Posted by: Ed Deiss | November 11, 2014

Where the Road is Calling You Home

meg running and notDear Meg,

I know we never met, my name is Ed Deiss.  I live right down the road in Hanover, right outside Richmond, Virginia.  My oldest child attends (my younger two will when they get there) and will graduate from the same high school you attended.  I wanted to take the time to write before I do something this weekend that I have never done, or even gave a passing thought to doing before last January.  I’m running a half marathon; running 13.1 miles was probably a warm up run for you.  Your friend Brooke Roney started a group that I joined to run that first Saturday afterwards. What a group it has become, Meg. A truly inspiring and compassionate community that has come together from all reaches of the globe bonded by the love of running and how it is a reflection of life’s journeys.  I spoke to people who knew you that cold January day we ran; there was not a dry eye in sight.  As the months have passed, we have continued to be lifted on your wings.

As someone raised by a single parent, my dad, I think about Scott and your kids. Looking back on that time with my dad growing up in Asia, and as a single parent now,  there were times as we made our way down the proverbial road of life, and felt uncertain about the direction we were going. Strong convictions do not mean doubts don’t creep in.  I had a picture of my mom and brother in my room as a kid a world away, looked at it everyday knowing we were connected even though apart. Though circumstances are completely different, want to reassure you as I look through my eyes as a kid, hope you will always know Gabriel, Whitfield, and Skye will always be connected to you.  As tenacious as you were in your running, love for your family and friends, their love for you will overcome any fears they are experiencing now.

Training, running hills, and running at Hickory Hill.  After having trained for the Richmond Half Marathon and run hills, and run at Hickory Hill, have learned the sport you loved is symbolic of what we can go through in life.  Each passing Saturday, ran longer and longer distances with the support, encouragement of my running mates and #megsmiles.  Running hills every week, what a struggle that was.  After one of those hill runs, thought would share a #megsmiles post on what I was reflecting on and learning through it all:

There is a hill I would like to run one day, however if I get there may want to slow down and take it in. At the end of the hills we run, there is turning point. Even after running downhill can’t help but think about the uphill battle on the way after making the turn. Running can be symbolic of what we go through in life. Turning points result in changes, and can come through struggles; the fuel for strength. In coming to terms with those turning points I have learned it is essential to decide what to keep and what to let go. Keep up the struggle and press on, fighting against what I have known up to this point and let go of what I thought my limits were. Certainly there is fear in letting go, and though sometimes holding on makes us strong, sometimes it is letting go and trusting what is ahead. Don’t lose sight of who you are, and have the belief, which will turn into faith to embark on those changes in life (or your next hill) after that turning point. It can scare and fill a heart with wonder at the same time, while your heart goes ‘boom boom boom’ of what lies ahead. What lies ahead on Saturday is 12 miles to get #richmondready for the #RVAhalfmarathon. Today it was hills before daylight full of turning points for total of 6 miles, yesterday some speed for 4 miles. That hill I want to get to, Solsbury Hill. Actually I have found it, when I run #megsmiles. Also found on my play list!

Have run at Hickory Hill three times, the streets with your name.  Ran on your Mom’s birthday, the day Scott ran the Boston Marathon, and your birthday.  All runs with my heart, much more than my legs.  When Scott was running through your eyes in Boston, I was coming to terms as one dad to another and had to stop a mile into my run that day.  The last run there, your birthday on August 1, as I approached the intersection of Patrick Henry and Hickory Hill, I saw a couple of people tending to your marker.  As I approached, was asked “Are you Ed?”  Yes I am I replied…it was your Mom and Dad.  We immediately knew who each other were and hugged.  I will be looking for your Mom at the finish line!

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After a run, with your Mom and Dad on your birthday

Meg, I certainly agree with Keith Cartwright that we were all introduced in a way I would not have wanted given the choice.  That said, you have brought together so many lives and changed them, more than you will ever know.  You have encouraged me to live life to the fullest, have no regrets, honor myself, and invest in the lives of others.  You have encouraged me in my faith, and the faith to carry on.  After taking my three kids to Asia this summer to see where their Dad grew up and calls home, I wanted them to see what was in my heart, and to understand that across cultures, backgrounds, and nationalities…relationships are to be treasured and an appetite to be adventurous, take risks, and explore is one worth satisfying.  That includes running; was even able to get in some Asia #megsmiles!

