Posted by: Ed Deiss | December 8, 2016

Do Less, Be More

do-less-be-more1“Come on gang, time to hit the road!”

“Be right back, need to get Zoe to horse back riding then will get dinner done. Don’t worry, will pick up some Yummy Milk (what Zoe calls Egg Nog)”

“Let’s see, any evenings free this month?”

Not in those exact words, however gives a sense of the hurriedness around my home at times and can be pronounced this time of year. I wonder if the people in original Christmas story ever dreamed that the celebration of Christ’s birth would become so hassled and hurried. Think the shepherds had some pageants to attend? Did the wise men get all their shopping trips done and gifts wrapped?  How about Mary and Joseph? Certainly there was a presence of being hurried, however I know when in the presence of a newborn I’m quite silent and settled, in awe of new life.

Having grown up without a memory of a white Christmas (weather on the equator in Singapore: sunny, hot, humid, chance of thunderstorms, repeat) did not spend much time dreaming of a white Christmas either.  What I do dream of is more time to do less; namely white space on my calendar.

At this time of year, the significance of the season gets crowded out.  There are people to see, things to do, and stuff to buy. All this overload can knock the ‘Have a holly jolly Christmas’ right out of our holidays.

Do you suffer from calendar overload? Has this scenario ever occurred:

Friend/Coworker/Family Member: “‘How are you?”

You: “Actually I’m not that busy, thank you.”

That’s what I thought, and applies year round.  We are busy, really busy. We work hard, make more, spend more, stay up late, getting up early and always on the go. Seems life is akin to a UPS advertisement, it is all about the logistics.  Unfortunately, this fast pace chase leaves us with less than enough energy, and can leave us tired, uninspired and ineffective. When you are parenting alone, it certainly takes energy.

What comes to mind this time of year is this, what if we had more time to do less? In other words, do less and be more. This is not so much of a calendar question, rather one for yourself.

Are you willing to do less and be more? Not just on the outside, but within?

I’m asking myself the same question.

How about less chaos, more calm; less heartache, more joy; less fear, more courage; less bitterness, more forgiveness; less comparison, more self-confidence; less self-centeredness, more service; less discord, more harmony; less anxiety, more rest; less judgment, more acceptance; less disappointment, more wonder; less greed, more generosity; less discontentment, more gratitude; less stress, more peace; less social media, more friendship; less email, more hand written notes; less smart phone, more communicating; less television, more books; less mindless spending, more passionate living; less distracted, more engaged; less catch-up, more planning; less caffeine, more exercise; less tension, more patience. (Great insights by Edie Wadsworth at Life in Grace‚ as part of a series on less and more).

When I honestly look at the above and attempt to answer, I have to admit in some cases I’m not willing.  However I want to be willing, which is a good place to start.

If I had been one of those shepherds that first Christmas standing in the stable outside Bethlehem, I would have been quiet and amazed.

Less talk, more settled, more silent, more awe, more wonder, more gratitude, more joy.

My life has been blessed with the recent engagement to my fiancé, Angela.  How we met and our stories are for another blog, yet we both know it is nothing we could have planned or foreseen.  One of the things I admire is her approach to each and every day, the importance of living in the present, making a difference through service, and memories with others; a zeal that is rarely seen.  Just last week she shared something with me that has reinforced how the normal things can be extraordinary given the right perspective.  In December 2011, she received a diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer and her odds of making it and living were much less than not. With that realization, she vividly remembers leaving the doctor’s office and hearing the sound of children’s laughter; it sounded so different to her after leaving that office, with the full realization of what she had to face.  As she took each month, week, and day as potentially her last, her ears heard more than just children laughing and it never sounded the same.

This got me thinking, rather than wish for what is on your Christmas list how about we look at the normal, everyday things that everybody already has.  Granted it may not be much, it could be just a drum, but we can use it play our song and then watch, wait, and listen.  How could our drums be used?

See how God can use the storms of your life for purpose and paying it forward for somebody else.

See how God can use your voice or words to speak words of encouragement, love, forgiveness, or hope to others.

See how God can use your arms and hands for acts of kindness toward others.

See how God can use your keen sense and discernment to observe the needs of others.

See how God can use an attentive ear to listen and be there for the pain and fear in the lives of others.

As The Day Everything Changed reminds us, we all can be the little drummer boy, and the most normal of things become miracles of God.

My Christmas wish is that in the midst of the holiday hustle and tasks, we could slow down and quietly appreciate the significance of Christmas and be refreshed by the company of the One whom the holiday is about.

Merry Christmas!

Until Next Time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | November 7, 2016

Take Me Home

megs-miles-reduced-7-200x300It has been awhile since I have gone on a run here, and it is a place that takes me home to the beginning of journey that led me to take a chance, and follow my heart. When I have gone, as I will this week as part of the Richmond (Virginia) Marathon weekend and #megsmiles family reunion, and as someone who did not run more than a few miles in my life, I am taken back to a post that was written in honor of Meg at the first run in her honor on January 18th, 2014:

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!

We are coming home Meg, to your hometown and Hickory Hill.  You are still doing all the above, and after I wrote you that letter before my first my half marathon, guess what, I am running my second ever marathon in a year.

