Black, White or Gray. Which would you choose?

Throughout my life I have always been worried when I don’t know what’s coming next. However, in raising the two of you I have become more comfortable with that because kids are about the most unpredictable things in the world.

And puppies…puppies are unpredictable too.  Your new puppy Remi has reminded me of that. You go 16 years without a puppy and you completely forget how hard they are to deal with. Thankfully your mom is about as good as they get when it comes to dog whisperers.

People refer to things being black and white when they are clear. People, including me, love clarity. A clear direction, clear steps on how to get where you’re going, clear plans to how to overcome obstacles that might come up and a clear finishing point. However, life only has one ultimate finish, death. Even death to some is just another journey’s beginning.

When things are not black and white, people refer to them being gray. The definition of gray is a color between black and white. While I enjoy black and white I know that things truly move forward and I have been happiest in my life in the gray.

The two of you make me happier than anything else in this world. You are the grayest of the gray. I have no idea what you are going to do next much less in your lives. What I know you have is potential.

Gray while uncomfortable is where all potential lies. This is true in almost every aspect of life. I not only hope for you that you become comfortable with the gray, but learn to embrace it and seek it out. Expand your horizons and never embrace clarity.

Seek adventure. Seek to always be better. Be better than you are today, tomorrow and ever day.


 

 

 

I Learned Everything I Need to Know From Caesar – Love Changes Things

While we would have loved to bring Caesar home with us that first night we saw him, he was too young to take from his beagle mom yet.  It broke my heart leaving him know that his brothers and sisters would probably continue to get the best of him in the weeks to come. However, we knew that we would be back to rescue him.

In the weeks to come your Mom and I had lots of discussions about what was going to happen and how we were going to take care of Caesar. However, when you love someone as much as we loved Caesar a lot of those plans and rules that we made got bent or broke.  They started with the car ride home.

We had decided we were going to crate train and that Caesar would ride in the car in a crate because that was supposed to be the safest way to do it.  Almost before we even got out of Litchfield on the hour ride home Caesar was on your Mom’s lap in the passengers seat because it broke our hearts to listen to him cry inside the crate.

He would rarely ride in the crate in the car and he definitely spent more time in our laps in the front seats or buckled in his harness in the back seat than he spent in a crate in the car.

We had also decided that when we got home Caesar’s crate would be downstairs in the living room because we knew he would cry and we knew it was best for his house training to stay in the crate.  The first night he was in the house the crate made its way up to our bedroom.

In fact while he was in his crate being trained, until he fell asleep or whenever he would wake up one of us would lay on the floor next to his crate with our fingers inside the crate to keep him from crying and comfort him.

We had decided when Caesar was trained that he would lay on the dog bed next to our bed because their was no way he was sleeping in our bed.  He not only slept in our bed, but he created the standard H position and created a whole other set of challenges.

He not only slept in bed in between your Mom and I.  He slept under the covers, but only until he got overheated and would come huffing and puffing out from under the covers.  That would last until he was ready to go back under where he required one of us to lift up the covers so he could go back under the covers until he got overheated……Wash, rinse, repeat.

We broke a lot of the rules and plans when it came to Caesar and we did the same for both of you.  Because when you love something as much as we loved Caesar and as much as we love you it does not always lead to logic.

Balance

“At the end of your life no one that matters will care how well you managed a balance sheet, but the balance you managed to maintain in your life will have mattered to them.”

Today I am sitting in my Management Principles class at the St Mary’s University of Minnesota still in route to get the degree that I promised Nan that I would get and today I had the privilege of being exposed to a man by the name of Jim Klobuchar (http://www.jimklobuchar.com).

Jim was very entertaining and had lots of great stories to tell, but he repeated a couple of different times, “If there was one gift I could give to you it would be the gift of curiosity.”

It was such a simple statement, but it truly is thought provoking.  I immediately jumped to how closely it matches to the idea of learning something new every day, but in such an elegantly simple way differs in that it is a mechanism to learn that lesson.  Curiosity is such a strong learning tool and I hope the both of you have ample curiosity in your lives.

As for my lesson for today even know I have been doing Yoga for many years and heard the statement before, Jim shared with us the meaning of Namaste.  The meaning of the word is, ‘I bow to the divine in you.’  Such a powerful statement of respect and a wish for another and with that said.

