Posted by: Ed Deiss | January 23, 2014

On an Angel’s Wings

Snow AngelThe Sunday night before the start of another week.  January 12th 2014, was probably similar to many Sunday nights for the Menzies family.  Enjoying the time together, reflecting on the weekend, dinner around the table, and getting their three children to bed, hugs and kisses included.  As we all do, we wake up each day just like Meg did, with a fresh start and a sunrise.  She went out the door and started her run that Monday morning that she had done many times before.  All expected to see her at the same finish line when done, home.  Then came 8:15am.  Meg was struck and killed by Toyota Sequoia SUV driven by an allegedly alcohol-impaired physician as she was on a morning run in Hanover County, Virginia.  The normalcy of the night, days, weeks, and years of their lives just became upended.  Suddenly Scott, their kids, and their family became about getting through the next hour, let alone the day.

Megs Marker2Storms such as this can come when least expected, and a fog of uncertainty and grief follows.  Author and Pastor Max Lucado has written about the fog of a broken heart “…it slyly imprisons the soul and refuses easy escape.  It’s a silent mist that eclipses the sun and beckons the darkness.  It’s a heavy cloud that honors no hour and respects no person.  It  disorients…makes it hard to see the road.”

Faith:  the assurance of things hoped for, conviction of things not seen.

I live a few miles from the Menzies though we have never met; went and visited the site this week to pay respects.  To read messages to Meg was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.  After I heard the news, learned that a group (Meg’s Miles Supporters) had been formed on Facebook to support Meg and her family (#megsmiles).  What has transpired has truly inspired, a compassionate community that has come together from all reaches of the globe to encourage the Menzies family and what is evident is how much they have encouraged us all.  On Saturday, January 18th nearly 100,000 people around the globe on five continents ran for Meg and her family.  Posts and pictures faster than the refresh button could refresh.   Just reading the posts and seeing the pictures had me reflecting that storms in life and the fog that follows can bring purpose and reminded that you are never alone.

“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” – C.S. Lewis

What it also brought to mind is that no matter what your story, it matters.  Your life can impact and encourage, it can be done each day with each interaction, and you don’t have to be famous.  A look at some of the writings this week brought together by this new bond:

I don’t call myself a Runner but I am a Mother and a Wife. I ran 4.4 miles today and with every breath, every drip of sweat, every gust of wind, every step… my heart ached for Meg Menzies family. Meg was Carelessly killed last week by a drunk driver while out on a run. My heart has been plagued and touched with this story of someone I’ve never met… A mother of three small children… A Wife. 90,000 runners logged thousands of miles for her on Saturday and so many more throughout the week. I found so much stillness in motion tonight as I am granted another day to do what so many can’t. Take a look at megsmiles… Strangers coming together as one… Pray for this family and thank God for this gift of life. I know I am… 

out again for Meg….. this time it was the treadmill… not my favorite. Today we had wind chill of -9. I don’t like the treadmill much at all but I managed 4 miles. Meg was on my shoulder pushing me……thanks Meg

I ran 3.1 miles this evening, It was 14 degrees. The entire way I thought of Meg and all of the wonderful things I have Learned about her that made her so special. A strong woman, good wife and friend, loving mother, Woman of God and accomplished runner. I am inspired by her memory and each time I run I will say a prayer for peace and comfort for her family. God Bless you Meg.

7 degrees, 15″ of snow, 30 mph winds. 5k for meg, because I can

How Can….
How can I ever run to the end of the block? But you did/will!
How can I ever run a mile? But you did/will!
How can I ever run a 5K, 10K, ½ Marathon, Marathon? But you did/will!
How can people of all different races, gender, ability, and beliefs come together for one common goal? But we did to honor someone so many of us never even met!
How can out of tragedy bring unity? But it did It brought all of us together not just for one day, but for the future!
How can out of so much pain and sorrow bring hope and strength? But it did. People are reaching out to people they don’t know to provide comfort and strength.
How can one person affect the lives of so many? But Meg you did!

I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Meg Menzies in this life. But, Meg’s passion, compassion, vibrant smile, beautiful soul and love for her family, friends and running have left a lasting impression on my soul. Meg and I are connected by another thread. You see, I was run-over by someone who should have never been behind the wheel five years ago. Even though my doctors said I would never run again, that didn’t mean I couldn’t do other things. I started crutching & wheeling to the gym and then through road races. Since Sept 2012, I have crutched through a dozen 5k races, three 10ks and numerous obstacle course races. Then, I learned of Meg Menzies. Her smile, her light, her heart & her soul captivated me and filled the spaces in my heart with love, hope, inspiration and motivation. I cried for her family, praying for their pain to subside. I didn’t cry for Meg, because I know she is with us even more now than ever. One look at this INCREDIBLE group & it’s obvious that Meg lives on in every one of you. I feel Meg’s presence with me. I can’t quite put into words how her smile inspires me to try even harder, to push even further, to face my fears and become my absolute best self. Meg reminds me that I am still ALIVE, that life is SHORT and PRECIOUS and that I am more ABLE than I ever realized. Her story has lit a fire within my soul that can not be snuffed. I have decided to crutch through a marathon by the end of the year IN HER HONOR.

Meg carved her name on many hearts, including ours.  No one knows what will happen from one moment to the next however what we do have is the moment at hand. Don’t waste it.

As I gathered my thoughts about what to write and what I have experienced over the past several days, another inspiring story came to mind, namely how you are remembered helps you decide how to live and work today.

One Life to Give, Give all You Can -  We all have 1,140 minutes every day and how we choose to spend those minutes determines what legacy we will leave.

More is Caught than Taught – Do not underestimate the tremendous influence of simply by the way you live your life in front of others.

Encouragement does Everything - Perseverance in the face of life’s failures or shortcomings, the power of encouragement. It gives “courage” to face the future and to take managed risks.  It’s a great gift you can provide and have.

Selfless Love -  The kind of love that is an exercise of the will and choosing the highest good for someone else.  It doesn’t flow from the perceived value or appearance of another person, rather it flows from the heart of the one doing the loving and puts other people first.

The distances Meg ran would tire me simply by driving them.  As we huddled the morning before we ran to honor Meg and her family on January 18th, 2014, one of Meg’s good friends from her church spoke to us. With tears in her eyes she conveyed what a great athlete she was and how strong her faith in Christ carried her each day. We prayed and then ran.  Have not run five miles continuously in a long time, and without headphones enjoyed the quiet thoughts as I felt sweat, the pain, the wind, and the cold.  Was grateful for it all. 