When I thought of what to put together to honor Meg, what came to mind was turning points in life, which often happen through trials, and strength of letting go.  When I run, I can let go…my limits, fears, vulnerabilities, and overcome struggle to find strength I never thought I had.

For all of us as we #runrichmond, and the runs thereafter in life, never lose sight of who you are and have the belief, which will turn into faith to follow your heart. It can scare you and fill you with wonder at the same time.

I look forward to another year of wonder and heart pounding moments in RVA.

Welcome home #megsmiles.

Until Next Time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | September 27, 2016

Radical Gratitude

Always check on my trio before I call it a night. Look at them sleeping and say goodnight, smile, and head back down the hall. Pictures being taken in my head. The early days of being a single dad, would do the same even when they were not in their rooms. I know, sounds crazy. Seeing as I thought it best to stay in the home our kids have been growing up in, was not feeling too grateful as memories would come through my conscience of what was yet adjusting to the reality of what’s now. There was grief, anger, hurt, brokenness, and other emotions that leave scars.  Had a couple of job losses to overcome as well, hard to lose what was and be grateful. Was not feeling it, however realized I could choose to be grateful.

Whether it's Montana to Clark or just Dad to Son...grateful for these days, always a touchdown

Whether it’s Montana to Clark or just Dad to Son…grateful for these days, always a touchdown

“Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We all can appreciate and understand the importance of gratefulness, and there is evidence that we are affected by our own ingratitude.  However when the unexpected crisis shows up at your door, this grateful mindset all but disappears.  It is important to acknowledge the anguish, pain, and grief you are experiencing as you let go; it is certainly understandable to indulge in negative feelings.  It is natural to wonder ‘with things this wrong, what really do I have to feel grateful about?’

There is a difference in feeling and being grateful; a radical difference. Being grateful grows from the inside out so that it becomes part of who you are not just something you feel and do. As it is engrained and part of the fabric of many Asian nations and cultures, I grew up with it seeing it in action. It involves having a deep appreciation for everyone and everything around you realizing that life is made better by so many people, things and events that too often go unnoticed.  It provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by living in our own head too much and temporary circumstances.  As I said goodnight to each of my kids, though not in their rooms those nights thinking I did not sign up for this, I was reminded that it is precisely under life altering and adverse conditions I had the most to gain being grateful; decided to even write a letter to myself in 10 years.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., psychology professor and author of Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity conveys that trials and suffering can actually refine and deepen gratefulness if we allow them to show us not to take things for granted.  Though demoralized, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, being radically grateful helps us cope with hard times. It does not come easily or naturally in a crisis; sure is easy to feel grateful for the good things. No one “feels” grateful that he or she has gone through a divorce, lost a job or a home or good health, or says goodnight to stuffed animals in empty bedrooms. Think about the worst times in your life, the sorrows, losses, sadness, anger and appreciate where you are now.  You are still breathing and have persevered through this time, been resilient with an eye of the tiger, endured the trial, got through the trauma, survived the bad relationship, and are coming out of the storm and fog

No matter what happens, if you “dig deep” you will discover as I did there is really plenty for which to be thankful. As compiled by Laura Belmont, M.S. LPC these are the top habits of people who remain steadfast in their ability to be grateful, and can temper the blows life throws at them:

Grateful people don’t expect that life is going to give them everything they deserve – They realize that good things do not always happen to good people, and they have given up the notion that life “owes them anything more than it can offer.”  The question is not if life is unfair, but can we move on in spite of it.

They do not have preconditions to their happiness – They do not think “If this happens only then I will be happy.” They understand happiness is not coming from the outside, but from within. They focus more on their adjustment to what happens rather than try to change what can not be changed.

People who are grateful have realized that you can not have the rainbow without the rain – Furthermore, they know that you don’t have honey without the bee, and you can’t have the rose without the thorns. They see rainy days as a normal part of life rather than an aberration, and learn from the rain rather than just wait for it to go away. They admire the beauty of the rose even though it has its thorny side, and savor the sweet taste of honey even though the bee can sting. Realizing you can not have one without the other, they are grateful for both.

Grateful people have hope -No matter what happens, hope is not lost. They realize the future is uncertain, and while they plan for it, they do not try to micromanage outcomes that are beyond their sphere of influence. They take comfort in the fact that once the sun sets, it rises the next day. They have faith that there is more to life.

Those who are steeped in bitterness and grudges have no space in their heart to be grateful – Forgiving your former spouse for past actions and/or behavior, forgiving your parents for making choices that are hard to reconcile, or other injustices are all parts of the gratitude equation. Forgive others for not acting or being like you had hoped. Perhaps set limits on your interaction with them, or distance yourself altogether as in the case of abuse, but carrying the torch of bitterness is going to hurt you more than them.

People who are grateful know that a grateful attitude takes work – Gratefulness does not always come naturally, especially in the most challenging times. In such times, grateful people work on keeping a good perspective. They might read affirmations, seek support from others, and/or get help for their sadness or anxiety. Some will seek counseling and do not shy away from the effort it takes.

Grateful people have healthy thinking habits – They go by the motto,“Think Straight Feel Great!” They can separate their perceptions from the facts and separate rational from victim-like irrational ways of thinking. For example, they will replace victim self- talk such as “They make me so mad to victor self-talk such as “I was mad when they did that.”