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#megsmiles on Pulau Rawa, Malaysia June 2014

What I have also learned from you is that lives can impact others, even those we have not met.

Whoever thought Meg, that the NYC Marathon would be a warmup for Richmond? With NASCAR and VCU basketball, we do get some sports fans. This weekend, the marathon is in your hometown and what an event it is expected to be, all being brought together by you. We are running with you on our hearts and minds. I have the map printed out, and seeing is this is my first race, learning to trust the training. Just found out what taper means about a week ago.

As we run through the streets of your hometown here in Richmond, know you are running where the streets have no name. There will be a day Meg, when I will be making that run as well…save some room. Look forward to it.

The road at Hickory Hill

The road at Hickory Hill

 

The open road unknown, know that is what Scott, your kids, and your family are on at present. It can traverse both fear and hope. It becomes clearer as one moves forward and as with struggle building strength, we do find what we are made of by persevering through the fear and uncertainly. It is part of the road we are on, and am reminded yet again tenacious love overcomes it and leads home.  It is worth the fight.

Thank you Meg and God speed,

Ed Deiss

  

Posted by: Ed Deiss | July 20, 2014

A Journey We Will Always Remember

Singapore 2014 031‘So Dad, happy to be home?”  Those were one of my daughters first words to me after we landed in Singapore.  It had been eight years, and just as before the closer we got, the warmer my heart became.  I wanted to share a piece of my heart with each of my children, as when I answer the question ‘So, where are you from?‘ they will know with their own eyes and understand.  After all, that is what it is about, understanding and relating to each other.  By seeing their Dad’s ‘hometown’ and how he grew up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK), would encourage them to understand different cultures, experiences, and perspectives.  Also that they would see first hand that relationships are to be treasured and an appetite to be adventurous, take risks, and explore is one worth satisfying.

 ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.’ – Andre Gide

When my Dad and I arrived in 1975, we were hoping for a new tomorrow.  We were scarred, and set out to make the best of it as father and son apart from my mom and brother.   Our family had broken apart, and certainly did not foresee what the relationship with my mom would become.  I have also come to realize that growing up in Singapore and Asia enabled us to rise up allowing our scars to heal, so much so that they became a source of strength.  The hope of a new tomorrow became a reality as the months and years passed.  As I shared on my blog at Single Parents Town on Mother’s Day, my Mom wrote a letter from her heart and she noticed ”  You gained self confidence, and each year (summer) when you returned to me, I noticed. It was like watching a beautiful tree growing and extending branches – the trunk was strong. Children have a way of showing adults what is to be valued.”  They sure do Mom.

singapore from the flyer

Singapore, you and I are about two weeks apart in terms of age; good thing you are the older one!  We have known each other since we were nine, and I would not be who I am had we not crossed paths.  You are in my heart and run through my veins, I became a blend of your Asian culture and my Dad’s.  You have certainly changed in the time we have known each other, and your journey from third world country to first happened right before my eyes.  My son, Will, remarked…you are several cultures and countries in one.  I shared with him that as I thought about my schoolmates and friends, he could name any country and/or background and would likely be right.  Growing up on your shores I was able to experience relationships and gain perspectives I never would have otherwise.  For all my school classmates and friends who were there with me, this trip back certainly brought back memories of our times together growing up as know many of you followed this journey on my Facebook posts each day.  Thank you.  We will always be connected and as TCKs, we know our puzzle pieces may be out of synch however they fit perfectly. We ‘get’ each other.

with leela

Rubbed my eyes each day I was in Singapore and Malaysia with you, Will, Rachel, and Zoe.  It was a dream come true.  As I can see in yours, you could see what was in my heart, and the hearts of others.  With the three of you is always home to me, and was blessed to be able to give you my heart and go to the place that was home to me when I was your age.  I realized it opened your eyes, as it did mine as it became home after I left America.  However, truly understanding and relating to friends from other cultures, backgrounds, and countries will help you walk in others shoes.  It is an honor and blessing to be your Dad.