Tomorrow reaches out to us all, and as pictures came in from around the world hope this video serves to honor the Menzies and Cross families and encourage as we move forward from this day.

We have all been lifted on an angel’s wings.

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

God bless and God speed.

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | December 9, 2013

15 Months and Counting, a Holiday Story of Hope

heather-familyHaving just put my kids down for the night, had a chance to read the story.  It was an email from Cameron Von St. James, a story of hope and faith amidst shattered plans when bliss turned into fear.  Lives turned upside down.  A mere three months after giving birth to their first child, Lily, in August of 2005, Heather Von St. James (Cameron’s wife) was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a form of cancer due to asbestos exposure where life expectancy is measured in months.  I struggle to imagine what it would be like to look at your newborn child not knowing how long you would be able to look.  Cameron immediately faced the role of caregiver and the future of raising Lily as a single parent. 

“The day my wife was diagnosed with cancer is one we will never forget. That was also the day I learned how unprepared I was to become a caregiver for someone diagnosed with this awful disease. We had just welcomed our first and only child, Lily, into the world three months prior, and instead of celebrating Lily’s first Christmas as a family, our lives were turned upside down by Heather’s mesothelioma diagnosis.” Cameron asked if I would share their story, and spread awareness of this little known cancer in which 95% of those diagnosed die within two years.  Am quite honored to do so, Cameron and Heather. 

If there is one universal truth, and we don’t know exactly when, it’s that we all will run out of time at some stage of our lives.  That is what faced Heather and Cameron, a diagnosis clock that read 15 months and counting, with the survival rate prognosis meter at 5%.  Imagine if we all knew we how much time we had to live, with a clock on our forearm to remind us.  What would you discover about yourself?  Author of the best seller “the five secrets you must discover before you die” John Izzo gathered wisdom from over 18,000 years of experience, interviewed over 200 people between ages of 60 and 100 voted wisest by their peers. 

The insight reveals knowing how to use our one life to its fullest requires wisdom more than knowledge:

  • Live True to Yourself  - It was Socrates that stated “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  The message is to live your life with intention and purpose, follow your heart and ask yourself if you are in fact focused on the things that matter to you; make those matters a priority.  By being true to yourself, you honor yourself. 
  • No Regrets - Do you enjoy having to say “I wish I had”?  What if you were taking steps based on courage not fear?  At the end of our lives we will only regret risks we did not take, not risks we took that did not work out they way we hoped.  Live with courage, take risks of the heart and truly reach out rather than away from what we fear.   
  • Choose Love - Love is a choice not just an emotion, and is fundamental to a happy and purposeful life.  That power to choose love transforms us.  In my mind, it is a purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.
  • Be There in the Moment – It all goes by so fast, the days can be long yet the years short. Life is certainly better lived than viewed and to live in the moment means to be fully in every moment of our lives. Wise people see each day as a great gift.  Do not rush through those moments of joy, experience and engage each one of them. 
  • Be Giving -  Those who give the most find their greatest joy.  What I have learned about giving to and serving others is that your heart changes, perspective is gained, as does appreciation.  The important things in life are not things; rather time, relationships, presence, and active engagement with others.  Being giving comes from a place of understanding and compassion, and can change the pattern of self-centeredness which influences choices.    

The clock started during the holiday season of 2005.  Amidst all the gifts expected under the tree, this story once again reminds me that the best gifts are the ones not found there at all.  Being Lily’s first Christmas, it was intended to be such an exciting time and one of anticipation for Cameron and Heather. Being new parents, they spoke of the holidays often that year, talking about the new traditions they wanted to create with Lily along with old traditions they wanted to keep.

Then, a mere three days before Thanksgiving, the diagnosis came and stripped all of their happiness away in an instant, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma.  As they learned more, the reality set in that the future suddenly became very uncertain.  Cameron was angry and afraid, and while hoping for the best certainly pictured the worst.  He could not remember why he looked forward to the holidays or what to be to be thankful for.  Difficult conversations and decisions to be made, bills coming at a rate faster than ability to keep up, down to one income, how to stay afloat, care for Lily, and intense cancer treatments forthcoming where hope needed to be more than merely a granted wish. 

Cameron realized how mistaken he was, and pride was blinding him on what was truly important. Namely, a family who wanted to help and left their home to come to them.  There to be with, and for, them when needed most. Offering help in any way possible and willing to make incredible sacrifices to help them through this uncertain and difficult time.  Now that is something to be very thankful for, and is not found under the tree.

 vonstjames

It has been eight years since 15 months and counting.  After intense mesothelioma chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and the love and support of caring friends and family, Heather is eight years cancer free.  They are about to celebrate another wonderful Christmas with their daughter and looking forward to many more.  Cameron and Heather hope their story can provide some inspiration and hope to all those currently battling cancer this holiday season. 

This story gave me pause to think about hope itself and with it, odds don’t matter. In his book “God Came Near” Max Lucado writes: 

“The problem is not that God doesn’t give us what we hope for. It’s that we do not know the right thing for which to hope. Hope isn’t what you expect—it’s what you would never dream. It’s a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending.  Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed. It’s far greater than that.  It’s a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks!”

Cameron, Heather, and Lily:  thank you for the opportunity to share your story to encourage others.

For you and for all, Merry Christmas.

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | September 15, 2013

Each Summer Has Its Own Story

IMG_0978Summer, what a good thing.  Don’t like to see you go, and know you will be back.  Not only did we chase the sun, more stories unfolded that were certainly better lived than viewed.  The transition back to school has gone well though that first morning of the school bus can be a jolt back to reality.  Going to miss the summer agenda and lack thereof, and now my son is in high school!  Just as a watching a summer sunset, time does not wait.

Summer is a time where I’m reminded not to take for granted what is before my eyes, and the moments we have together.  For single parents, I hope this summer had a story for each of you that strengthened bonds with your kids and included welcome breaks from routines.  For kids of single parents, hope your parents did not embarrass you too much and the stories that you lived will be lived again and again in your memory.

Let’s see, some of ours:  Long car rides, long car belly laughs, Dad’s own song lyrics, Dad’s garlic butter grilled clams, Fathers Day candy all with nuts in it (I get it), Grandma and Grandpa Max’s house, Grandma’s cooking, baseball games with Pop, ocean casting and fishing, ocean wave playing, beach football, beach digging and digging the beach, night beach walks and crab searches, parasail and touch the clouds, shark fishing at night, swim meets, and asking is Will up yet?

