sound of the screws, nuts, bolts, and washers clanging against the jar brought a smile to my face.  I picked up another…and then another…and in the last one I picked out the longest bolt I could find and began stirring all the metal as if I was making a special pot of soup.  “What do all of these mean?” asked Aleck.  The answer to his curiosity…is the inspiration for this blog post…and I’ll tell you the story I told him as we sat on the old wood stove(with a little more substance of course…as I had 9 hours to think about it on our drive home).

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Flashback 34 years ago when I was a boy living in a trailer park.   A boy whose only goal on a normal Saturday morning was to get up before anyone in the trailer…get dressed…sneak out…and pedal away on my bike to meet my friend Stevie to find whatever adventure was waiting for us.  Sounds easy right?  Well…it would’ve been except I had the father who LOOOVVVEEED to do work on things…on anything… around the house and yard on his day off…and the father who normally woke up at 4:30am during the week…which means 6am was sleeping in for him…which means…I had a 99.9% chance of…NOOOT…having my skinny little legs pedal me away to freedom and a world of no responsibility…did I say 99.9%?  Let’s go ahead and make that a 100% chance of hearing “Anthony…get some breakfast.  We have chores to do today.  Lots of work…and I’m gonna need your help.  Let’s go.”  Looking back, I don’t know if he really had as much of a work plan…as he did a plan to make sure I worked(I have written about this as well…and I am extremely grateful my Dad made me work…I will share with you in a future post).  Let me give you a few examples of projects we may have tackled on any given Saturday…that way I can get my message to you a little easier.  Examples: Cutting grass(easy)…Cleaning(moderate to impossible…depending on his level of Drill Sergeantness for the day)…Sealing the trailer roof seams with tar(moderate…depending on time of year…but always messy)…filling in holes in the yard our black lab Lady would dig(easy)…washing cars(easy)…working on cars/trucks/boats…vacuum cleaner…washing machine…lawnmower…or ANNNYYYYTTHHIIINNNG with parts(nightmare…usually…for me)…Why?…Can you guess?…That’s right – they all have parts….and what holds parts together?…EXACTLY – screws, clamps, nuts, bolts, belts, hoses, washers, etc… Some of you still may not have put together why this was a nightmare for me…Let me give you an example: “Anthony hold this…put this over there…you turn this and I’ll hold this” my Dad would say.  And I was good with that…and then it would never fail…the dreaded assignment would come as my Dad would hold out his large scraped up, worn, greasy fist…not to give me a fist bump and permission to hop on my BMX bike…no…he had something in his hand…and so with his other hand he would grab my chicken leg sized wrist, raise my arm, and turn my hand…palm up… placing it directly under his closed fist.  “Son…I need you to go get…2 Phillips head machine screws, 1 shoulder bolt, 2 set screws, 4 heavy hexes, 1 slotted nut, 5 wing nuts, 2 internal tooth lock washers, 1 dock washer, 1 fender washer, 2 brads, 6 masonry nails, 5- 3 1/2 inch flooring nails, a piece of duct tape, a wire nut…yellow, a roll of Teflon tape,…annnnd a rake.”…and while he spoke and transferred pieces of his inventory list like a giant crane pouring a cascading waterfall of metal into my little hand…I could feel my head start to sweat…his words turning into Charlie Brown teacher sounds…until I hear “Oh…and son…make sure they aren’t broken like the ones in your hand.”  In my mind I’m thinking…”Whhhhaaaattt thhhe…why don’t you just send me to the backyard to find four leaf clovers…it’s the same thing…this isn’t fair…he can take a hike..”….annnd all those thoughts finally came out in these words…”Ok…Yes sir.”  Sooooo….where was I to find all these things?…Well…my father had a shed…and in this shed was…you guessed it…jars and jars and buckets and flower pots and jars and buckets of….allll these wonderful pieces and parts.  I’m not talking about a Bob Vila, Tim Allen Home Improvement, Martha Stewart, Pinterest neatly organized tool shed…where similiar pieces are stored together….allll these jars, buckets, compartments, etc…were full of anything and everything…all mixed together.

 

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As I sat on the wood stove stirring the jar with a long bolt, I told Aleck what his Paw Paw used to make me do.  “It was hard…but it taught me a few things” I explained.  I’ll share 5 things that could…and did happen after I slid the metal shed door open and began my search.  More importantly, I’ll explain how these 5 things and shaking, stirring, and picking through jars reminds me of a few important choices we can make in this life.

1. Not working hard…Faking it : In this case I would step in…pull the door…sit down…and do NOTHING.  Maybe I would kick a coffee can of nails…or slide a bucket across the floor…just to make some noise in an effort to make my father think I was doing what I was supposed to be doing…but really…I did nothing.  Probably because I wanted to be doing something else…or he had yelled at me…or I was tired…or I was just being stubborn…I would keep my eye on the path to the shed and scurry into action as my father ran out of time and patience and made his way to check on things.  This case always ended up in a “Go…I’ll do it myself ”  from my father.  I would tell him I tried and tried…but he knew…and I was dismissed.  Lesson: You WILL be dismissed if you choose this scenario in life.  People know…Teachers, Bosses, Counselors, Children, Husbands, Wives, Parents, Police Officers, Grandparents, Doctors, Nurses…All People…They know when you are doing NOTHING…and faking it.  This is a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful, and stagnant place to be…Do Not do this…It isn’t right and you will not grow…and you will be dismissed…I guarantee it.

