Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Father Daughter Dance 2017

When my wife and I had been married for a handful of years we went to marriage counseling. We were in a bit of a funk and having an unbiased, outsider hear our stories and give us feedback was an opportunity we thought couldn't hurt. We love each other and while I may not have been the most willing participant at first, it provided one of those moments that sticks with you forever. The counselor asked each of us whom the most important person or people in our lives were. Without hesitation, I answered, "my kids." Without hesitation of her own she said, "Wrong. It's your spouse sitting next to you." I was pissed. Who is she to tell me who or what the most important things in my life are and what takes priority. At that point, I wasn't a fully engaged listener, but I did hear her mention something along the lines of what do I plan to do when the girls are gone and what am I doing, today, to strengthen and deepen the bond between my wife and myself?

You know those moments when you know what you are being told is correct, you know the person telling you is coming from a place of love or neutrality, but you just don't want to admit it to yourself? That is where I was but it didn't last too long. The counselor was right. I knew it and over the next few months, years, and continuing to this day, I know I have to put the same or more amount of effort into my marriage as I do being a Dad.

This is how my brain works though. I love my wife and plan on working on that relationship until we die but what the counselor also illustrated, quite clearly, is that eventually my girls will be gone and won't need me. The request for shoes to be tied, to sit on my lap while we watch Supergirl, to make pancakes in the morning or ice cream at night will be gone. The requests are already dwindling. That is why I have to take stock of things like the Daddy Daughter Dance. A chance to make memories that I will cherish forever. I'm sure the girls will remember moments from the dances over the years but I remember the minutiae. Like the matching black and white corsage with little polka dots on the ribbon. Or how taken aback I was when they came downstairs wearing makeup. How they still hold my hand when we walk in the parking lot but as soon as they see their friends they are gone. I was the same, so were you.

To that counselor I would like to say thank you for telling me the truth, even when I didn't want to hear it. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rebuild Our Neighborhood Playground Dammit

I'm not sure where to even start. When your wife tells you that you need to get a house before the baby comes you do your best to find one. About eleven years ago, my wife and I found a great little house in Kansas City, Missouri located up in what is referred to as the Northland. We settled in an area we call "Park Forest" which abuts Platte Woods, Missouri and in the Park Hill School District. The other "driving" factor in our home purchase was the proximity from St. Therese Parish, where my wife accepted a job as a first grade teacher.

This is exactly what you would call the American Dream. A working class neighborhood, with neighbors of all races, ages, and nationalities that are by and large single family owned homes. The average home price is around $130K. About a block or two from our house was this wonderful little playground at Park Forest Park. It looked just like this when we moved in.

Nothing extravagant. A few picnic tables, one built in grill, and a playground designed for kids aged two to seven. We could walk down the streets, pushing the kids in strollers, or shepherding them on bikes, let them burn off some energy for a little bit and walk back home. This park even had a little trail that ran along a creek where the kids could explore, get a little wet (when they fell off a rock), and climb an overturned tree or two. This is exactly the environment we wanted for our kids. Play with others instead of just in the backyard, skin your knees or get some stitches when you were learning and stretching your limits, while being close enough to home that as they grew up they could learn to do things by themselves. Yes, that meant we would like them go to the park on their own as they got older and learn a little responsibility. We don't parent as if there is a danger around every corner. In fact, we parent our kids to believe that most people are inherently good. It's our own little way of trying to fight against the tide of bubble wrap parenting and instill in our kids to get outside and live. This park one of the ways we allowed our kids to have their OWN adventures without us and then come home and tell us all about them.

Well, nearly a year ago our little jewel was vandalized.

It was a sad day at my house. My kids were having a hard time understanding why someone would want to do that to the playground. I tried to explain that most likely, some older kids were smoking or playing with lighters and it got out of hand. Look, I was no angel growing up and one of the few places we could go in Cape Girardeau, Missouri was to the park. The police generally let us "experiment" and as long as we weren't hurting anything or others so I don't begrudge middle-school kids or even high school kids hanging out at the park after the kids have all gone home. What does irritate me is the attitude of Kansas City, Missouri's Parks and Recreation Department. When they came a few days later to tear it down a neighbor asked what the timeline was for rebuilding. Their response, "why would be rebuild it? Those punks will just burn it down again."