Still can’t download the pictures in my mind of it all, however good thing I did take pictures.  Sure is humbling to be a Dad, and a pleasure being yours Will, Rachel, and Zoe.  Thanks for being who you are and this picture collage serves as a reminder that I’m truly blessed.

Posted by: Ed Deiss | July 21, 2013

Chances, take the swing

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood” – Emerson

its all about taking chancesLiving through lessons means taking chances.  Chances taken, lost, or waiting to be taken; they are worth it.  Hard to believe it has been a year for the coconut husk.  Took a chance.  Six continents and fifty countries read and viewed later, quite humbled and honored. Knew that stories were meant to be shared and can be powerful.  They can cross generations, geographies, and cultures.   Thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you and my hope is that you have been encouraged.   It has not been an ordinary journey by any means, and am reminded that “We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” – C.S. Lewis

What is it about stories?  I know that I love a good story and that is what lives are, a unique mosaic.  Writer Jeff Goins says it well about the power of stories:

A story is where we came from and where we’re going. A story is what connects us and binds us to each other. It is in the story of God and mankind — amongst love and fear and failure — that we make meaning of our lives. A story is what defines us and sets us apart. It’s what allows us to connect with each another — to truly know and be known.  Nothing is so warm and inviting, yet so challenging and poignant, as a powerful story, told well.  They are written to be shared not only for our own sake, for the benefit of others.  Stories change people.”

Raised as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) in Asia by a single parent, and now one myself.  Gave my Dad a coconut husk for Father’s Day 2012.  Over the last year, as you may have read, through a storms and fog, purposes can find you.  There are times I go to my Solsbury Hill, and realize that I’m not one that listens to odds.  Also have learned that gifts not found under the Christmas tree are the best ones, though when summer arrives, it’s time to chase the sun.  I’m quite at home with the question “So, where are you from?“,  as it is part of the TCK mosaic.  Know that streets that have no name nor be found on a map are certainly worth the journey.  Then there is that special bond between Dads and Daughters, as my youngest celebrated a birthday, it hit me that it is happening all too soon.

I did not plan it this way, nor did my parents, and along the way chances were taken.  Some rolled away, some were lost.  However they represent hope and certainly helped me grow.  So, take them!  They are all you need.

Was honored to start in January of this year as a parent blogger at Single Parents Town (thank you Bill McLeod), blogging with other Moms and Dads who understand the challenges and sacrifices single parents face.  Thank you Michele, Davis, Jennifer, Bill, and Scott for taking chances and opening up your lives to encourage others, myself included.  This past spring, I addressed the subject of strength gained from scars (many of which result from taking chances):

In life, we’re going to encounter bumps and ‘jagged rocks’ as we climb through the years. Many of them hurt us, scar us, and leave us sore and bruised.  However we can choose to see all the bumps, bruises, and scars not in terms of the damage they caused, but as stepping stones that provide focus to a higher plane of living; they make you strong.’

As we head out for some long awaited time to chase the sun this summer, was thinking what I could put together that tells my story in pictures. I came across songwriter John Ondrasik who put it perfectly when it comes to chances,

“It’s all about taking the swing—there’s beauty in the scars.”

I look forward to another year of sharing experiences and lending a hand of encouragement and support to other single dads, kids of single parents, and Third Culture Kids.

Thank you for reading and being there. 

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | May 28, 2013

The Puzzle Identity: Mosaic of a Third Culture Kid

for blog 1_puzzle

Though fictional, those who know the story of Jason Bourne can relate to the importance of the lifelong puzzle identity that falls into place one piece at a time.  Discovering who I was with all the dynamic factors in play that were ‘out of synch’ with others from my country of birth.  Left America when I was nine, with my Dad.  Family split apart in more ways than one; new puzzle pieces being made and unknown at the time.  Akin to the finding his identity in the Bourne series, the thought crossed my mind “Someone started all this, and I’m going to find them.”  (The Bourne Ultimatum).  Who did this?  Who took my identity?  Where was it?  Did not have to look far, it was my own flesh and blood leaving vague memories of my young childhood with my parents behind.

Now as an adult  ‘Third Culture Kid’ with the vantage point of insight, as I look at the mosaic of who I am, what did I find all those years growing up in Asia as a Third Culture Kid (TCK)?  Actually, puzzle pieces of identity that make up my mosaic; would not live without them.  Not going to change who I am.

I wrote last summer about the issue of home “So, where are you from?” which addresses the unsettling question that face TCKs, namely where (and what) is home.  Growing up among worlds, not easy to address let alone think of one in the first place.  Closely related to that is the issue of identity, it can be equally if not more so unsettling.  TCKs can also struggle with reverse culture shock, rootlessness, and loss.

Some of the ways you can tell if someone is a TCK?  Here are some clues (from tckid.com).

You know you are a TCK if:

- “Where are you from?” has more than one reasonable answer

- You said you are from a foreign country, named the country, and (if you live in the U.S.) are asked what state that is in

- You speak two languages and can’t spell in either

- You have multiple passports

- You go into culture shock returning to your country of birth

- You get upset when people mispronounce foreign words

- You get confused because U.S. money is not color coded

- You know the difference between 110 and 220 volts (or have learned the hard way, as I did)

- You know that football is played with a round ball

- You instinctively look for subtitles in movies

- You think in the metric system and Celsius

- You naturally haggle for lower prices everywhere

- You know time zones off the top of your head

- You have friends on several continents

- You know the world is a small place afterall

The term “Third Culture Kids” (TCKs), what does it mean?  Been confused as a term for someone from a Third World Country, which it is not.  The term was coined by Sociologist and Anthropologist Ruth Hill Useem in the early 1950s and defined as “…a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs.”  The diagram of a TCK below, courtesy of Denizen Magazine, says it well.

That's it!

That’s it!

When adults enter a new culture they usually maintain a solid identification with their own, indigenous culture.  However as their children grow up, they naturally, and even unconsciously, integrate elements of the parent and host country culture into a third; hence the term TCK.  As I child I could relate to both my Dad’s culture and the Asian one I was growing up in.  As I interact with other TCKs, it does not take long to realize that it is akin to being from the island of misfit toys.