“Laziness is a secret ingredient that goes into failure. But it’s only kept a secret from the person who fails.” – Robert Half

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2. Not working hard…finding the right thing : In this case…I would go in…pull out a bucket and see what I was looking for…right on top.  I call this luck.  Lesson: This scenario can be positive if it’s you…but negative and frustrating in certain cases if it isn’t you.  We all deserve a little luck right?…or we think we do…and when it happens we celebrate.  But what happens if we’re working our butts off and it’s the person beside us that gets lucky…never lifting a finger or while making bad choices?  I’ll give you an example: A few years ago I trained several athletes from a local high school.  At the time many stories about rampant pot smoking by athletes in this school were circulating.  One afternoon an athlete pulled me to the side and said “Anthony…I don’t get it…I am killing myself in here and in practice. You see me…I lift…eat correctly…I work hard…and (he named another athlete) smokes pot every day…every day…doesn’t work out…ever…and he is faster than almost everyone in this state…it sucks.” ….and you know what?…it does suck…I explained to him the value of hard work…doing things right…character and integrity…and to NEVER compare himself to another…that what matters is how he handles himself…that the way to reach his potential was to continue being the person he was with the work ethic he had…and that the pot smoking athlete could not live up to his potential at that time because of the choices he was making.  The VERY next day…Michael Phelps was on every newspaper front page, every tv show, every radio station…for being at a party…smoking pot…someone snapped a picture of him.  I remember coming home and telling Amy how hopeless I felt.  Here I was telling these young people to treat their bodies as temples…to strive to do what’s right…and the absolute best…most athletic…#1 amazing athlete in the WORLD is pictured with a big bong in his hands smoking pot…a guy whose conditioning is key to performance…a guy who has parents and children looking up to him as a star swimmer and picture of health for the USA…a guy you would think would make better choices.  But you know what…the lesson remains the same…Do what’s right and work hard.  If you get lucky…great…but don’t rely on luck…It isn’t the norm…Work.  If someone else gets lucky…great.  If someone else rides their talent while being an out of touch opinionated jerk(like many athletes and entertainers)…if they make tons of money while making horrible life decisions…oh well…  It has nothing to do with you.  Focus on who you want to be…and how you want to live…and work for it.

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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3.Working hard…not finding anything: This is the scenario where you work hard and come up short.  It’s bad because it sometimes ended the same way scenario 1 ended up “Go…I’ll do it myself.”  Only I really had worked hard.  Have you ever been here in your life?  Worked hard in your job…but just haven’t reached the position or pay you desire….or in a relationship…worked hard but just can’t seem to meet “the one”…or in the classroom…studied and studied but just can’t get the material…you struggle with every test…or worked hard for your kids…and you don’t even get a single thank you…It’s hard…but I love this scenario…I do.  Lesson: Patience.  As I often say to myself and my clients…”Be Quiet…Work Hard…and Be Patient.”  Sometimes we’re not ready for the gifts we are to receive…sometimes we face obstacles that are designed to slow us down…until we are ready.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams

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4. Working hard…finding the wrong thing : In this case I would go in…stir, shift, pick over everything I could…sweating and working as hard as I could to find what I was looking for…and then thinking I found it…pick it out and sprint it to my father…where he would say “Not it.”  This is a tough one.  Lesson: Do not give up.  This is the one that wears you down mentally.  It is such a let down to work hard…and get an undesired outcome.  This is the one that makes people give up.  We must remember that we grow through our struggles…and working hard for “nothing” when you think you have “it”…is a struggle.  This is the bad marriage…the inability to have children…the sickness hitting the healthy person…the being looked over for the promotion…the house being sold out from under your “guaranteed” offer…the employee stealing your technology and opening his/her own business…the client making you design plans and walking away…finding out the friend you’ve helped and trusted is talking about you behind your back…the child you’ve tried to help continuing to steal from you to support his/her addictive behavior…the father or mother that refuses to see your worth…even after all these years…the loved one who takes his/her own life…the loved one whose life is taken from you and your family by someone else…or by sickness…you do the right things…you work hard…you do…but the “wrong” things happen…these are the things that make you want to…give up.  Do not give up.  Lift your head…continue to work and do the right things…and be courageous.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

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5. Working hard…finding the right thing :  This is the best case scenario…I would go in…start working super hard…and I’m sure many times I was close to giving up before I found what I was looking for…but this is the case where I kept stirring and searching and searching and searching…I would pick out the correct pieces…then sprint back with a victorious report for my Dad.  This…oh this…is where I got what every boy in the world desires from his father…a “Good job.” … pat on the back…a slight smile…and if you’re lucky maybe a half hug.  Am I right men?  There is nothing better in this world you can get from your Dad.  Lesson: Hard work pays off.  The reward can be amazing.  This is why you never give up.  Even when tired…when you want to be somewhere else…doing something else…or doing nothing…when you are weary…teary…exhausted and at the end…Do not give up…because there is a reward and you will see it.

  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

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And isn’t it funny how after all these years I found that jar on an old barn wall while playing with my own son?  And isn’t it amazing how his curiosity and questions about why I had to look in cans, buckets, and jars for pieces and parts made me think about all you just read?  Like I said, I don’t know if my father had a design in the things he made me do…heck…I think most of us are just trying to get by…and not harm or damage our kids…sometimes we as fathers don’t know…we don’t have all the right answers or exact way things should be done…but it’s ok…because if we provide the jars and cans with all the right pieces in there…somewhere…we can provide the love, guidance, prayers, teachings, values, pats on the back, watchful eyes, winks, and smiles to help our children stir and pick through the wrong things until they can do it themselves…reap the rewards…and then do it for their own children. Lastly, Fathers we are watched by our children…what we say…what we do matters…Don’t forget to give them a “Good job”…and a kiss goodnight…whether they are already asleep or not…  God Bless -Anthony

 

Do You See What I See ?