Grateful people are flexible in their thinking – People who think flexibly are at an advantage in life, as flexibility is the key to growth and wisdom. They don’t cling stubbornly with ways of thinking that do not work, and do not need to see a shift in attitude as meaning a personal defeat and referendum of how wrong they used to be. They realize they can choose their perceptions and have a right to change their minds. With this mentality, the doors that close yield others that now become open.

People who love to learn tend to be grateful – Each setback or unforeseen life event offers us lessons, and grateful people focus more on the lessons they can get out of each situation rather than the disappointments. After all, life is a great teacher and teaches us things that no one ever could. Even mistakes and failures are seen as learning opportunities.

Grateful people define their self-worth by their determination and their dreams, not their regrets and disappointments – A grateful mindset has no room for excessive self-recrimination and low self-esteem. People who are stuck in past regrets or seeing themselves as having failed badly in certain areas of their lives will not be able to be truly grateful. Positive self-esteem sets the foundation for gratefulness.

I remember the day after losing my job in 2009. With all that was going on around me at the time, felt as if the sky was falling. That day, June 1, 2009 went with my youngest daughter, having just graduated pre-school, to a park and had one of the best days ever. Swings, slides, stories, picnic lunch, staring and talking about the clouds. It was a beautiful day, and the only Irish in me did not want to let it get away.

As many days have come and gone since that one, it certainly has not got away.  My wish is these days won’t for you either.

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | August 10, 2016

The Hardest Thing to Give Away

breaking-free-from-the-pastI knew I had to break free and get off Wronged Road. Been down this boulevard of broken dreams, hearts, and lives before. Here I am on it again, going the wrong way. Feels justifying to stay, and don’t feel like getting off it either.  Wronged Road is deceiving, with the perceived power and justification that the offender is being held accountable for their actions.  Then I realize the further I travel down this road, the more I can’t move: shackled and bound by a time and place someone else has chosen. It weighed me down and imprisoned my soul as I chose to stay on it and turn my back on my future. Need to find a bridge to cross. Does this journey sound familiar? Many people have walked this road, not just single parents.

Want to break free? Need to set it free. You won’t feel like it and seeing as you are the only one that has walked in your shoes, the pain caused is certainly real. If you so choose, need to give something away that will take everything you have. It starts with a decision and your will to carry it out. Forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”  – Corrie ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  She was imprisoned in a concentration camp for her actions. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, describes the ordeal.  Her witness and story certainly serves as a model for forgiveness; it requires strength and takes time. Forgiveness is not easy nor is it an event. Time is needed before the heart fully accepts what the will has set in motion and how long depends on the severity of the pain of the offense. Allow yourself the time, space, and grace that the healing requires to move forward to full forgiveness.  A blogger colleague of mine from Single Parents Town, Michele Deville, said it well about broken hearts that will heal:

“Sometimes the heart will break but just because the heart is broken does not mean your spirit is; let your spirit lead you through the difficult days and have faith that, with time, your heart will heal and you will emerge stronger and wiser than before.”

Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook, not the same as reconciling, and does not mean forgetting.   Forgiveness does not imply that the relationship will just be restored and revert to the way it was.  It does not mean that we now trust those who violated our trust or even like being around those who hurt us.

So, then, what is forgiveness? I found it put quite simply:

“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”- Anonymous

So, how do we do that? It was painful and yes, it hurt. You want to be free of past offenses however still carry those bitter memories and hard feelings from that road where others wronged you. It’s not impossible. It will take everything you have to just to say the word and involves:

Confronting and admitting the pain – Denying pain keeps us on the wronged road.  Offenses always cause pain and allow yourself to honestly experience it long enough to understand it fully; that’s the beginning of healing. Don’t let pride deny it, dull it, or mask it. Also, grief and anguish respect no hour and honor no person.

Knowing that confusion is confusing, and to work through it – Offenses cause confusion akin to being in a storm after which a dense fog sets in. Rest assured, you are not alone. Stay grounded and reach out to others;  I am  blessed with other guys in my life who had been there. Their influence in helping me work through this time was immeasurable. The confusion will also confuse boundaries, set and defend them.

Finding out what happened – Get clear on who, what happened, then why. This is not looking for an excuse. Rather meant to prevent dwelling on how we were hurt or how we wish to see the other person punished. If appropriate, ask friends or family members for information.

Allowing the information to become insight – Once the facts are determined and clear, we may think that forgiveness occurs automatically. Human nature then beckons our protective and vengeful impulses which can result in rounds of bitterness and anger. The wonder of it all is the insight given into our own heart which involves us freeing another, and thus ourselves.

Making the choice to let go – It is our act of will that sets us free from burdens of the past; it’s not natural. Adopting a new attitudes of the heart help us live “above” our natural impulses that keep us bound to a time and place we would rather not dwell.

As a seven-year old child who came home from school one day to find my Mom gone, and then let go by her to save herself, did not get to forgiveness until I was an adult.  I was also a trigger pull away from not having the opportunity to restore the relationship when my former step dad attempted to end her life. That image of the revolver to her head will always be there, and that night will not forgotten. However, made the choice to let go and have forgiven, and grateful for the strength of scars gained. The relationship with my Mom now restored in adulthood, we both know that in the end it all turned out, not as we had planned, better than we could have imagined.