Just thinking about various schoolmates and friends of mine, name any country and/or background and you will probably be right.  Still in touch with a school mate born  in Argentina, became a U.S. citizen as a child, however grew up in Singapore and Puerto Rico.  Another schoolmate, of Asian background, parents spent significant time in Great Britain before coming to Singapore.  Others?  Saw a good friend last month had not seen since our school days.  Her parents are German, and she and her siblings grew up in Indonesia, England, and Singapore; our fathers were business colleagues.  Having spent the last 20 years in Europe, she and her husband (who is Swiss) are now moving to America. Our conversations were in English, however she also speaks German, French, Russian, and Spanish.

A couple of TCKs catching up

A couple of TCKs catching up

Family that became family to us in Singapore and looked after me as a young lad, Singaporeans who immigrated from Bombay, India.  Another two great family friends that are married, wife is Singaporean of Chinese descent and husband is from New Zealand.   Oh, yes, how can I forget…my senior prom date?  Born in Sweden; she and her husband (and 2 sons) now live back in Stockholm after spending some time living in Asia.

Senior Prom in Singapore

Senior Prom in Singapore

Recently corresponded with a connection of mine who was born in Malaysia, has a German mother and Thai father (he speaks 6 languages), went to university in the U.K. and spent significant time there, and is now living in Hawaii.  As we spoke about our backgrounds, including speaking Malay back and forth, was reminded that squares with round edges tend to get each other.  TCKs do that very well, namely having an affinity and getting each other.  Just as people from the same hometown do.

Life situations, have to be experienced to be appreciated.  There is no other way.  For TCKs, same goes as numerous studies have borne (no pun intended) out.*  When it comes to to growing up, tend to be more independent and autonomous due to the nature of mobility however may feel ‘out of synch’ with peers of home culture.  How about relationships?  TCKs tend to be independent and self-reliant, and value relationships yet are are also guarded due to relationships lost.  Parlez-vous français? Many speak more than one language yet limited in any one language as not entirely fluent.  Associated with language and due to experience, see more similarities with people around the world than differences and may feel confused as to where loyalties lie.  Though may have a rich cultural background, TCKs also seen as ‘hidden immigrants’ where nomadic history is not recognized.  TCKs are also quite adaptable, flexible, and confident with change with a sharpened perspective of life.  However, that feeling of rootlessness that home is elsewhere can linger.  What else?  Empathy for others as having been through transitions and been there, know how to put closure to one phase and move on to a new one.  That said, may brush off the pain without dealing with it.  Another trait I have noticed in knowing other TCKs is the tough mindedness and ability to survive and not just cope with change, rather thrive from it.  Any of these sound familiar?

In context of the above, the stories in this video may resonate with you.  A good source of information and online home for TCKs can be found at tckid.com.

Another TCK short documentary put together by a fellow high school alumnus, Adrian Bautista is also a worthy watch.

As you navigate and face adopting another country, perhaps yet again, do you find yourself running in search of who you are? Rather than be on the run searching, why not embrace it.  Be it the island of misfit toys or squares with round edges, I have come to appreciate the traits developed as a TCK growing up in Asia.  I had to learn to be resourceful at a young age and adapt to my new environment quickly.   This adaptability helped form a sense of adventure that has always been there and I could not live without it.  Always up for it anytime, anywhere.  Be it trekking and seeing Mt. Everest with my own eyes in Nepal, night diving in the South China Sea, wandering the jungle ‘countryside’ of Malaysia and Indonesia, seeing elephants as a matter of course on the side of the road in Sri Lanka, having a ‘move slow and stare’ contest with a Komodo Dragon, or simply enjoying my version of fast food.

Another dive adventure  in the South China Sea

Another dive adventure in the South China Sea

There are no ordinary lives, yours is no exception.  Each a colorful mosaic including experiences, relationships, lessons, and adventures for you to define.  As the puzzle of my identity continues to come together full of varied life experiences and adventures that seeks to learn from others and looks ahead, hope this encourages you to do the same.  Embrace being a TCK; be ‘at home’ with it and who you are.   Though “Where are you from?” may seem unsettling, it is a great tradeoff.  Home is not just a place, it is a person.

My TCK puzzle pieces, though imperfect and ‘out of synch’, sure fit perfectly.   There are many others awaiting to see your TCK mosaic as it is lived out.  It will be a welcome sight, and will be looking for it when you are home.

Terima Kasih and Selamat Malam/Pagi (depending on your time zone),

Ed

*(Study information from Dalat.org)

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | March 19, 2013

I go there with You

What street do you live on?  What part of town do you live?  Which neighborhood?  Common questions with known answers. Can name all the streets I lived on growing up.  Know the neighborhoods, still in touch with former neighbors.  Relationships that have endured over time.    Streets and neighborhoods are part of who we are; I have had many conversations where I have enjoyed going there with someone as they spoke about it, even though I have never been.  As many of you have read my blog posts and gone there with me, given the chance certainly I go there with you.   

Streets and neighborhoods also represent divisions.  Be it economics, ethnicity, religion; they are there.  Just name a street or neighborhood in the city/country you live and you likely have an idea of the demographics.  As I shared in an earlier post about being a TCK, growing up as a minority in a country that became home gave me experiences, relationships, and perspectives that I would never have gained otherwise.  What I learned was that when it came to getting to know others and forging relationships made through school, church, or neighbors, these divisions, akin to arbitrary walls, are broken down.     

As Easter Sunday approaches, have thought about how great it would be  to go and be somewhere where everyone comes together; barriers and divisions between people are broken down and we get to know each other and relate about things that matter to us all.  What would not matter are street names and neighborhoods in which we lived.  I know it when I see it and when I do, what a witness it is.  In fact, just saw it the other night. 

Here we go, March Madness is about to get underway.  It has been 30 years since Coach Jim Valvano’s NC State squad pulled off a miracle and won the National Championship.  If you have not seen “Survive and Advance” (ESPN 30 for 30) about that team, it is quite moving.   The names were familiar, and faces as well.  That image of Lorenzo Charles dunking Dereck Whittenburg’s shot to win it all will not be forgotten. 

Though basketball brought them together, what I saw was former teammates and coaches from different walks off life never once mention their street or neighborhood, rather they laughed, put purposeful thought behind their actions, and were in touch with their emotions.  It was real.  Their authentic bonds were obvious, brought home at the end with Dereck Whittenburg looking at the rafters with tears rolling down his face as he thought about his coach, his friends, and what they all learned and experienced together.  What was also obvious was how much they cared for one another and loved their coach.  They were a reflection of him and as he said at his unforgettable 1993 ESPY speech before he died of cancer,

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Thank you for letting me go there with you, guys.