We made our way down the winding path…hurrying by the hippos, zipping past the zebras, and merely glancing at the gazelles…all in an effort to see the mighty elephants at the NC Zoo in Asheboro.  By the time we arrived, they had moved a pretty good distance away from the observation point.  It is for this reason(not to make 50 cents a pop I’m sure)…the Zoo has the big binoculars on a stand for people to catch a closer look at the elephants.  Aleck and Emma Grace took turns looking through the binoculars.  I put the money in for Ella’s turn and pulled out the map.  As Amy and I studied the map, I heard Ella saying “Ahhhh I can’t see!!!”  I looked up to see her peering correctly through the lenses.  I told her she was doing it right, looked back down, and then heard her say the same thing.  This happened three times…until I did a fast fake look down at the map…then quickly looked up.  When I looked up, I saw Aleck putting his hands over the two lenses from the other side of the binoculars just as Ella put her eyes into them to see.  I told him to stop in my “Cooommmeeee on maaaaan” tone(even though I admired the clever, funny, quick thinking Anthony-like prank he successfully pulled off with impeccable timing).  I went to the notes on my phone(as I often do when I think something my kids say or do will give me words of wisdom to write down the road)…and recorded the event.  Today…I’d like to share with you what inspired me to tell this story and the two things I hope we all can take from it:

It seems to me as I get older, a lot of things just keep getting harder.  It has become harder to find TIME…to sleep, to lift, to read, to be with family, to eat, to take care of business items, to shop, to recover, to help with homework, to wake up, to return phone calls…emails…texts, to send an encouraging note,  to write, to listen to a child’s story, …time…time…time…I seem to need more TIME.  I will say though…I can make sense out of why things are harder…and I am able to make corrections to slow things down and prioritize…BUT what happens when things are busy…and hard…and tough…and then the world JUMPS right on our shoulders in the middle of it all?  What do I mean?  I am talking about being soooo tired and stressed that you are sure one more thing will put you over the edge…I’m talking about listening to the news of children being shot in a school on the drive to work and then two hours into training people receiving a text from your wife that her school is in full lockdown and she and her students are hiding in her classroom.  I’m talking about news of bombs, drones, corruption, failing schools, an incompetent government, wasted money, rape, murder, religious intolerance, healthcare, immigration, robbery, typhoons, animal cruelty, fallen soldiers, child abuse, terrorism, suicide, disease, lying, overpaid…out of touch…selfish… ignorant athletes-politicians-singers-actors-people, pollution, prejudice, chemical warfare, starvation….I’m talking about alllllll the things we hear 24 hours a day…7 days a week…things that make you want to do to yourself…EXACTLY what Aleck did to little Ella.  I’m talking about your eyes being so full and deep with tears…that your eyelids can’t keep them covered….so you use your own hands to cover them….to cover the lenses…And this leads me to the first thing I hope we learn from this story:

1. DO NOT LET ANYONE CHOOSE YOUR LENSES…This is one of the most challenging things we face.  We are bombarded with news around the clock and as we know, that news…9 times out of 10…will be bad news.  That “stuff” constantly shapes the way we see life.  We should NOT see the world through the media…through the news.  I’m not saying we need to block out reality…we need to pray, be compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and caring…BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO LET THE BAD IN THE WORLD BECOME THE LENSES THROUGH WHICH YOU SEE LIFE.  You know if you’ve been looking through these lenses right? You have become anxious, fearful, pessimistic, negative, discouraged, untrusting, sad, and maybe even a tad bit hateful…your eyes are tired…so tired.  Listen…Life can be hard enough…don’t make it harder by seeing things…through the bad and negative…lenses.  It becomes a choice.  And believe me…I know it can be a seemingly impossible choice at times…but seeing this life as a miracle…seeing this life as a gift…seeing this life as an opportunity to share…give…help others…seeing this life through the lenses of gratitude, compassion, and LOVE…seeing this life the way GOD sees you and your life…is the ONLY way to get the BEST view.

“There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing?” – C. Joybell C.

The second thing I hope to share through this story is very important.  This thought came to me last week as my family shopped in downtown Waynesville, NC.  We were walking down the sidewalk when all three kids let out a “Awwww wooowww…cooool!!!” They dashed and stood in front of a store…and I took this picture:

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As I looked at the three of them staring at the display, they became blurred because of my tear filled eyes.  I looked at them and felt their belief…their innocence…their amazement.  I felt those pure, strong, and perfect feelings you feel when you are a kid…out of school on Christmas break…heart filled with joy and peace…unaware of the cruelty that coexists with all that is good in this life.  I am having a hard time lately coming to grips with the way life changes.  We all want our kids to experience the specialness of Christmas right? I want my children to feel the pressure I once felt to be good a few weeks before Christmas because Santa is watching…I want my children to be so excited on Christmas Eve they can’t fall asleep no matter how hard they try…I want them to wake up at 4am(I say that now…)…I want to come in…and spread out on the floor…cuddling with…one or all of them…telling them it is too early to open presents…but that if they can be patient, I will stay with them and tell them stories about when I was young…JUST as my mother did one special Christmas…I want them to know of the best Christmases I had…all in a single wide trailer…in a trailer park…explaining to them that you don’t need things, people, or money to make you happy…teaching them to appreciate all they have…and to have compassion for those who do not have…I want them to understand the true Christmas story…I want them to believe in miracles…I want them to know THEY are miracles.  We want our children to have it the way we did…but better.  But things change…We get tired…life gets in the way…it gets hectic…we don’t have the money…the house…the plans…the spirit…people are sick…family members are fighting…sisters have become distant…brothers have become busy…business comes first…loved ones die…the miles to be travelled have become not worth it anymore…whatever the reason(s)…It all just seems so less innocent…less nice…less special…to us…the adults.  Things have changed…and will keep changing…for this reason please please please remember this thought I had while looking at my children as they stood mesmerized by a store window display :