Namaste,

Dad

 

Jim Klobuchar Book

Big Brother

On September 6, 2013 you became a big brother. I wish there was a ton of advice that I could offer, but even though I have both a younger brother and younger sister I am still learning what it means to be a big brother.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned so far:

  1. Be Patient
    • At times you will be frustrated with your sister, but that frustration will pass and she will always be your sister.
  2. Let Her Make Mistakes
    • Part of growing up will is learning and we learn the most from our mistakes.  If you try to keep your sister from making mistakes you will be taking away her opportunities to learn.
  3. Protect Her
    • Sometimes you will need to step in and keep her from making mistakes, which is contradictory to #2.  You will make mistakes in picking the right times to protect her and you will need to learn from your mistake
  4. Be a Student
    • Accept the fact that your sister will sometimes know more than you, she will be right and you will be wrong.  This doesn’t mean you have failed it hopefully means that we all have succeeded.
  5. Be a Teacher
    • Nothing like continuing the contradictions, but remember being a teacher does not mean being a preacher.

Moments I’ll Always Remember

On Monday, April 15, 2013 two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was sitting at my desk on Gonda 1 in the Mayo Clinic when I found out. I spent the next 15 minutes on Twitter, Facebook and Google trying to understand what happened.

On September 11, 2001 I was sitting on the couch in the living room of our townhouse with Caesar sitting on my lap watching the Today Show. They were talking about what appeared to be a fire at the World Trade Center in New York when a “small plane” appeared to hit the other World Trade Center tower. We later found out that it was not a small plane and they were two of four planes that were to be used as weapons by terrorists that day.

These to date are two of the most engrained memories that I have in my life. I can remember every detail around those moments, with almost every one of my senses engaged up to the near numb feeling that I experienced throughout my entire body. They are also the worst memories that I have.

Fortunately, I have two equally good memories where the same senses engaged.

The first is when your mother was walking toward me on our wedding day, right up until your Grandpa Marv let go of her at the altar and went in for the kiss. He kissed me and not your mom. She remembers that.

The rest of the ceremony and the day are a blur because of nerves and activity. Most Wisconsin weddings would be a blur because of the drinking, but I had one glass of champagne all day.

The second good memory was when you were born on Friday, July 13, 2007. I remember almost every moment of joy, anticipation and even fear. Right after you were born there was what I thought was a frantic call for help and you weren’t making a peep. It was probably seconds before we heard your voice for the first time, but even today when I think about it, it feels like hours.

There are other memories, some of which I mentioned in previous posts and others I hope to get to in the future, but these are the four most significant.

The four memories where I can recall the tastes, the sounds, exactly what I saw like someone hit record in my brains blue-ray player, the sensation of numbness and tingling all the way to my finger tips in all occasions and finally the smells right down to how stinky Caesar was on September 11, 2001.

I figured out almost immediately what the common link between these memories were. They are the most powerful memories I have that have shown me how precious life and love are.

Life and love are by far the most precious things we have, and we should never take them for granted.

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My Silent Teacher

When I wanted to start playing football there was one big issue. My home town of Eden, WI; did not have a team and even know a coach had invited me to play on a team in Fond du Lac, WI. I still had the issue of, how to I get there every day for practice.

By this time my mom and dad were divorced, Dad was running his business and mom was working full time too.

However, Grandma Feyen was coming to clean our house once a week and after listening to me complain about not being able to play because I couldn’t get to practice she said, “Ray will take care of it.”

Ray Feyen, was my Grandpa Feyen and for my whole first year of football he drove the 10 miles from Fond du Lac to pick me up and drive me the 10 miles back to Fond du Lac and some days when dad could not make it from work to pick me up he would make the round trip again.

We spent about 3 months doing that trip together and honestly, I don’t remember a single conversation. I just remember how he listened to talk radio every day and how annoying I thought it was. I’m guessing that is what you will think some day about my talk radio habit.

And even though I lived with Grandma and Grandpa Feyen for a few years later in life, I can honestly only remember two things that came out of Grandpa Feyen’s mouth. One, the fact that he used to call us grandkids, snicklefritzes and the infamous, “Can I get my drink yet?,” when he knew family was coming to visit. Grandma only let him drink when people were visiting in the later years.