Experience it myself each Sunday here in Richmond.  My church home is in the inner city, a multidenominational church where I worship alongside people of  different nationalities, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Not named after a street, rather a timeless place.  Where we live and our ethnicities and have no bearing on how we relate to each other.  Our blood is red. In many ways reminds of my church home in Singapore.  Can’t wait to be there again next Sunday.      

With my pastor, can't put into words what he has meant to me

With my pastor, can’t put into words what he has meant to me

There is a band that I listen to often that is the only Irish in me.  Their passion for their faith, love for their fellow man, and love for what they do with their gifts pauses me to think and moves my emotions.   They encourage me in my faith and make me realize “He set my feet upon a rock, And made my footsteps firm, Many will see, Many will see and fear.”*  It serves as a reminder that “Only love, only love can leave such a mark. But only love, only love can heal such a scar”**  

As Easter is celebrated around the world, a song that comes to mind for me is not heard in churches on Easter Sunday, nor can you find it in the hymnals.  It speaks to a place that I refer to with my kids where I look forward going, and they know exactly what I mean.  Inspired by a story about the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland where a person’s religion and income are evident by the street they live on.  As the opening  crescendo plays and the guitar transitions in, I imagine the gates of heaven opening and a spectacular experience to come.  Every time I hear it, my emotions are moved. 

Seeing U2 play this in their home country of Ireland, I can only imagine what it will be like to go there, namely where the streets have no name.    I go there with you.

“And he departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him.  For He departed, and behold, He is here.” ~St Augustine

Happy Easter and until next time,

Ed

* Lyrics from ’40′

**Lyrics from ‘Magnificent’

Posted by: Ed Deiss | February 15, 2013

All too soon

I’m a dad to three wonderful kids, two of whom are girls.  Having grown up with my dad, was not attune to the special bond between a dad and a daughter.  There is something about a daughter that adds another dimension to a man’s soul, it softens and adds tenderness and at the same time makes it more valiant and protective.   Their eyes can melt your heart.

No Electric Slide this time

No Electric Slide this time

I certainly got insights in high school. Some of my dates dads would greet me at the door. A firm handshake and a look right in the eye. I won’t forget and message received.  Also, thank you.  Now, any guys that ask my daughters out on a date can expect the same.

Seems each passing year I become more and more aware how fast each of my kids are growing up.  Could someone hand me the remote, I want to hit ‘pause’.  Does Scotchguard work?  It’s all too soon.

My youngest just turned nine this week, her birthday being two days shy of Valentines Day.  Half way to being 18.  When we are all together my mind does memory snapshots, and when I’m spending time with each.  I found it important to make a point to do just that when there are multiple children.

Her name is Zoe.  We have our snapshots and making more.  Gymnastics routines in the family room.  Watching TV while doing a handstand.  Doing scissor runs while opening the fridge (not running with scissors!). Bouncing up and down and talking at the same time; can walk and talk too.  Morning piggy back rides down the stairs to breakfast before school.  I can still pick her up.  Sleeps with her pigs still, Fuzzy and Rubere.  Drawing horses and more horses.  Riding horses and more horses.  Playing with horses and more horses.  Looking at cloud shapes and figuring out what they are.  Camping twice a year with other dads and daughters.

The family room is for practice

Time to go to the family room for practice

Father/Daughter Dances, we were at another one last weekend.  As I look at her now I think how this seems to be happening all too soon.   The clock is not near midnight yet, however certainly making its way.  I was thinking of a way I could capture something for Zoe for her birthday with a Valentine theme.   Also wanted to do something for dads and daughters.

Can we put her in the back yard?

Can we put her in the back yard?

There was a dad one night helping his two youngest daughters take a bath and get them to bed.  The girls were stalling, imagine that.  They were putting on gowns and he needed to get them in their pajamas.  Time to go to bed.  He had to do some work; he even refused to read them a story that night.

After walking out, he remembered how he had rushed through some moments in his oldest daughter’s childhood because of his career.  He now had the opportunity with his younger daughters (three adopted girls from China) to make sure that did not happen; to slow down.  He felt guilty and wrote a song to remind himself to cherish the moments he could.  Sadly, several months later, his youngest daughter died as a result of a tragic accident in their driveway.

The song then took on another message, namely life can change suddenly.  He did not sing the song for a while as it was quite personal, however felt that he needed to continue to bring hope to others.  He now does.  From one dad to another, thank you Steven Curtis Chapman.

And for my daughter Zoe,  I love being your Dad.  Same goes for your brother and sister.

Let’s keep having more times like these.

Thanks for reading.

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | January 22, 2013

Don’t listen to the odds

Odds are I don't care about odds

Odds? I don’t care about odds

There are certain quotes that always seem to stick. “Never tell me the odds” is one that comes to mind. They can serve as a humble reminder of where you have been and can give you what can be called, for lack of a better term, ‘experience muscle’ to remain steadfast with courage and confidence to carry on.

Odds are an expression of relative probabilities and reveal doubt. There have been many quotes about odds and their nature, namely doubt.  Former Alabama Coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant:

“There is not a person alive who isn’t going to have some awfully bad days in their lives. I tell my players that what I mean by fighting is when your house burns down, your wife runs off with the drummer, and you’ve lost your job and all the odds are against you, What are you going to do? Most people just lay down and quit. Well, I want my people to fight back.” 

Single Dads (and Moms), had some awfully bad days through it all? I’m sure you have. Kids of single parents, had some as well? Been there and have written about it. TCKs, are you feeling disoriented having been uprooted (perhaps again) to a place unfamiliar in a country far, far, away that it might as well be another galaxy? I know that was my case integrating into a new culture. Through these days doubts will surface and odds seem daunting.

I never want to be told the odds. Never sought to understand them anyway. I understand doubts. They are natural and we all have them at times. What odds allow is for others to define you.  In reality applies more to the one doing the defining; they are in fact limiting themselves.

When Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he made a memorable acceptance speech. What was impactful was when he said “Never, never let others define you.” Odds do that, don’t they? Don’t let them.

“I know of no higher fortitude than stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds.” - Louis Nizer

Never driven my 4Runner through an asteroid field. The guy pictured above has driven something quite similar through one though.  He doesn’t like odds.

http://starwars.com/watch/encyclo_never_tell_me_the_odds.html

“Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.” - Robert Jarvik

Think Indiana Jones would agree.