With my Mom today, relationship restored and better than we ever imagined.

With my Mom today, relationship restored and better than we ever imagined.

Will never forget April 3rd, 2009.  Getting through Tuesday for me took years of Tuesdays after I experienced human betrayal and pain beyond wildest imaginations, yet I got through it to the point where I could forgive my former spouse.  Again, not easy yet needed.

Realizing each situation is going to be unique, these were the similar phases I went through which lead to the bridge of forgiveness. If you are anything like me, my flesh tells me forgiveness seems like an unreachable destination and leaves me conflicted. I have a hard time forgiving the person who cut in front of me on the way to work, let alone someone who has done irreparable harm. Holding grudges is easier.

Is there someone in your life who wronged you? Maybe a relationship that has been severed because a lie was told or trust betrayed? Or perhaps, you have been wronged by a complete stranger, you hold on to a deep resentment that you carry with you every moment of every day. Maybe, someone has stolen away something or someone so precious to you that you can never get back. Big or small, when you come to that bridge of forgiveness, it can be seemingly impossible to cross.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

 

If you find yourself on Wronged Road holding onto neglect, rejection, trust taken away, or anything keeping you bound to a time and place of someone else’s choosing, listen to the whisper in your ear. Set. It. Free.

Until next time,

Ed

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | June 17, 2016

Some Lessons from Dad…

dad and ed in malaysia1He does not wear cuff links anymore. Does anyone? Nor does he wear that Tuxedo t-shirt so he would look dressed up anyway. Our adventures together defined much of who each of us are, and certainly would not have it any other way. He is my father after all, however he is truly a Dad.  My son is named after him.  In fact, this blog was a Father’s Day gift to share with others.

A coconut husk? Allow me to explain. My Dad and I are scuba divers, and were dive buddies often in the South China Sea. Grew up surrounded by the ocean; might as well explore it. During many of those dives we would swim ashore to an island, take off our gear, get out our dive knives out of the sheath and use them to get through those tough husks. That is one of the ways we spent time together, and certainly ate our share. Learned so much from my Dad and the symbolism, namely getting to the heart of matters and having meaningful times is akin to getting to the heart of all those coconuts with our dive knives. It takes awhile to get through the tough husk, but once you do it is certainly worth it.

For this Father’s Day, thought it would be good to open a couple more coconut husks about my Dad and share them with you.

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence” – Vince Lombardi

The importance of confidence and building it – My Dad is an aeronautical engineer by training and loves thrills, wanted to be a pilot and fly F-4s off aircraft carriers. To him, it is rocket science. His training involved doing barrel rolls in jet fighters. There was a something that got in the way though, his height. He grew to 6’4″ and could not fit in the cockpit, certainly did not deter his love of adventure. Encouraged the same in me and knew that building confidence was essential. I started diving when I was 13, and quickly became comfortable underwater. It did not matter whether night dives, going into wrecks, going into caves, being around creatures as large as I am, or staring up at the surface while standing up 160 feet below. Never would have even attempted it had my Dad not encouraged me to build it.

My Dad modeled a quiet confidence, never ending sense of adventure, unflappable under pressure, and willingness to take risks. I guess my kids know why I always want to ride roller coasters.

“Never bend your head. Hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.” – Helen Keller

The importance of standing up for what is right – I call it the story of The Smashing Light Bulbs. In Singapore there are typically two kinds of light bulb bases, 2 pin and twist. He bought the wrong ones and had to take them back to the store to get his money back. One problem, the store manager would not give him his money back even though the bulbs were unopened. No problem, he just put the pack of light bulbs on the floor and said since he can’t use them, might as well get some use out of them. As he lifted his foot off the floor to smash and grind them into the carpet with his shoe, the cash register opened. Sweet music to the ears. Now the store manager could sell them to someone who could actually use them and Dad could use his hard-earned money to get the ones he needed.

As small a lesson as that may seem, what was modeled to me was this: have no fear when it comes to standing up for what you know and believe to be right.

“I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face…I’ve lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The importance of never letting odds define you and making tough decisions – Dad was in a tough spot, and so was I for that matter. The odds for me as a young teen with a full life ahead were not great; was informed that I would need reconstructive surgery otherwise life would be short and difficult. That what Dad was being told by a prominent doctor and surgeon, not what any parent wants to hear or face. There was something did not feel right with Dad, akin to rocks in his gut. He had to weigh all the risks coupled with the unending drumbeat of the odds. Ultimately, he disagreed and stood up to the doctor, and even against one of his parents to make the tough agonizing call to forgo it. It was the right one too, despite what he was being told.

What odds allow for is others to define you; what I have learned though, in reality speaks more to the person doing the defining as they are limiting themselves.

My hope is that by opening and sharing some of these coconut husks, it has encouraged you.

From a son raised by a single Dad and one on the journey at present, Happy Father’s Day Dads!

And you too Dad, Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being there.

Coconut husks sure beat cuff links, though a tuxedo t-shirt may add some style.