I think that it is kind of strange that I remember how much Grandpa B told me, possibly because of the number of times he repeated the same story, but almost nothing about what Grandpa Feyen said.

Even though I don’t remember what he said, I remember several things that he taught me.

I remember being at the farm in the morning and watching him walk to to the barn to start the day.  I remember his striped overalls and hankerchief.  I remember not remembering him ever complaining or looking like he didn’t want to do it.  My memory may be different from others on that last statement but I really think it had an effect on my work ethic.

Although I may complain more than I remember Grandpa complaining, I know that I am responsible to get my work done.

I also remember how Grandpa realized that our regular trips to the Golden Goat to recylce cans were loosing us money and that we should be taking our cans to the recycling center where they paid more per pound of cans.  The only difference is that the cans taken to the recycling center had to be crushed.

He would take our full bags of uncrushed cans from our house in Eden to the farm house and he would crush the cans one by one with a sledge hammer on his work bench.  I swear that each can was crushed to the exact same measurement.

I learned two things from this.  The first is the value of money, your mother may argue that that value alludes me at times, but the fact that Grandpa was willing to invest the time to help us make a few extra dollars meant a lot.  The second is no matter what you are doing that you should take pride in it, even if it means a perfect crush on a can that is bound for a recycling center.

That wasn’t the last lesson I learned from Grandpa around the cans. When we got to the recycling center I realized the bags were put on a scale, weighed and then we threw them into a bin.  The more the bag weighed the more money we made and no one really inspected the bags so why not add some weight to the bags and bingo, more money.

I decided that I was going to add sand to the bags, and then the first bag I added the sand to was gone from Grandpa’s garage with all the other bags the next morning because Grandpa decided to take the cans in for us.

When he got back all I remember is him carrying one bag out of the back of the car, dropping it in the garage, telling us to clean out the sand and that was it. He didn’t get mad at us and never asked why or how it got there.

Then at lunch that day he pointed out the milkhose hanging in the mudroom like the one that he used to smack the cows with to get them to do what he wanted them to do. I don’t remember what he said as much as I knew that from that point forward I would never put sand in our aluminum cans ever again and that I never wanted to find out how a cow felt when it gets hit by that hose.

The lesson; if you make a mistake you are going to fix it yourself and there are consequences for big mistakes.  Not always a milkhose to the backside, but consequences just the same.

The final lesson I learned from Grandpa was the hardest lesson.  Grandma and Grandpa left their farm to move into the city when they were in relatively good health, but what I percieved once they moved was that Grandpa had lost a big part of who he was.  I saw him try to find things to keep himself busy, but he never was quite the same or quite as happy as I remembered him being on the farm.

Grandpa seemed to loose a little bit more of himself every day and I remember watching him struggle to get the bread he always dunked into his coffee into his mouth before it fell apart.  I saw him fail more times than I would like to remember.

I don’t know if Grandpa would have lived longer or had more quality of life if they never left the farm, but I do think he would have been happier.  He never said that to me, at least that I can remember, but that is what I think.

What I do know is that I will always seek to ensure my life is full and I will hold on tight to those things that keep me happy.

I will also endeavor to lead as much by example as well as my Grandpa Feyen did.

 

The Garden of Eden: More Hometown Memories

I remember two welcome signs from the town where I grew up.

The first said, “Welcome to the home town of baseball star Jim Gantner.” Most people say, “Jim who?”

The second said, “Welcome to the Garden of Eden.” A biblical reference to some, but for me the bible is not exactly where my first thought goes when I think of good ole, Eden, WI.

I have already chronicled some of the outstanding moments and my most trafficked post to date, A Kick to the Nuts.

But when I think of Eden as I do every once in a while, the first memory that comes to mind is the canning company on the other side of the tracks from where I lived.

(As a side bar, I still don’t know if I grew up on the right or wrong side of the tracks.)

I think of how during the canning season I would race my friends on our bikes through the canning factory as the machines were running and the workers were working. Some of the workers got a kick out of it and others would be yelling four letter words which I was very familiar with by the age of…….well, since I can remember.

I think of how sometimes I would use those race routes to ride away from bullies and my absolute favorite time when I took to the railroad tracks coming out of the canning company and got going as fast as I could, hopped the rail with my bike and came to a complete stop with a bully in tow.