As we left Singapore after our 2 week journey, wanted to share my final post:
Goodbyes are hard, prefer see you laters. Same held true when I left America when I was nine years old. Did not want to let my eyes off Singapore when the plane took off. This journey actually began not in 2014, rather in 1975 and this time ‘later’ was eight years ago since was last here in 2006. Back then on that trip with my Dad, knew would be good for my kids to see this place that their Dad called home growing up. They now have and sure love the fast food here too! As we departed reminded of two things, one is to always “Treasure your relationships, not your possessions” (Anthony D’Angelo).

The other is that it will encourage a spirit of adventure and to explore because as Mark Twain famously said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

And while doing that, find some coconut husks to get through with each other as well.

Jumpa lagi Singapura…”

Telling the story in pictures, just as songwriter John Ondrasik put it perfectly when it comes to taking chances, by saying ‘It’s all about taking the swing – there is beauty in the scars’, he also does by asking “What if?”

 

For this journey that we will always remember, terima kasih dan saya suka anda!

Posted by: Ed Deiss | April 27, 2014

Through Your Eyes

MegandScott3As I ran, I struggled to imagine.  What did Meg hear?  Did she see Scott leaning over letting her know how much he loved her? Did Meg try to let Scott know the same?  The disillusionment and cries of despair from their three children, Gabriel, Whitfield, and Skye.  It was if I could hear their cries in the distance.  The anguish, someone you love not there anymore.  The scene went through my mind as I ran where Scott and Meg Menzies journey began at the intersection of Hickory Hill and Patrick Henry Road in Hanover, Virginia.  It was on the same day Scott was defining the true meaning of love and 1 Corinthians 13 by running the 2014 Boston Marathon for Meg.  A mile in, I stopped with the sun setting over a scenic Hanover farm field as I could not continue. Had to let it out, guess why God gave us tear ducts.  It was akin to a punch in the gut and not having any air, openly wept while hunched over with hands on my knees.  This happened a few times during the first couple miles.  Then, as we all have since that January day and as Scott did running #bostonstrong for #megsmiles, lifted On an Angel’s Wings.

Now that I think about it, how appropriate it is for last blog post in January on that event to be next to this one;  as Meg and Scott should be.

From what I have experienced and witnessed, grief has no rules or timeline.  I live near the intersection where this journey started and as I ran there last week, much unfolded in my mind.  Scott was running with Meg that January morning to spend time together as a running date while Meg was training for the Boston marathon with an eye on a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.  They were 1-2 with Scott running ahead against traffic.  Suddenly a large SUV appears out of nowhere and allegedly drunk driver not in control veers off the road rounding that curve.  Scott was able to get out of the way in time, Meg was not.  After looking at that curve, I started my run.

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We all will share and experience grief at some point in life, through those difficulties we realize we are human and it creates a universal bond.  That universal bond has been one extraordinary Facebook group, Meg’s Miles.  It certainly transcends running and Meg’s friend, Brooke Roney, started the page as a virtual event where people could post thoughts and photos of their runs in support of Meg’s family on the Saturday after she was killed.

Remembering that January Saturday morning we ran:

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. 

That event had more than 99,000 people across several continents running that day, it has since expanded and has more than 16,000 members.

“Only love, only love can leave such a mark, but only love, only love can heal such a scar” – Magnificent by U2

Reading and absorbing Keith Cartwright’s heartwarming discussions and insights with Scott before and after the Boston Marathon has brought to life the power of a story and that bond.

From every wound a scar, from every scar a story.

As writer Jeff Goins has said about stories, they sure can be powerful.  Why?

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.

scott running

On April 21st, 2014 Scott Menzies ran the Boston Marathon in his wife’s stead.  Let me say that again, a little over three months after being by his wife’s side during a run and having to say a gut wrenching, heartbreaking goodbye he never imaged, Scott Menzies ran the Boston Marathon.  A run to honor and to cherish.  With Meg’s bib numbers from 2014 on his front and 2012 on his back he not only ran it, he crushed it.

scott finish

When I stopped during that run on Hickory Hill and thought about the strength that it took, Herculean comes to mind.  Would could blame him if having said goodbye to Meg while running that he would do the same?