Until next time,

Ed

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | May 6, 2016

Always Mom and Dad

always mom and dadThis was not the plan, was it? It sure was not mine, either as a child or an adult. Not that I knew any better. What now?  Are there times you wish you could understand better what your kids are thinking and experiencing? You may have had both your parents in your life during your childhood years and it is hard to relate to what they are going through. I was raised in Asia by a single parent, my Dad. He did not plan it that way, nor did my Mom. I also have a brother and we did not grow up together, as he was with Mom in America. I left the United States when I was nine. However, what is certain and that I do know is that each of them are part of who I am.

They always have been, and will be, my Mom and Dad.

I wrote to the relationships with my Mom, Dad and brother as when I came home that day when I was seven and she was gone, I certainly did not foresee the relationship I now have with my Mom when I was a child and young adult. I was naturally close to my Dad. Family relationships are dynamic, they can’t be predicted by a math formula or put on a project plan and expected to stay on schedule. What were some of the things I learned and observed? If I take some time to look through that childhood lens with introspection of being a child of a single parent and now one myself, what do I see?

 – Free to make choices, not free from the consequences – Lives are a summation of choices and decisions, and what seems to get lost is that as free as we all are to make choices, the consequences are not free to choose.  My parents made choices and decisions and in the midst of the battle, there was pain inflicted. My brother and I fully recognize that in addition to us being split apart, they hurt each other as well.  Children are subject to, and affected by, their parents choices. As with parents, children are not free to choose the consequences.

 – Connection to the other parent – While the other parent is not there, the connection is felt and always there. I felt it, though my Mom had to face the consequence that no parent wants to face, namely which child to keep and which to let go. I was the one she let go. Though on the other side of the world, knew I was connected to her and my brother. Recognize and allow that connection to the other parent to be felt.

 – The effects can last a lifetime, have to know what to keep and let go – It was not that long ago that I asked my Mom why she and my brother were not there when I left America for Singapore. Did not know when I would see them again or what our relationship would ever become.  As opposite sides of the same coin, my brother and I have both had to work through being disillusioned and abandoned by the other parent. It is hard for both of us to reconcile. I had to let go of ‘stuff”;  my brother and I both enjoyed our childhoods even though in different worlds. However it has been my experience that as resilient as my brother and I became, this is an issue you are going to have to deal with for a while. Be authentic, be real, be prepared.

 – Engage your mind before your mouth – It is natural for parents to protect their kids, and my Dad’s parents were no exception. My parents divorce was not amicable by any means, it was a battlefield. My Mom wanted out. She has told me many times, she had to let me go to save herself. That did not sit well with my grandparents and they often spoke ill of my Mom. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandparents and loved being around them. I did understand their son was hurt, and there is that natural instinct of all parents to protect.  We all have our grandparents blood in us as well, and therein lies another conflict. The insults are akin to twisting a knife inside a warring soul. Whatever you or your family think of the other parent, engage your mind before you speak and think about who you are really hurting.

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

 – The virtues of resilience and patience – The ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change, that is resilience.  There was misfortune and change to go around and watching the resilience of my Dad close up served as a model. As I got to know my Mom as an adult, I came to appreciate her resilience. My Dad also modeled patience at the right times. The relationship I now have with my Mom would not have come about without patience. It is often said that kids are resilient when it comes to experiencing the chaos of divorce and/or loss of a parent; I can also say that it certainly helps when it is modeled.

“…life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.” – Charles Swindoll

 – Attitude is everything  – When it comes to the day-to-day and dealing with the way things turned out, I’m reminded of what legendary basketball coach John Wooden said: “Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” When I started this blog on Father’s Day 2012, the attitude my Dad modeled for me was at the forefront of my mind. As I reconnected with my Mom, her courage to face herself and her attitude has been another reminder of how important a role it plays.

 – Whatever your issues, own it – My Mom had soul searching to do. My Dad had anger and grief to get through.  They each had to own their issues and face themselves; it takes courage to do that.  I witnessed my Dad get through the storm. For my Mom, she had storms of her own and I had to be patient. If she had not been authentic, rolled up her sleeves, and done the work to face herself we would not have the relationship we have today.  I also realize there is no way she could have been married to my step-dad for now over 30 years had she not taken care of those issues. Thank you Mom!  Own and face your issues, make it a priority. As I did, your kids will see the difference.

 – Authentic forgiveness takes time, however certainly worth it – When a parent lets you go and leaves, how do you forgive that? Natural disillusionment and hurt kicks in. The road to forgiveness is uphill, and certainly easier said than done; it takes strength. The connection with my Mom was always there and her authenticity in owning what she did and the underlying issues helped me understand at the right time; we almost did not get that time, as her life was nearly taken away.  She dealt with it through action and facing herself. I knew I had to be ready and let go of the pain with which I was holding onto and hurting myself. I needed to forgive, afterall I have been forgiven. True forgiveness is a gift to yourself.  Allow the time and space to forgive others. It may be that forgiveness is not deserved, rather you deserve peace.

 – It is not the end – I only have vague memories of my parents together, the picture (of a picture) in this post is one of the few. That was the way it was and, at the time, thought the way it would be.  That is my Mom and Dad and they still are, as you will be to your kids. There will always be a connection, and truly connecting strengthens the connection.