He tried to stop and hit the rail and went skidding on the tracks between the two rails. The chase ended at that moment and he never bothered me again, I also never told the story to anyone until now.

The other things I think of are:

  • Collecting cans and literally hanging out after the evening softball games so that when the players finished their beers they would throw them to all of us kids that were collecting cans and watch us scramble to get them. It probably was fun for them, but for us it was our weekly allowance they were toying with as almost every Friday Dad took us to the Golden Goat, automated recycling machine, to turn the aluminum cans into quarters.
  • Being an altar boy at the local church and having the responsibility after the last mass on Sunday to get the priest his whiskey and water after he polished off the jug of wine for the day. The priest was a great guy, but boy did he like his alcohol.
  • Having the local Sheriff come to our house after someone reported that I was running around town with a gun pretending to shoot it. I was actually doing it and it was a toy gun.
  • Not having a football team so having to have at first, my Grandpa Feyen pick me up and drive me 10 miles to practice everyday the first year I played.
  • Playing baseball, kickball, tetherball and basketball all in our own driveway and yard.  I especially remember playing basketball and how no one would want to play against me in our driveway because I had the slope and the height of that driveway mastered.
  • Sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling down at Fireman’s park. Where I also started the trash in the bathroom on fire and proceeded to get busted by the fire chief who was one of your Pappa Jim’s friends and a fellow firefighter. .
  • Driving the snowmobile during the winter and getting it stuck once when I wasn’t supposed to have it out. Someone helped me get it unstuck so I thought I had gotten away with it. Unfortunately that person knew Pappa Jim too and I was grounded from the snowmobile for a couple of weeks.

There’s more and I’ll probably come back to them again, but the last couple lead me to a lesson I kind of learned living in Eden.

Everyone knew everyone and there really was not any getting away with anything. You might actually think you got away with something, but it would come back around eventually.

I think that has stuck with me a bit. A little over two years ago I took you to your first football game to watch one of my friend’s sons play. I snapped a picture of you watching, a picture that is mostly of your head, but you can still see him on the field.

I gave him that picture as a graduation present with a note that said something like:

Whether you know it or not someone is always watching you, so you should always act like you care that they do.

I Have GAD Not an Excuse

I told a friend of mine recently that I was doing a blog for my son to tell him about me, my life and things I learned.  At the time I was pondering how to tell this part of my story and asked him his advice.

He asked me if I intended this to be my catharsis.  I had heard the word before, but it was not a word that was part of my vocabulary so I asked him what it meant and he told me to look it up.  So I did.

The first definition of catharsis on dictionary.com is the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.

I’m still not sure if I would call this a catharsis, but I do know  I want you to know who I am and a part of who I am is a person who has generalized anxiety disorder.

About 8 years ago I was sitting in a friend’s office at work and thought I was having a heart attack.  After an ambulance ride, hours in the hospital and several follow-up appointments it was determined what I had was a panic attack and ultimately a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

Since then I have been on medication to control my panic attacks and my anxiety and have an understanding of what some people mean when they say “better living by chemistry.”

Most days I am fine, but at all times I have a heightened sense of paranoia, desire to control my own situation, concern over future events and general fear of the unknown.

When under control I can use these feelings to help me in my job and in life in general.  It’s amazing how being worried and thinking about the future can help you in measuring business risks and anticipating market needs.  It also is sometimes helpful to be thinking about what might happen if you don’t do everything within your control to do.

When my feelings are out of control I am fearful, irritable, somewhat depressed and generally a pain in the ass. In general these things just work against me, and I have little use for them.  Probably about as little use as people around me have for those things.

So yes, I am putting myself out there and letting the world know I’m not perfect.  I know some will be shocked at both the fact that I’m not perfect and the fact that I am admitting to not being perfect alike.

So what does the admission that I have generalized anxiety disorder mean?  It means I have generalized anxiety disorder, that’s it.  You know it’s part of who I am and you know that you may or may not have to deal with it as part of who I am.  Other than that it does not mean a damn thing else.

I am responsible for myself, I am responsible for being a great dad, I am responsible for being your mom’s husband, I am responsible for being a friend and family member and I’m responsible for doing the job I am hired to do.  No excuses.

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