As I wrote this post, it was during a great weekend of football with the NFC and AFC Championship games.  Think Baltimore Quarterback Joe Flacco, who has had many doubters over the last several seasons, knew and/or would pay any attention to the odds that Tom Brady and the Patriots were 67-0 when leading at halftime?  In other words, no chance.  Even if C3PO were on the sideline repeating that statistic in his ear,  Joe may have just smiled and said see ya later as he went back to work on the field.   Perhaps C3PO could repeat those odds to Linebacker Ray Lewis.  See what the odds are of him actually listening.

How about Colin Kaepernick of the SF 49ers?  An adopted child that spent his early years in Wisconsin before his family (he is the youngest of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick’s 3 kids) moved out west.  He received little attention from schools even though he was an exceptional athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.  Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2009, he decided to keep playing football.  On Sunday, his team was down 17-0 at one point.  Don’t think he cared much about the odds at that point.  With what he has been through and experienced, did not deter him in the least.

“”Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” - Frederick Buechner

Some random reflections of odds serve as a humbling reminder:

  • From last month’s post, what were the odds of those gifts not under the Christmas tree ever appearing?
  • From November’s post, what were the odds for those families through their storms to have their purposes find and strengthen them?
  • From an adventure in Asia, what were the odds of waking up to a Komodo dragon and now writing this sentence?
Some Asian wildlife, a Komodo Dragon

Some Asian wildlife, a Komodo Dragon

  • From another adventure in Asia, what were the odds of having an unsecured backhoe of an excavator on the back of passing truck on the  jungle roads of Malaysia swing into your windshield?  Eyes open wide and no time to even think ‘uh oh’.  Next thing we knew, my Dad and I were staring out of same windshield into the edges of the jungle after having skid off the road.  We were still breathing.
  • From being in the tough spot of a single parent and his son, what were the odds being told as a young teen needing reconstructive surgery life would be short and difficult?   Dad made the tough agonizing call to forgo it.  It was the right one too, despite the odds he was being told.

Doubts and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.” – Helen Keller

I’m sure many of you can think of and have experiences where odds were not favorable, and wonder how you did it.  If I had to guess, you faithfully pressed on.  Get knocked down 15 times, get up 16 times.  It’s as if we are always living life and learning to fly.  What I found that summed this up well was:

“We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” – C.S. Lewis

Grew up on 80′s music, and those of you reading this who did also, you know who you are.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a popular band of the day.   There is a song that he wrote that speaks to living life, making mistakes, good times, bad times, getting beat down, getting up again, learning from experience, with joy comes pain.

Best for 2013.  Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | December 13, 2012

Gifts that were not under the Christmas Tree

Put up the Christmas tree with my trio. Candle Lights in the windows.  Lists are made.  My youngest wants two horses (real ones) and thinks we can just keep them in the back yard.  Can’t help reflect looking through my kids eyes to the wonder of it all.

My Dad has shared his childhood Christmas mornings as a kid with me.  His parents put up everything on Christmas Eve and as he and his brothers woke up and went downstairs, their jaws would slowly open and they would ‘tan their tonsils’ so to speak in awe.  Christmas morning was magical and my grandparents I’m sure were excited to see their faces and exhausted at the same time.

One thing I got accustomed to in Asia was not having a Christmas tree; evergreens are not indigenous to the tropics.  Palm trees are.  However, my Dad would string Christmas lights from the ceiling in the shape of a tree and wrap garland all the way around.  Simple and yet creative.  Was not used to a white Christmas either, the weather forecast in Singapore is quite consistent: sunny, hot, and humid with strong chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Over again, lah. My ‘Singlish’ (Singapore English) is rusty. A world away from my sibling, my brother’s experience was entirely different with my Mom.  I thought of them at Christmas.  One of the realizations I had as a child of a single parent was that the connection with the other parent is always there, no matter the distance.  Same goes for my brother.

As another Christmas season is upon us, I’m in awestruck wonder as a Dad, as a son, and as a brother.  For kids of single parents, and single parents, decided to share a Christmas story about how my relationship with my Mom has been restored over time, with some younger brotherly encouragement and anecdotes.

For those of you with strained/distant or non-existent relationships with either or your parents, children, or siblings, Christmas is a message of hope and my hope is this story will encourage you.

First of all, my Dad.  Recently came across something I wrote on July 22, 1973 to him from camp as a kid:  “I am glad I have you as a Dad. Much Love, Ed.”  Just as true today as it was then.  I’m reminded of a quote by Charles Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” 

You lived it, I saw it, thanks for that gift Dad.

rsz_me_and_mom

My Mom and I shared my first seven years and I know she treasures every memory.  Mine are vague and thankful for pictures from that time.  Norman Rockwell drew pictures of families like that of my Dad’s, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about families such as my Mom’s.  No fault divorce was not an option for her.  In order to save herself, she had to pay for it with her oldest son.  Her heart froze as she faced a decision no parent wants to face, which child do you keep and which do you let go.  I was the one she let go.  Would come home from school, Mom is not there.  Dissillusioned, hurt, abandoned; all natural as you would imagine a seven year old boy would be experiencing.  Upon moving to Asia where I thrived with my Dad, all I had was just a few pictures of her.  I grew up without my Mom however knew we were connected.  At left is my Mom holding me at my first Christmas, courtesy of a good scanner.

I did not get to know my Mom until I was an adult, years passed.  It was something my younger brother encouraged.  Many times, the younger one is the insightful one.  In 1997 he wrote me a letter that  his heartfelt discussions with Dad helped him understand the storms and fog of our childhood and he encouraged me to do the same with Mom.  Easy to say, hard to do.  The road to heartfelt forgiveness is never easy.

My brother, Will.  We shared the same blood however our lives were torn apart and we were separated too soon. rsz_me_and_will Siblings are meant to grow up together and we can never recapture the time lost.  Robbed of so many memories that we should have.  The abandonment we both felt by the other parent is hard to reconcile.  We know we must not forget the painful lessons we learned and prevent any cycle from repeating.  We both learned how much our parents were hurt as well.  Wounds heal over time and a scar forms, if you look closely it is tougher and more resilient than what was there.  You can see from the picture to the right of me with a facemask with Will, my affinity for diving started early on in life.