Having lived through it all and now as a single parent looking ahead, can honestly say:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | March 14, 2016

It’s OK to not be OK, A Letter to Cameron Gallagher…

cameron in RVADear Cameron,

I know we have never met, yet what never ceases to amaze me in life is how lives can cross paths along the miles we travel.  Some time has passed now since you and your best friend, Abby Donelson, ran your last miles together at the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia on March 16th, 2014.

Unknowingly your words to her as you closed in on the finish line became The Mission at Mile 12.

Before I ran with your family and friends last year as part of the SpeakUp team, there was a strength I felt from the purpose of our run, with an exhale when I crossed the finish line. I started running just over two years ago, and I’ve learned that it involves vulnerability. Before saying goodbye to your Dad after our run,  I remember saying to him wish I had met you.  He graciously said “You do know her, Ed.”  So I am writing this letter with that in mind.  My name is Ed Deiss, and wanted to let you know Cameron that lives are being impacted because you lived.  Mine included.

“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable, to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” – Criss Jami

Like running, strength is gained in life by making yourself vulnerable; I know many stories I have shared about mine right here have forced me to do so. Namely be vulnerable and share my pain, struggles, and weaknesses to encourage others, even if it is just one person.  Strength through weakness does not make sense, yet I have learned that struggle, not success, builds strength and the pain involved should not be masked.

How did we cross paths?  It is called Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp for kids who have lost a parent or sibling, I’m sure you heard Abby talk about with you on how it saved her after she lost her Dad when she was eight.  I’m proud to serve with Abby and her brother, EJ, as fellow volunteers.  I’m a big buddy and was getting to know my little buddy the first night of a weekend camp in the summer of 2014.  As we got together with our small group (called healing circles) for the first time, we went around introducing ourselves and one of the little buddies in our group said ‘I’m Reilly Gallagher.’  Your little sister who quickly became a little buddy buddy with all of us.  It was a memorable weekend to share with, and be there for, one another as big and little buddies do in their groups.

It was there that I learned about SpeakUp and your mission to encourage other teens that it is OK to Speak Up about their personal battles, and for there to be a purpose driven organization that is a positive force that works to cultivate awareness and understanding of teenage depression and anxiety. I soon thereafter signed up for the first SpeakUp 5K.  Knowing that running was a positive influence that helped you fight your battle with depression, three thousand five hundred (3,500) people came to run and be a part of it Cameron! Reilly by the way, did great interviews that day by just using a stick as a microphone…I think next time we should at least put a pine cone on it so it picks up sound better.

Reilly and EJ, an interview at SpeakUp 5K.

Reilly and EJ, an interview at SpeakUp 5K

After my first half marathon in Richmond, Virginia in November 2014 I thought about what run should I do next? I soon learned that SpeakUp was organizing a team to go back to Shamrock in Virginia Beach to run where you finished your last race.  I soon met both your parents at our first team meeting, and finished the race.

You know what I did at that run though?  As I ran down the boardwalk towards the finish line of that half marathon (my 2nd ever) looking at the sunrise over the Atlantic, I thought…why not fight, faith, and finish a full marathon?  Never was going to know if I didn’t try.  Many purpose driven miles fueled the training and that run, I took a chance, and followed my heart…had your name on my wrist and Mile 12 was for you, you probably knew that!  What will always be memorable was having Abby finish that run with me, to #runasone for you, SpeakUp, and for our Comfort Zone Camp family.  As we met up at Mile 25 she came over and said “Let’s Finish This”, we sure did.

The Mission at Mile 12 finishes the race for 26.2. We #runasone

The Mission at Mile 12 finishes the race for 26.2 at RVA Marathon. We #runasone

“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” – Corrie Ten Boom

Cameron, I want to express that the strength you showed in confronting your pain of depression reminded me that there is a human habit, myself included, to quickly write off our pain. Or just not accept it, choosing to bury our feelings, fake a smile (amazing what that can hide), and put on a mask; an ‘I’m fine’ masquerade. It seems people believe that strength and faith say we won’t or should not let our pain get to us. We can deal with it and get over it quickly, and may be tempted to compare our pain to others and discount it.  We rationalize that there is much worse elsewhere for much more valid reasons.

By speaking up, what you have done and how you lived is showing teenagers and adults that it’s OK, more than OK, to not be OK.  As a parent myself, I know I have to be teachable as well, and kids have a way of teaching adults what is to be valued.

“We do not exist for ourselves. We come to breathe in grace and exhale it out to others. Whatever job you go to, God wants us. If you aren’t in a right relationship with Him, we miss out, not God. If you’ve made mistakes, God can use that. His mercies are new every morning. He forgives you, brushes you off, and you can start over. When I breathe in that type of grace, I’m so grateful, humbled and loyal to that, I want to talk about it…” – Pete Wilson, Pastor of Crosspoint Church

As someone on a single parent journey, who was raised by one apart from my mom and brother in a country a world away (that became home and a place for scars to heal), I have breathed in a lot of grace.  There has been pain, and painful lessons, yet I am reminded that we exist to love and to serve out of the outflow of the grace we’ve been given; to exhale and breathe out what we are breathing in. It has been my experience that often more strength is needed to let go than to hold on.