2. DO NOT COVER OTHER PEOPLE’S LENSES….especially your own children.  We can’t let our disappointments…our negativities…our unrealized expectations…seep into our children…We shouldn’t let them take those things on…We must let them see life the way they are supposed to see life…as children.  We need to realize it is ok things aren’t the way they used to be…we have to be ok…and let it go.  We need to foster new traditions…encourage new specialness and magic…we need to teach…we need to encourage…we need to listen…we need to instill values…we need to hug…we need to love…we need to create memories and traditions so special…our children’s hearts will burst with excitement and joy as they eventually share those memories and traditions with their own children…That is a HUGE responsibility…but it is freeing and exciting…Think about it this way: We can put the money in(parents we’re used to this anyway)….We can teach them where to look…how to get their eyes in the right place…we can encourage and love them as they try and try and try again(no matter how many times it takes)…BUT…BUT… we must take our hands off their lenses…let them see…let them believe…for themselves.  They ARE NOT ALWAYS supposed to SEE what we SEE.  If you feel overwhelmed about this… Remember these words I once read: GOD has plans for your child…despite the expectations and plans YOU have for him/her…May we all have comfort and peace in knowing this…Merry Christmas!!! God bless :)

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Are They Perfect?…Revisited

I was on Facebook yesterday when I read one of my friend’s post : “Has anyone ever felt like a total loser when looking at other people’s lives and pictures on here besides me?”  I probably wouldn’t have thought much about this question except last week I faced criticism of my own writing and pictures in this blog and had a tough week in general.  While thinking about that criticism, the question my friend asked, and Facebook in general, I found this quote : “WELCOME TO FACEBOOK, the place where RELATIONSHIPS are perfect, LIARS believe they are telling the truth, & the WORLD shows off they are living a great life: where your FRIENDS & FAMILY block you: and even though you write what you’re really thinking, someone takes it the wrong way!!!”  For the most part, this quote is true, but…it has never bothered me.  Pictures or status updates of beautiful houses, gardens, cars, pools, views, vacations, bathrooms, pets, birthdays, weddings, jobs, children, husbands, wives, and of course….perfect workout sessions…has never bothered me. So what’s the problem?  The problem, to me, seems to be with the receiver or viewer of this information.  If you’re a person who sees or hears this information and it makes you feel worse about yourself, there is a problem.  The easy answer is to say log off and quit Facebook, but Facebook isn’t the real problem is it?  It’s the comparison which can take place in all areas of life.  It is NEVER a good idea to compare yourself to others.  You are you…your life is yours.  Make the most of your own life.

On a personal level, I would like to remind people to not make the mistake of assuming people who share “perfect” pictures and positive stories are presenting themselves as perfect people.  If you do this, YOU are the one assuming the person is or is trying to be perfect.  No one has a perfect life.  We all have stuff.  As a Strength Coach, Father, Man, and seriously amateur blogger, my goal is to inspire…not intimidate.  If I act as if my life is perfect, I am intimidating instead of inspiring.  Having said that, I realize I mostly share funny children inspirations, beautiful pictures, and positive messages.  This does not mean my life is perfect.  As a matter of fact, as I write this now, Aleck is sitting in time-out for putting a gallon of shampoo on Emma Grace’s hair, Ella and Emma Grace are about to join him if they don’t stop fighting over a stinking green crayon, and Amy is going through the house like the Tasmanian Devil because she has lost her checkbook and the business checkbook… allllllll while Phineas and Ferb and Disney XD  blare through the TV at 100000 decibels.   I don’t take pictures of the girls screaming as we try to get the tangles out of their curly hair after every bath, of Amy and I passing like two trains in the night sometimes, of my 15 hour days, or of anxiety I have about being good enough of a father.  That’s how it is in life right?  We don’t always share the “stuff”.  We don’t take pictures of the tears, temper tantrums, or pain.  We don’t write about the hectic school mornings, struggles with business, or finances.  We don’t share troubles with reading and math, sick parents, and broken down cars.  We don’t tell about our fears, addictions, or failures.  We don’t talk about learning disabilities, bullying, or depression.  Just because it isn’t on Facebook, on a Blog, on a person’s face, or in a person’s words, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Believe me it’s there…for every person in this world…I promise.  So my advice is : 1. Understand that NO ONE…NO LIFE is perfect.  2. Take in anything positive people have to offer(pictures, stories, experiences, accomplishments, etc.). 3. Realize comparison leads to NOTHING but bitterness.  4. Learn from the imperfections and the struggles in your life.  5. Accept and appreciate the blessings you have.  6. Share

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen

 

What’s In Your Hand?…Revisited

Last weekend our family went camping at Kerr Lake.  It was great to see family we have not seen in such a long time.  It was also great to spend time with Amy, Aleck, Emma Grace, and Ella.  It is very important for me to spend time with them because they teach me so much about life.  As you probably guessed, this weeks blog post was inspired by a simple event one evening with my children.

Ella sat on the sand digging in the bait bucket and letting worms crawl in, out, and between her fingers as if they were racing on an agility course.  Emma Grace and her cousin Hayley, long over the thrill of fishing, were making giant mud balls and throwing them in the water…and on our feet.  My older sister, Jenay, was trying her shot at casting and catching a fish.  She couldn’t get the line to cast out an inch past her toes and caused all of us to duck for our lives as a bobber and hook zipped past our heads…every try(yes I have it on video).  Amy and my younger sister, Annette, were packing up and eventually everyone started heading back to the campsite.  As I grabbed up all the fishing gear, I noticed Aleck standing on the edge of the water not following us.  I stood for a moment as the sun was setting and watched the little boy in his own little world, not even noticing we were all leaving.  I thought to myself, “Geez it’s as if I’m with the Ghost of Christmas Past in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, looking at myself as a young boy, wondering where time had gone.”  He was picking up rocks and throwing them in the water.  He seemed a little frustrated and then I figured out he was trying to skip them across the surface.  I put the fishing gear down and walked over to him.  “Aww cool.  Trying to skip rocks?” I asked.  “Yep.”  he answered.  I picked up a rock and zinged it across the lake’s glassy surface.  It skipped four times.  “Daaad!!!  That was awesome!  How did you do that?”  Aleck said.  And so being a proud Father, I taught him everything I know about skipping rocks… Arm position, foot position, trajectory, wind speed, wind resistance, and even how to deal with heckling(should it occur).  I taught him everything he possibly needed to know to become an expert rock skipper with enough knowledge to pass down to his own kids.  Aleck picked up a rock and threw it….one splash…he tried another…kerr plop… one splash…picked another and threw…kaaa plooosh…one splash…not one single skip.  I thought  “How in the world can this kid not skip a rock now?  Did his Aunt Jenay rub off on him some way? Did he catch her disease – inabilitytowalkandchewgumatthesametimeitis?”  I taught him everything I knew…I thought.  Then I watched him from the beginning.  I watched him pick up a rock without even looking down and throw it with perfect rock skipping mechanics.  And in that moment, I was inspired to share my new life lesson with you.