My Mom was a public school teacher for 30 years, and in many ways it helped heal her wounds.  She went through a second marriage, shortly after the divorce from my Dad, that she knew was a mistake.  Towards the end of that marriage, it took a turn for the worse.

me and katieSheep dogs are very protective of their herd, and Katie was no exception.  On summer visits to see my Mom and brother, Will and I would try to run away from her only to have her catch us and bite our heels to get back in line.  She was herding her sheep, as in us.  It’s effective and for those that have had a sheep dog, know what I’m taking about.  You will feel it.  Also will not forget opening my eyes and waking up to her looking right at me and I could not see her eyes, however panting with her mouth wide open.  Mouthwash would have helped.

In the middle of a summer night, my Mom and former Step Dad had passed the point of no return in their marriage.  I was awakened by my Mom crashing the bedroom door open in what I will call a heated exchange, where I promptly tried to awaken my brother and look for something to go defend my Mom.  Katie was barking her head off and growling fiercely at my former Step Dad downstairs.  Next thing I know, neighbors are there and so are the cops.  Katie:  Will and I will never forget you.  If it were not for you being alert and protecting your herd that night, a different ending to this story was certain.  The relationship with my Mom would never have become what it is today.

That summer of 1982 came to an end and my Mom moved back to her hometown of Chicago.  That is when she decided to face herself and what I’m proud of is her courage to do so; a gift she gave to me, Will, and many others.  She also gave herself the gift of forgiveness, and I knew I had to get there as well.  My brother’s letter in 1997 coincided with my move to Chicago with a new job.  My Mom was in a healthy relationship and married to my Step Dad, now nearly 30 years.  Our homes in Rogers Park were in walking distance of each other and we spent alot of time getting through the coconut husk and understanding each other.  That is where and when I started to really got to know my Mom again.  The connection was always there, even though all I could do as a child was look at pictures every now and then a world away.  Now that we were together again, it was real.   When she let me go, the risk was our relationship would be gone and nothing more than superficial.  She knew she had to save herself, taking that risk, and by doing that we could have the relationship we do now. One that we could not have possibly foreseen the day her heart froze.

My brother is now a public school teacher and lives in Charlotte, NC.  My kids love their Uncle Will, always wanting to bePicture 332 around him and look forward to being part of his audience.    He and my sister-in-law have two children and though we did not grow up together, I don’t know where my life would be without him.   He always, and I mean always, has my back.  Our shared experience of growing up apart is certainly not something we would recommend and was due to circumstances we could not control, nor desire.  What we could do is what we are doing now, being there for one another, rebuilding our relationships with the other parent, and doing our part to not forget the painful lesson we learned that has strengthened our brotherly bond.  You are a great brother Will, thanks for being there.

As I look at the tree this year, and the presents my kids and I will open, I’m in awe at the gifts we don’t naturally look for nor find there.  They do not neatly fit down a chimney, and debris may be kicked up in the process, however they are there.

Will, me, Ma, ZoeThe gift of forgiveness I gave my Mom and myself for holding on to ‘stuff’ that needed to be let go.  The gift of strength, courage, resilience, and adventure that my Dad exemplified.  The gift of brotherly love (and shove) from Will.  The gift of time my Mom and I have spent together in adulthood both knowing that in the end it all turned out, not as we had planned, better than we could have imagined.  The gift of watching each of my parents grow in healthy relationships with their spouses of now 25+ years and relationships with my step families on each side.  The gift of Uncle Will to my kids as the brother they would rather spend time with; he’s cool Dad!  I can’t find these under the tree, they are priceless and true gifts indeed.

The excitement of Christmas morning may be affected by your circumstances.  It may involve not having a parent and/or sibling there and new, yet unfamiliar happenings are taking place. The absence is felt.  Regardless of circumstances, Christmas is the unforgettable message of love, redemption, and hope.  That was the case that silent and holy night in Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, and thanks for reading.

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | November 1, 2012

Through Storms and Fog, Purpose May Find You

There was a painting in our Singapore home of a large rock surrounded by a rugged coastline being battered by ocean waves.  Think of the coastlines of  Hawaii, the British Isles, or parts of California along the Pacific Coast Highway. I remember asking my Dad what it spoke of to him.

Spoke to staying strong and carrying on…

We both spent alot of time in the ocean on our diving sojourns and know first hand currents get strong, and so do waves.  He conveyed that though the ocean waves keep pounding the rock and coastline, through it all, the rock just stays there and holds it ground.  Through the chaos all around, it represented strength to carry on.

Been in quite a few storms over my lifetime. Singapore had some of the most fierce thunderstorms I have ever witnessed. Vividly remember waking up in the middle of a school night thinking the island was under attack. Now living near the mid-Atlantic seaboard it is expected.   Won’t forget Hurricane Fran in 1996, Hurricane Gaston in 2004, and Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Just went through Hurricane Sandy.  Thankful for first responders, health care workers, and the kindness and generosity of neighbors.  After the storm passes there is the aftermath as loses are mourned and people press on through the day to day as hope begins anew towards recovering from it all.   

Ever see the movie (or read the book by Sebastian Junger) “The Perfect Storm”?  The storm was Hurricane Grace which became absorbed into what was called the Halloween Nor’easter.  A graduate school classmate of mine who was in the Coast Guard remembers that storm from October of 1991; told me that anyone who was there at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT will certainly never forget it.  It was a night they were putting lives on the line searching and conducting rescue missions to save other lives.   A true story and sad one as well, with a ‘morning after’ moment at the end.  God Bless them all.

The scene when Captain Billy Tyne (played by George Clooney) looked up and was blindsided by a wave a size of which he had never seen, nor wanted to face, he knew something was about to happen.  Time Froze.

The storm wave that froze time

During that moment, my mind jumped back to when he spoke calmly and passionately to doing what  he loves namely being a Swordfish boat Captain with fellow Captain Linda Greenlaw (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who commanded the Hannah Boden which was the sister ship of the Andrea Gail.  (She was the last one to speak with Billy Tyne the night the Andrea Gail went down; also the only female swordfish boat captain on the east coast of the U.S.  and has authored The Hungry Ocean in 1999, The Lobster Chronicles in 2002,  All Fishermen Are Liars in 2002, and Seaworthy in 2010.) 

Billy Tyne had a purpose and a passion, and had found it (please excuse language at the end).