“It’s been a tough last couple months, but things like that make it easier to see people care,” said Scott. “Maybe I feel like I’ve lost faith in humanity, and it’s been a great reminder that there are great people in this world, people like Kel Kelly and a few other people I’ve never met who have started a lot of different things … It’s just been amazing for me and my family to see.”

Kel Kelly lives near the first mile of the Boston Marathon route in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and learned about the story.  Faith in action; she decided to create a shoe memorial to make Meg Cross Menzies’ presence felt on Marathon Monday.  The Soles of Love reassured Scott of Meg’s presence during what was going to be an emotional run. It was built with 388 pairs of running shoes sent from runners around the world who sent them to Kel.  She arranged them into a tower shape next to the well-known “Spirit of the Marathon” statue. As a writer for the Huffington Post, she also wrote an eye-opening piece to raise awareness on the dangers to runners of drunk or distracted drivers.

Scott at Soles of Love

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough.  Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.” – C.S. Lewis on Seeing through eyes of others (An Experiment in Criticism)

After reflecting on that quote, I read again Scott’s note the night before the race:
I wanted to say very quickly- thank you all so much. My family and I continue to be amazed and overwhelmed by the support that we are still receiving. I will run the Boston Marathon tomorrow for Meg. I am going to do my best to finish what she started and I can’t wait to see, hear and experience what she would have experienced if she were still here. I want to feel her with me- it will be very emotional. I will do my best to make her proud- it may not be pretty but I will get it done. Thank you (all of you) so much. Please continue to run hard- be Boston Strong and Meg Strong! -Scott Menzies
meg at 2012 boston marathon
Seeing it through your eyes, Meg.  That is where he wanted to be.  Being where you knew that morning in January where you were going to be, as Scott wanted nothing more than to be by your side.  Always.  He wanted to feel you there again.  He may have thought it may not be pretty, I’m sure I share the sentiment of many that  thought it certainly was a beautiful thing.  
 

scott at finsh line

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Cor 13:13

 

Right after I ran where this journey began last week,  knew had to put my thoughts down and here is what I experienced as posted on Meg’s Miles that day:

With Scott running ‪#‎bostonstrong‬ today and seeing through Meg’s eyes, thought would be good to run where this journey began. Ran as far and as long as I can remember (8 miles in little over an hour), before the sunset on the Hanover horizon. Started at Meg’s Marker and the roadside Memorial on Patrick Henry Rd. When I wrote yesterday my intention was to run to be strong for Scott as he ran for Meg. During the first mile or two it was Scott’s journey that manifested itself today in his amazing run that gave me strength. This day, wanted to see where this journey began through Scott and Meg’s eyes.

As I approached one of the scenic farm fields, I stopped, hands on my knees and wept on Hickory Hill. I could not hold it back. Thought about what Scott went through when he and Meg took that run that morning. Blindsiding storms can hit in life and the ensuing fog of a broken heart; it disorients and makes it hard to see the road ahead. As I stood back up, took a breath, then another, then a step, then another, then started running again. All my instincts, they returned. This happened a few times and got stronger as I kept going. Once I kept going, could run with more purpose.

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Wanted this run to be for Whitfield, Gabriel, and Skye too so I brought something with me for the run. It was given to me at Comfort Zone Camp at the end of a weekend by a little buddy in my group who had lost her Dad, a rock from the camp where thousands of other kids who have lost a parent and had walked upon over the years to get through the grief, heal, and grow. I ran with that rock for them.

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As we continue to running ‪#‎megsmiles‬ and beyond, after experiencing this day I thought about seeing things through others eyes. Experienced it firsthand today.

And being complete in His eyes.

Found something by Peter Gabriel that conveys about perfect love and being complete…in Your eyes.

Godspeed Scott, and from one dad to another…thank you!

 

“…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, God speed, and Run Strong for #megsmiles and beyond.

Until next time,

Ed

 

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 as in summers past, 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

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