As Aleck readied his next throw, I stopped him, grabbed his hand and uncurled his clay coated little fingers holding the rock.  Just as I suspected, he held a lumpy, round, jaggedy edged rock.  “I’m so sorry Big A.”  I said. He looked up at me with a confused face.  “I forgot to tell you the most important step in rock skipping…choosing the right rock.” I said.  We went over how important it is to take the time to search out a smooth flat rock.  And with that,  Aleck became  one of Kerr Lake’s best… all-time champion…mac daddy… rock skippers.

This lesson is applicable to so many areas of our lives.  What simple, yet extremely important, step are we forgetting, lacking knowledge of, or ignoring when trying to achieve a desire, goal, or task?  I see it in the exercise world every single day.  You can research, perform, and stick to a perfectly designed training program, and never achieve desired results.  Why? Usually because a person does not take the time to choose the “right rock”(a plan that matches an individualized nutritional pattern to the training program).  This means they are skipping an extremely important step in trying to achieve their goal.  On the flip side, how many ads and/or testimonies do you hear about diets, pills, powders, and surgeries in an effort to accomplish fat loss….WITHOUT EXERCISE.  Exercise is a pretty important step.  To be honest, these are the people who typically don’t even want to get out of their chairs to look for a rock.  In our personal lives, how often do we overlook a critical step?  In a relationship you’re trying to save, the missing step or “right rock” may be finally TRULY forgiving someone.  It may be forgiving yourself.  It may be saying “I love you”.  It may mean actually loving yourself for the first time in a long time.  It may be the cessation of enabling another.  It may be saying no.  It may be fixing your schedule…your life…so you’re not moving through each and every day like a tornado.  It may be accepting someone just the way they are instead of trying to change them into who you want them to be.  The missing step or “right rock” may be spending more time with your child or children and figuring out who they are, what they need, what they like, and what they fear instead of allowing an “expert” or someone else to tell you.  In a tragedy you’re trying to accept and get over it may be a simple prayer that brings you comfort.  The missing step or “right rock” in dealing with anxiety, death, fear, or exhaustion may be shutting down your mind and your mouth so you can hear God’s whisper filled with comfort, peace, strength, and direction.

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My point is : You may be somewhere in your life right now where you think you’re doing everything you need to do…and it just isn’t working.  You’re throwing rock after rock after rock after rock…and only getting one splash.  I’m telling you to stop…uncurl your fingers…and make sure you are holding the right rock.  That’s all.  Pretty simple right?  I can tell you I plan on doing this myself, in my own life, and I know it will be painful, confusing, and frustrating, but when I remember and hear in my mind the joy and laughter coming from my son as he put all the steps together to create a magical moment, I know…I know with all my heart… it is and will be worth uncurling my own fingers. :)

It’s About…Toenails

I had the honor of being a judge in the 2013 Carolina Supernatural Bodybuilding Championship in Spartanburg, SC.  It was a great experience being able to give back to the sport of Bodybuilding with a wonderful group of top-notch people.  Having competed for over 16 years, it was not hard to know what to look for while judging each competitor.  It was not hard to be fair and score each competitor correctly…yet I still felt an uneasiness in my heart that I couldn’t explain…then I sat in Church a couple of weeks ago and listened to guest speaker Brigadier General Kevin Turner…and he helped me figure it all out.  This is the lesson I’d love to share with you:

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Last week I saw a T-shirt that said “Let’s go somewhere and judge people…”  It cracked me up at first, but when you really think about it…it’s what we do…a lot…every day…we judge people.  The Bible says in Matthew 7:1 – Do not judge others…so why do we do it?…What are we supposed to do?  What if our safety is at risk?  What if we’ve been hurt?  I have to judge…right?  Speaking at Faith Community Church in Haywood County, Brigadier General Turner said ” We make judgements all the time…good or bad…We use judgement to figure out order and structure in our lives.”  He also said the stars on his uniform mean one of two things :  ” 1. No one has told me the truth in two years or… 2. people suck up and tell me everything because they think…(“He can get me somewhere or get me something”)”.  Fear causes one judgement…motivation of self-gain causes another judgement.  Looking at the man in his uniform, it’s hard not to make a judgement…Special Forces, Airborne Wings, Stars, Special Forces Combat, Chaplain Cross….and all the other stars, medals, and ribbons…it amazes me…it inspires me…it makes me think of all he has been through…and the heroism of all our troops.  To another person, it may mean very little or even something completely different.  Why does this happen?  A valuable point Brigadier General Turner made that stuck with me is…when we are judging….we are making a value based assessment.  Think about that…think about the wide wide wide range of thinking when you take into account the different values of all the very different people in this world.  Realize this: You are being judged by EVERYTHING…We ALL are…Judged by what car we drive, where we went to school, our past, the house we live in, our job, skin color, country we live in, whether we’re fat, skinny, the clothes we wear, church denomination, how many kids we have…or don’t have, if we home-school, if we give our kids a flu shot…mist…or nothing at all, eat meat…or don’t eat meat, if we have tattoos, by what language we speak, how many friends we have Facebook and Instagram, what sports our children play…or don’t play, how many followers we have on Twitter(I have 44…yes that’s lame), what kind of cellphone we have, whether our kids sleep in their own beds…all night, if we smoke…don’t smoke, if we drink…or don’t drink, whether we workout…or don’t workout, whether we pick our kid up from school…or make them ride the bus…and finally…you’re even judged by the things you have in your stinking grocery cart…we’re judged…judged…judged…and let’s be honest…we judge, judge, judge.  How we judge or how we ARE judged… all depends on what values we or the people judging us have…or as Brigadier General Turner says ” When we judge we’re pointing our finger based on an assessment of our own personal view(s)”.  HUUUGGGGEEEE problem right?  If only life was like the Bodybuilding contest where there are clear guidelines for judging.  We score each competitor on Muscular Size, Definition/Conditioning, Proportion, and Symmetry.  We don’t have that clear criteria in life do we?  HUUUGGGEEEE problem…but it’s a problem we’re about to solve :)

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You know my name, not my story.  You’ve heard what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through.