What your Mom and Dad are doing is amazing. Knowing that it took weeks and herculean strength for them to go into your room after they let you go and found your vision and plan to SpeakUp, you should be proud of them.  And your siblings.  Your Dad and Abby recently ran a marathon together to honor you; your Dad and your best friend, running as one.

As we run, we breathe.  After we cross the finish, there is an exhale of all that you breathed in to get you there.  It’s time to finish the race to honor you, to run to SpeakUp at Shamrock in Virginia Beach where you finished your race, stepped out in faith, and fought the good fight. You ran to who you are, rather than from it, a valuable lesson for all of us.

As I thought about what to put together to speak to all of us about finishing our races, the pastor quoted above, Pete Wilson inspired this by singer Tiffany Lee.  I hope it captures this letter well, running as one with you and to SpeakUp, and focuses our minds on breathing out what we breathe in each and every day.

God Bless you Cameron, and look forward to meeting you when I have finished my race.  Until then, I need to keep fighting the good fight and keeping the faith.  And Exhale.

With Sincere Gratitude,

Ed Deiss

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | February 9, 2016

Yes, It’s Worth It

yes its worth itDo you wonder sometimes, should I go there again? The familiar “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” can be hollow and fail to reassure.  Then again, who said love was risk free?  There is no such thing. Matters of the heart are hard to define and need to be experienced. Loving someone means being vulnerable, cut open, and can hurt., It is also life changing and breathtaking. You may wonder single parents, as I have, is it worth the risk (again)? Having risked it myself, seeing family and close friends do the same and witnessing first hand both my parents risk it again, that familiar poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson holds true. Rather would put my heart on the line, risk it by doing so, and lose it than playing it safe. Actually, playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do.

“Don’t go through life, grow through life” – Eric Butterworth

My Dad said to me growing up: ‘Son, wish I could model a great marriage to you’. Though that was his intention and desire, it was not the reality of our lives in Asia. My parents were married for ten years, and our family split apart as we went our separate ways when I was seven and my brother, Will, who was raised by my mom, was five. Each of them learned from their experience and I know they look at me and my brother and are thankful for us, as hard and painful as the lessons were. I was close to my Dad (he was single the entire time I grew up) and he was quite comfortable in his own skin as a single adult for twelve years before he found love again, or found him. He was happy, knowing full well that it may be without the ever after. He did desire to share his life with someone again; love can be unexpected and when you least expect it. When he came back to the United States, he was introduced by a college classmate of his to my now step mom, and they have been happily married for over 30 years.

My Mom remarried quickly after the divorce, and she has told me that it was one of the biggest mistakes of her life. Wrong man, wrong time and knew she should have taken the time and space to figure things out and heal. After her second marriage ended with a night that she nearly lost her life before my eyes, she took that time and what a difference it made. Three times is the charm for her and she has been happily married to my step dad for over 30 years as well. My parents loved then lost it all. Love ran out the door, and it came running back again.

Though I was in love for nearly seventeen years, know there is much I still need to learn. Love often does not make sense and can come about from unlikely places. As I shared through growing up with my dad and where I am, certainly not going to put my life on hold waiting for it, thriving and happy are great on their own. It is more about becoming and being the right person rather than wondering when and are you going to find someone.

“This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.” C.S. Lewis

When I think about authentically loving someone, what comes to mind I’m sure is quite familiar to many. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

If you want to try a humbling exercise I learned that serves as a constant reminder of what love should resemble, substitute your name for each instance of the word “Love” or ‘it”.  Love, it is an action without condition or limits.  It is fearless. It is an indescribable and heart pounding feeling for someone that you know is there, can be felt yet hard to put into words. Yet, behind the words that are found, love is also a decision that has a purpose that is bigger than oneself, it is selfless. It involves work between two imperfect individuals that want and choose to be together, and there is no place they would rather be.

Sharing a life, with a smile that heals, a laugh that reveals, a lift up walking anywhere, a willing and eager shoulder and ear when you are down, that can inspire without a sound, a touch that turns you around, and new found strength to keep on going…I certainly don’t know what it is, love for someone just has a way.

So, do you want to go there again?

Sure sounds like it’s worth it…

“Love is a second life; it grows into the soul, warms every vein, and beats in every pulse.”  Joseph Addison

Until next time,

Ed

Posted by: Ed Deiss | January 7, 2016

Each Day Can Start a New Year

each day can start a new year1A blank page, three hundred and sixty five of them in fact, of change and new beginnings.  The yearly calendar rollover is often seen as a point in time where we can embark on a new start, a fresh opportunity, or a chance to change something in our life. May I ask, is today any different for you than last week, last month, or last year? I have noticed the gym has been more crowded than last month. Though a new year is seen as a place for a new start, it can often be forgotten by St. Patrick’s Day. The desire for change is there or just wanting something different for our life, however we can easily fall prey to never taking the steps to do anything about it. We just keep on with what we have been doing and then wonder why we are still at the same place years later.

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do” – Anonymous

What is it that makes resolutions stick? As I thought about opportunities and changes in my life, they have come in a variety of ways. Sometimes through knocking, searching, or perseverance, and other times through actions and circumstances beyond my control.  In all cases what comes to mind is the word intentional and living intentionally.  It involves taking responsibility to pursue changes and opportunities each day. It’s reassuring to know I do not have to wait until the next New Year’s Day for my next chance.