“The fogs just lifting. Throw off your bow line; throw off your stern. Head out to South channel, past Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island. Past Niles Pond where I skated as a kid. Blow your airhorn and throw a wave to the lighthouse keepers kid on Thacher Island. The birds show up: black backs, herring gulls, big dump ducks. The sun hits ya, head North. Open up to 12 steamin’ now. The guys are busy; you’re in charge. Ya know what? You’re a * swordboat captain! Is there any thing better in the world?”

It is certainly admirable to find your purpose and passion and I certainly admire and applaud those who have.  However it is possible that through the storms of life and the fog that follows, there are times when a purpose finds you.

It is inevitable that storms in life will hit, when you least expect.  Akin to that wave, some will blindside.  A fog will follow.  As Max Lucado has written about the fog of a broken heart “…it slyly imprisons the soul and refuses easy escape.  It’s a silent mist that eclipses the sun and beckons the darkness.  It’s a heavy cloud that honors no hour and respects no person.  It  disorients…makes it hard to see the road.”  Vision becomes blurred and the future becomes getting through the night and making through the next day.  Whatever the case you will probably recognize this fog.  It could be betrayal,  a parent who left or passed away, death of loved one, a job loss that had cascading effects for your family, or keeping close to a loved one’s bedside during a time of need.

As I think about people in my community that I know, the reflections are humbling and sobering:

The Messick family that has become an extended family as I transitioned being a single Dad.  Rod Messick, devoted husband and Dad passed away suddenly in 2007 from cancer leaving a mother with 5 kids.  Though I never met Rod, there is no doubt to the influence he had on his family and he has encouraged and inspired me to be a better Dad.

A common sight, kids around Hattie Messick

    

The Shufflebarger family who lost their daughter, Ashlynn, two days after birth.  They received news that death would come early (she had a fatal chromosomal defect) during her pregnancy and they chose to keep the pregnancy, hoping for a miracle.  She came into their lives and they had 2 days to hold her close and love and care for their child.  Scott and I have lunch every now and then and he generously shares with me what he and his wife, Cindy, have gone and grown through.  (Cindy shares the experience and encourages others to look for hope through the pain and authored the book “Dancing in the Rain: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Storm”)  Their youngest child, Chase, has all their family’s initials in his name:  Cindy, Haley, Ashlynn, Scott, and Emma.

Scott and Cindy Shufflebarger, with Haley, Emma, and Chase

The Grote family who lost their 3-year-old daughter, Kristen Grote, in August 2004.  She was accidentally left in the car in the church parking lot on a hot summer day.  The Dad, Doug Grote has shared that “during this time nothing was of value…my daughter just died. Nothing mattered anymore. I didn’t care about a degree. I didn’t care about a job. I didn’t care about relationships.”  To him, nights were the worst, because if he went to sleep, he would have to wake up and live through another day.  Doug is now a Director with Upward Sports and lives in South Carolina.  He and his wife, Dianna, are pictured below along with their children, Dayton and Declan. 

Doug and Dianna Grote

 

Dayton and Declan Grote

 

 

My neighbors, the Isabelle family, whose youngest son Mark was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 4.  In Mark’s short life to date he has experienced more pain and trauma than anyone could imagine.  As their neighbor I have witnessed him and his family face it with love, faith, and courage.

 

With the courageous Mark Isabelle

Many of us could never, ever imagine the storms they went through.  I’m sure others that are reading this can add to this list.  The storm and ensuing fog dashes hopes and destroys dreams.  It turns nights endless and futures from years to getting through Tuesday.

All the above have turned their personal storms into encouragement and hope for others; very apparent that their purpose and passions in many ways have found them.  Their experiences through the turmoil, rather than weaken, instead strengthened their faith as they carried on.  The Messicks help families during transitions and in need; one of the daughters that helped my family is now watching a family with four young children in our neighborhood as the mother has heart health issues and her energy levels make it very difficult to keep up with her children.  The Shufflebargers and Grotes are using their experience to encourage others to look for hope through pain and prepare for adversity.  Mark Isabelle is now 10 years old and his cancer is currently in remission.  Seeing him at the bus stop in the mornings I can’t help to notice his disposition, energy, and smile is certainly contagious.

All my kids played, and I coached, in Upward leagues for several seasons.  I was recently at the athletic fields where the football and soccer games were played. Kristen’s Garden is there (picture from below).  I’m moved every time I see it and pictures of her. In a recent correspondence with Doug about this post, he shared that he and Dianna stop by there whenever they are in town just to take it in as it was a bright endeavor during a dark time in their lives.  He also reminded me that choosing to look forward, and not just back, is a choice we all can make.  Thanks Doug. 

Kristen Alexandra Grote
“I Thank My God Upon Every Remembrance Of You” Philippians 1:3

I also would like to say that whatever storm and fog you are in, you can be sure that you are not alone.  Over the past few years as I transitioned to being a single Dad, I had what I called a ‘band of brothers’ with guys who had been there. The influence and difference they made has been immeasurable.   They were always, and I mean always, there for me as hands that were extended to pick me up and pull me through.  This year, some of us got together and started a group for other men going through similar trials now. It is akin to a teammate reaching out to pick you up when you have been knocked down and to keep going and stay strong.

…throw a wave to the lighthouse keepers kid on Thacher Island…

As Linda Greenlaw’s Swordfish boat, the Hannah Boden, steams out for another trip, without the Andrea Gail around, she recalls that  conversation with Billy Tyne about his purpose, passion, and love for what he did.  If I could use that scene as an analogy to carrying on as a Dad, here goes (voice sounding nothing like George Clooney nor looking anything like Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio either):

The fogs just lifting. Hug my daughters and my son. Head out to school and work, get past the goodbyes and looking in each others eyes, stories of Dad in school as a kid. Come home, homework, Montana to Clark in the front yard, touchdown.  Get in the car and go to practice, throw a wave to the neighborhood kids on the street.  Swim practices, gymnastics, horseback riding, basketball, watching my son’s team win it all. Dinner table, all together now.   Head to the beach, birds show up; pelicans, seagulls, egrets, sand pipers, my youngest names them…Bob, Betsy, Noodles, Freggly.  Camping weekends, Father/Daughter Dances, Canoeing and Fishing on Shenandoah. The sun hits ya, carpe diem each day.  Open up to ‘em, you’re steamin’ now. The kids are smiling, looking to you to lead the charge. Ya know what? You’re a Dad! Is there any thing better in the world?

The song in the film by John Mellencamp is called “Yours Forever”, the chorus is “Tomorrow still holds out its hand to you”.   Ya know what?  It certainly does.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Ed

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