The uneasiness I felt while judging the bodybuilding contest was caused by the answer…Love.  I looked at these competitors…and I loved every one of them…I loved that they had gone through everything I cherish in my sport…I didn’t know everyone’s story, but I knew through my own experiences the struggles…the adversity…the obstacles these competitors had overcome to get to the very moment they stood in front of our judges table.  That love made it tough having to NOT place some of them…because I wanted them to realize they shouldn’t give up…they should keep believing…and keep working hard…that the placings have nothing to do with their value as a person…I wanted them to know.  Love is the clear guideline or criteria for how we can assess any situation or any person…It is found in the Bible…John 13:34…Love one another.  The answer is LOVE.  I’m not getting all mushy…or trying not too…but think about it…Love crosses every society…religion…race…age…gender.  If judging is making a value based assessment….then I’m telling you to always start with the value of loving one another.  What do I mean?  I once read a story about a classroom full of kids having to write about and present to their classmates the definition of love.  There were your basic answers…about hugging…sharing…kissing…and then one girl got up and said “Love is about toenails.”  The class started laughing.  The teacher quieted the class and asked the little girl to continue.  “Love is about toenails.  I think love is when my Grandfather paints my Grandmother’s toenails because she’s in too much pain to do it herself….even though his own back hurts him terribly.”  Another example is a story one of my clients told me about her Grandpa.  She told me her Grandpa used to open every cabinet door in the kitchen at night before he went to bed.  He did this so that when he got up in the morning and went through his routine, the little metal latches on the cabinet doors wouldn’t clank and awaken his sleeping wife.  That’s the kind of love I’m talking about…a genuine love.  Perhaps the greatest example I can give you though… is God’s love for you.  The love and grace we are given by God is the perfect example.  We need to love people…have patience with people…forgive people…be gracious with people…the way God does all of that for us.  These should be our values…when making our value based assessments…judging.  I will always remember what Brigadier General Turner said about knowing the difference in how you deal with people…Remember this my friends: “Judgement comes from a place of self-centeredness.  Love is the opposite…it is all about another…not about…or because of …you.”  Be patient…Encourage each other…Love each other…paint some toenails…open all the cabinet doors…and forgive.  God Bless:)

The Tripper…Revisited

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Oftentimes…especially after writing a blog post deep from my heart, I wonder if it has reached anyone…I mean I know people read it…but does it reach them?  As I write and write…I realize more and more this is common…among writers…or anyone I suppose doing anything with all their heart… Doctors…Pastors…Volunteers…Counselors…Caretakers…Military Men and Women…Nurses…Teachers…and so many others…I think anyone could feel this way…but you know what I’m saying…It’s normal to wonder…I think…to wonder if what you’re doing in your life…really matters.  Well…this week I received an e-mail comment from a little 10-year-old girl who helped me with my question:

“This is Caroline.  I loved your blog especially because one of my friends was not nice to me.  I want you to know that my favorite thing was where you put courage on there.  I will try to be strong.”

First of all…how great is that?  A child reading my blog…I love it!  Her mother let me know her 10-year-old daughter had not only read my blog post…she printed it out…taped it to her wall…cut out the “courage” part… and slept with it.  The blog post is called “The Tripper”…some of you may remember it…and it will follow these words(I’m reposting).  Before you read it again though, I want to tell you…this time if you’ve had any questions about what you do in your job…what you do as a parent…a husband…a wife…a child…if you’ve had any question about yourself…and whether you matter…this time when you read The Tripper….realize…that you CAN trip yourself.  I’ve done it…you can do it…trip yourself so you end up on your face…getting all tangled up in yourself.  But always remember this: YOU MATTER…YOU MATTER…what you do…MATTERS.  You make a difference…it may be to one person…a family…or thousands of people in a business or church…one child…or a classroom full of children…a patient…or a hospital full of patients…one person longing for freedom…or a country full of people desiring peace and safety…IT ALL MATTERS.  What we need to do…is have courage.  Have the courage to keep doing what you do…and say to yourself what Caroline said to me : “I will try to be strong.” …that’s what you do…BE STRONG and COURAGEOUS…avoid the Trippers…and don’t trip yourself…Enjoy and reflect….The Tripper…Revisited:

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The Tripper…

I often go through photos and/or my journals until something pops out at me to write about.  Today, as I was going through an old training journal, I read a couple of sentences I wrote on the inside cardboard page.  It makes this post short…it is a warning…or more of a heads up I guess…anyway, I’d like to share it with you.  When I wrote these words, I was going through a few business things and dealing with certain people in my life as I was in prep for a bodybuilding contest.  I’m sure you’ll be able to relate if you stop and think about your own life….

Some people are so used to getting knocked down, they don’t even want to get back up.  This becomes a problem when they lose interest in getting up and their focus becomes to pull others down…to trip people…makes them feel better…STAY AWAY FROM THESE PEOPLE ANTHONY…TRIPPERS…it’s who they are…what they do…Decide right now who and what is worthwhile…YOU know what you’re supposed to do…NOW DO IT!