What does living intentional look like? Lynne Hughes comes to mind.  She is the founder of Comfort Zone Camp. It is a bereavement camp that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver (I’m honored to serve as a big buddy volunteer). Lynne lost of both her parents, her mother died when she was nine and father three years later.  She shares that after her parent’s death, no one had to be there for her and that the two people who wanted her were gone. She became aware that any time someone reached out a friendly hand, it wasn’t something they had to do and learned to appreciate, enjoy and grow from it.  She conveyed an “Aha” moment when her Junior High principal and mentor said to her about leaving your mark: “…you leave your mark every day, in each person you meet; each person you touch. You leave your mark every day here at this school with each of your classmates and each of your teachers and in everyone you come into contact with. You don’t have to be famous to leave your mark.”

You know what? That sounds like a great resolution, each and every day. Lynne certainly took it to heart to pay it forward and is leaving a mark with each child that experiences Comfort Zone Camp.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

As exemplified above and I’m sure many reading this can relate that throughout this year as in past years, life can become difficult and seem unfair. This is not saying anything new. I found this especially true going on about my days without intention or purpose. It was as if I was existing to get by while hoping for something without any involvement.  What became clear is that if my desire for change did not include a change in actions, I would just be in the same place twelve months removed (and older).

For example:

  • We say we want a new job, however don’t get out there and have conversations or prepare a resume, and then put little to no effort in searching.
  • We affirm we want to meet someone however don’t put ourselves in a position to meet new people or change past patterns of behavior.
  • We state that we are going to accomplish something this year, however don’t take any actionable steps towards that goal.
  • We say we want to get more involved in our community yet are frozen by indecision and uncertainty as to where to start and how to go about it.

We have to be intentional. No one else is going to do it.

As I was talking to one of my daughters this week about her upcoming workload, activities, and wanting to look for work next school year, she expressed some anxiety about how she was going to handle it.  Natural for all of us, fear of the unknown.  I flashed back to a few years ago in the sudden transition to being a single parent and getting through Tuesday.  I have also gone through two job losses and as every single parent knows, when it is all on your shoulders, anxiety and fear surfaces real quick.  A fresh start and perspective was needed, along with the ability to have more control of my time so I could fulfill the most important role I will ever do, be a Dad.  What I encouraged Rachel was to have a little courage and that fear is often just an illusion.

What does it take to be intentional? To convert a desire for change into action?

Benjamin Mee is single dad who after the death of his wife, felt he and his kids needed a fresh start.  What did he do?  He bought a zoo, the Dartmoor Wildlife Park in Devon, England in 2006, that came with a house too. This scene from the movie based on his story ‘We Bought A Zoo’ says it well…a little courage and it is amazing what can happen.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” -Walt Disney

It is quite an adventure when we pursue living purposefully, deliberately, and intentionally.

It can be done any day and no need to wait to see the crowds next New Year’s Eve on Times Square.

Each and Every day can start a New Year.

Until Next Time,

Ed

 

Posted by: Ed Deiss | December 4, 2015

The Day Everything Changed

3wise01This time of year can serve as a reminder of what was, and what’s now. For many Christmas time can be a tough time of year filled with sadness and loneliness. You may not have your kids with you this year, remembering a parent, spouse, child, or loved one who has passed away, a failed marriage or relationship, or health.  After reading a story shared a couple of years ago about a mom having just given birth to her first child was given 15 months to live, I was reminded about what hope really is all about.

As was shared in that story, 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!”

The Christmas of 2010 was my first as a single parent and remember that morning my kids saying how great a Christmas it was, a heartwarming day after a tough year of just getting through Tuesday. I remember the first Christmas morning I woke up without my trio, expecting them to come breaking through the bedroom door. Been grateful to be able to stay in the house they have grown up in, and I came downstairs to where years of Christmas mornings had taken place and though uneasy and empty, looking at the Christmas tree and nativity it was quiet and calm. Of course, there were flashbacks in time however I had some time to truly reflect on the day that changed everything.

Looking at the gifts waiting to be unwrapped, I thought about the other ones not there to be grateful for such as:  strength gained from scars; how storms gone through have become purposes; how other single and former single dads became a ‘band of brothers’; how close I have become to both my mom and dad; how I have learned from my little brother and the pillar he has been; how simple things and time with my kids are truly wonderful things; how long car rides have become a blast; how being comfortable in my own skin again really feels; how neighbors truly care for one another; and these past two years how friends have become sole sisters and brothers through running that encouraged and inspired me to take a chance, and follow my heart.   As I reflect on that, the reality of Christmas as God’s love for us becomes evident. Someone really does care, God’s gift of reality to us.

As I come in my front door everyday, and come down the stairs, this picture below is always there.  It is from a while ago, however it serves to remind me whether I am going/coming from work, after saying good night, getting ready for another school day, or on Christmas morning. As I look at that picture I know that the best thing I will ever, ever do is be a dad to Will, Rachel, and Zoe. Another gift not found under the tree.

Dad and trio picture in foyer

May the Lord continue to grant you time enough, energy enough, hands enough, and heart enough.

Merry Christmas!

Until next time,

Ed

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