You know some Trippers right?  A person who is constantly negative…about everything.  A person who smiles at other people’s pain and frowns at other people’s happiness.  A person who has every answer for why you, someone, or something will fail…but solutions for NOTHING.  It’s that person who grabs your ankle when you’re on the fifth step…pulling you back to the first…all while making YOU believe you should have never even stood up to climb in the first place.  It’s the person who uses an eyedropper every minute…every hour…every day to extinguish the fire of greatness burning within you…drop…”you can’t”…drop…”no one has done that”….drop…”people will laugh”…drop…”that’s dumb…ridiculous…impossible”…drop, drop, drop.  Before you know it…you find yourself with a hose helping them extinguish your very own dream.  I’m telling you…I’ve been there. We all have them in our lives - Trippers…Let me tell you why it works and why they are so dangerous : It’s because…they are the people that surround us in life…friends, our children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, other family, coworkers, bosses, “experts”, politicians, and the media.  Most of the time we love these Trippers…which makes them so much more effective.  So what do we do about it?  First, let me say, hopefully you aren’t a Tripper.  If you read this and think you are…Change!  Come to grips with WHY you are a Tripper…get over it…and STOP!  If you do have a Tripper(s) in your life(be honest with yourself), here are a few tips for you:

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” – W.C. Fields

1. BE AWARE…You have to realize what is going on.  Be aware of who is pulling you down.  Be aware of all areas in your life producing negativity.

2. FIGURE IT OUT…Is the tripping coming from a place of: unhappiness….ignorance…hatred…laziness…jealousy…feeling trapped in their own life?

3. REALIZE…It’s not your problem.  You thinking it is….enables the Tripper…Trust me

4. SEPARATE…You must choose to shed this Tripper…whether or not it’s forever is up to them right?  You have one life…live it fully…Choose to surround yourself with those who ADD TO…not subtract from… your life.

5. HAVE COURAGE…Have the courage to do…to try…the things in your heart.  Listen to yourself.  Define yourself.  It is said your life can be as small…or as large as you want it to be…which one it will be is directly proportional to….your COURAGE.

6. DO IT…As I wrote to myself…You know what you’re supposed  to do…NOW DO IT!!!  :)

“A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” – David Brinkley

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Hold Onto It…

Wow…Yesterday…was quite a day.  We moved Amy’s Grandmother from Weaverville to Canton…in the pouring rain.  After packing the big truck, making the trip to the new house, unloading, getting the moving truck stuck in the mud, and finally pulling it out…we made our way home.  I jumped in the shower and then into bed.  As I took a deep relaxed breath, visions of my kids walking up the moving truck ramp in the hard rain carrying boxes containing anything from dishes to wooden doggie toilet paper holders flashed in my mind…and made me smile…and made me so proud of them.  As I started to fall asleep, one more vision seeped into my mind.  It was of Amy cleaning out one of her Grandmother’s closets.  She was placing old newspapers and an old hat in a plastic bag so the rain wouldn’t touch them.  I found out the newspapers were from when her Grandmother’s mother died and the hat was her Grandfather’s(he has passed away).  Her Grandmother hadn’t thrown it away after all those years.  With that vision, I was inspired to write this blog post.

Memory…is the diary that we all carry about with us. - Oscar Wilde

Last week my friend and client Beverly Burt came up to me before her session and said, “I have to show you something and tell you a quick story about it.”  She pulled me to the side and held up an old ink pen.  It was well used and had an old worn rubber band wrapped tightly around it.  “I wanted to show you this.  It was my dad’s pen.  I keep it in my purse.” she said.  She was using it that day to write her exercises/weight/reps for the session in her training book.  “What’s the rubber band for?” I asked.  “He kept this pen with him everywhere he went. The rubber band kept it from falling out of his pocket.  I just like to have it close to me because it was his.” she answered.  For those of you who don’t know, Beverly’s father passed away a few years ago.

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

When I think about Beverly, Amy’s Grandmother, the newspapers, the hat, and the pen…a valuable message comes to mind : Do whatever you can to never forget what you love.  Whether the love has passed or is still with you…be aware, soak up, treasure, and capture every moment you can because it all moves so fast.  And…if it helps to hold onto something that refreshes your mind, lifts your spirit, and rejuvenates your soul…HOLD ONTO IT.   You probably already do this…if not now, I guarantee you did at one time right?  You know…that shell from a beach trip, a movie ticket from a date or family night out, a coin, jewelry, concert ticket stub, hair from a first haircut, a rock from a hiking trip, a report card, a hospital bracelet, artwork, a note, a bible, dishes, and of course pictures.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to anyone else.  You hold onto it…because as the above quote says…you don’t want to ever lose the things you love…the things you are…and sometimes a newspaper, a pen with a rubber band wrapped around it, or an old hat will help you accomplish…just that.

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AN IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE:  Share your stories.  Share your memories.  Share the item(s) you are holding onto.  I’m serious.  As my favorite guy Ralph Waldo Emerson said : “Our best thoughts come from others.”  Think if Beverly hadn’t pulled me aside to share her story…I couldn’t have written this.  These are the things that should be shared…not who went to what party…who is skinny…who is fat…who was invited to the wedding and who wasn’t…who ate what…who wore what…who did what on a wrecking ball…who voted for who…who made millions…who doesn’t parent right…who lives where…who drives what…etc…etc…etc…  Share the stories that add value to people’s lives.  We all have them.  Finally let me share mine:

My Grandmother died September 29, 2005.  She lived about six hours from us…and I have written a lot about her in my journals.  She is still the sweetest lady I have ever known in my life.  When our twins were in the hospital she called to check on them often and would always end by saying, “I’m saying a special prayer for them.”  She did get to meet them when they came home….and then she lost her battle with cancer…passing away 3 months later.  I always say they’re the luckiest and most blessed twins in the world…not just because they survived being born at 1lb each…but also because they were able to be held by my Grandmother.

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I travelled to her funeral alone because the twins could not go out in public yet…it was too dangerous.  The night before her funeral I tossed and turned in the hotel room…I could not sleep.  Finally, I got up at 5am and drove to Wal-Mart.  I bought a pad of paper, a pack of pens, and drove to a big rock I used to play on when I visited my Grandmother as a child.  There I sat…and wrote…and cried…and cried.  I went back to the hotel and put on my suit…sliding the tear-stained papers into the inside pocket of my suit.  The funeral was ending…the Pastor said a prayer…and something in me made me stand up and walk to the pulpit.  I didn’t even remember walking up there…and I stood…and a tear rolled down my cheek…and I could not speak.  I looked at my Dad…his eyes met mine and he quickly looked down and started to cry.  It was the first time I had ever seen him cry.  I heard someone in the pews say, “God bless him.”  And when I heard those words a calmness came over me…I pulled the papers from my suit pocket…and I began to speak.  This was the first time I had ever spoken my written words…words from my heart.  And to this day…after speaking to many churches, teams, small groups, and individuals…I still say it is the gift my Grandmother gave me.  It was born the day I said goodbye to her.

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And now it is a gift I’m able to share with you…you see…I still have the stained papers with the words I spoke that day…I held onto them…after all these years…I keep them folded up under my jeep seat…and when I feel like I’m stuck and unable to write, I’ll pull them out and read.  There have been many nights I’ve sat exhausted in my gym parking lot…and read them.  That’s the story about what I’ve held onto…the story I want to share with you…these papers accomplish a lot of things…they help me hold onto who I love…hold onto who I am…and help me share it all with you.  Thank you all for allowing me to do so. :)

 

 

Be Willing to…Jack it Up

A few months ago, we camped on Edisto Island in South Carolina and had a spot right on the beach.  Every morning Amy went running and when she returned, I went out on the beach to set up our umbrella and chairs.  We camped in the State Park on the end of the island and it is hardly ever crowded.  Some days we really had the beach to ourselves.  It is beautiful.  Anyway, I went out early every morning this particular week and never saw another person…except for this one man.

This is him :

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At first glance, I know it just looks like an old guy doing some early morning fishing on the beach, but I want you to look closely…It is important for you to see how the old man got to his spot…Do you see his walker now?  I watched the old man hobble and scoot to the edge of the water for three days.  He had his pole, his chair, and his little red bucket.  When he got set up, he sat down and stayed allll day.  I mean ALL day…just sitting and fishing.

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Every day…for three days.  I found myself admiring the old man and was aware that he was inspiring me to write(which is why I started taking pictures of him), but I couldn’t figure out what it was about this man’s journey from his tent in the dunes to the edge of the ocean that was making me stop every morning to watch him as if I was about to see him suddenly do something rare and spectacular.  Then on the fourth day it all came to me when I saw the old man….and this:

 

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How great is that?  I remember saying out loud in these exact words with a smile on my face…bad grammar and all… “That old man done jacked up his walker…that’s soooo AWESOME!”  And the lesson hit me…and now I’ll share with you:

If you are guessing that I’m going to write about being grateful for what you have…I’m not (though we should be grateful…always).  If you’re thinking I’m going to write about how to improvise, adapt, and overcome…I’m not(though it is true…and I love that stuff…and it is exactly what the old man did).  Instead I want to write about WHY the old man adapted…WHY did the old man jack up that walker?…WHY did the old man create the best champion monster 4×4 walker ever….WHY?

I believe it’s because…He loves to fish…really really really loves to fish.  So? He was able to fish those first few days right?  Why did he need to change anything?  This is important : It is true he was able to fish the first three days…but what were his last four days like?….BETTER…They were better right?  Take a look at his new walker:

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Think about it…look at how much extra stuff he has…extra bags…extra bait…extra poles…he loves to fish…so if he can run two or three poles now, doesn’t he increase his chances of catching more fish?  Doesn’t he increase the number of times he may get to experience the battle, the joy, the excitement of reeling in a fish?  Look at the wheels…imagine the first time he came out onto the dunes…rolling over them instead of getting stuck in sand with every step.  And finally…most importantly, think about how fast he got to his spot.  He saved time.  When he saved time on the hard tedious part of his journey…when he became more efficient in his journey…He added value to his day by allowing more time to do what he loves…fish.

So what am I saying to you?  Figure out what you want from this life.  Figure out what is important to you.  Figure out what you love…what you would be willing to hobble, scoot, struggle, and drag yourself through the sand for…FIGURE IT OUT.  When you figure it out, work as hard as you can to get there.  You will have to improvise, adapt, and overcome…do it…jack up your walker…put it in 4 wheel drive.  Whether you are there…close to being there…or still hobbling…MAKE IT BETTER.  Do everything you can to make yourself better.  Be so concretely set on what you love, that you’ll do anything to be doing it.  I once heard a man(I can’t remember who said it right now…sorry) say it this way, “Be willing to sacrifice who you are right now…for who you want to become.”  If you want to be a better student, father, mother, child, husband, wife…If you want a better job or more income…if you want to start a business…if you want to lose weight, gain weight, or start eating correctly…if you want to travel, go back to school, or play a sport…If you want to stop losing, smoking, being sick, shopping, or screaming at your kids…if you want to do ANYTHING BETTER…You have to want it bad enough to BE WILLING to struggle through the deep sand….You MUST BE WILLING to make hard choices and be responsible for those choices…YOU MUST HAVE A CLEAR AWARENESS about what you want…and BE WILLING to DO ALL THINGS POSSIBLE to make the journey BETTER…not necessarily easier…BETTER…more efficient, more practical, more strategic…BETTER…all with the mindset that after you work hard on the things you need to work on…after you make many slow trips in the sand…after you put the big wheels on…after you put it in 4 wheel drive…You’ll feel blessed for the chance you had to take such a journey…and grateful to be EXACTLY where you are.

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