I know that doesn't speak to the attitude of the overwhelming majority of the Parks Department because I know some of them personally but it's disappointing because I believe there must be some truth to that attitude. You know why? As of this writing, it's been 316 days since it burned down and not so much as a thing has been done to replace it. As a matter of fact, they took out the picnic tables and the grill so now there is nothing there but a rubber pad with melted plastic remains.

Pay special attention to the picture below and notice the tire tracks running through the park. There used to be protective wooden beams or posts along the side of the road, acting as a barrier in case a car tried to drive through. Now due to inaction by Kansas City cars, ATV's and other motorized vehicles have been driving around doing further damage to the park. 

Well, I have finally reached my tipping point. I refuse to just complain anymore and want to do something about it. I reached out to Fox 4 News and they did this excellent story about the relative inaction of the City to get this fixed.


I also engaged the City on Twitter because they are pretty responsive over social media.

While I understand two weeks isn't long in bureaucratic terms, nothing has been done. The City says that a playground has been identified, they just need to negotiate with a contractor to get the work going. I know at least gfive contractors who would have this done tomorrow so alas the wheels of justice grind slowly along.

Finally, I know getting the Intercontinental Hotel designated as blighted, building a new animal shelter, and continually trying to get KCI turned into Love Field, are more pressing issues for the City than my neighborhood park but it's been nearly a year and that's not good enough.

So please share this post with your friends and stop being satisfied with inaction. It's up to us to make our neighborhoods the great places we want them to be.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this story.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Saying Good-bye to My Work Wife

This week marks my one year anniversary as a manager in Corporate America. To celebrate said occasion my work wife, Karen, is also celebrating her freedom from those same corporate bonds. My friend's last day is today, December 18th, 2015. She is the rare individual that sees something she wants, takes control, figures out how to do it, does it and turns the page. I admire her skills and willingness to take a chance or risk that I otherwise would shirk from.

I met Karen a little less than four years ago. I was one of the people who interviewed her and then, in a scenario that would only work to foreshadow why she would leave, we didn't get back with her, left her dangling in the wind and then one day reached back out and offered her the job. We both worked for the same manager at that time who had the wisdom to recognize that Karen was a good fit the very first time we spoke with her.

It took only a matter of days or weeks for me to figure out I was fortunate to meet her. While I call her my work wife, it's more like a slightly wiser sister who actually likes me and doesn't mind my uniqueness. She would allow me to interrupt her whenever I wanted but was always thoughtful enough to not interrupt me. She would bring me McDonald's, on the regular, even when she might be dieting or avoiding fast food.

She was one of my main advocates in getting me into management. You have to have people who are willing be on your team. and she was always kind and understanding to me while I made the mistakes a new manager makes.

Her uncompromising self confidence that when she puts her mind to it and plans for anything, she can make whatever she wants to come true, come true. She is giving up the security of a consistent paycheck, not just for another paycheck but for work she finds rewarding. She is willing to take the chance that it might not work out but you never know unless you try. It seems so simple on the outside but the guts it takes to make those changes will always impress me.

She will probably read this and not agree with the vision I have of her in my head but it's how I will always see her. Good bye and have fun on your next adventure.

I read this last night at a meeting.

Look to this day,
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power –

For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.
Sanskrit proverb

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pre End of Year Blog That May or May Not Ever Get Written

There is a lot to share that I'm probably not going to get around to writing. My kids are making me a better person everyday, my wife sees me through everything, everything. I have so much to be thankful for not just in the "season of giving" but all the time. We can give something back every day. If you can find that little piece of humanity and build on that, life finds of way of being alright.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Value of Mentorship - A Tribute

My mentor at work is off to a new challenge and opportunity. More responsibility, more pressure, more money, and potentially more difficulties. Even on her way out she has impressed me with her positivity, her grace during her transition out of her role, and the tact that she has taken to leave this place better than when she got here.

I'm not sure when I got on her radar. Maybe it was running, maybe it was background, maybe it was when I applied and she read my resume and saw we had a lot of similarities. Anyway, she welcomed me to her inside sales team after my first two years of toiling away in marketing trying hard to make my mark.

"Rough around the edges and has a tendency to rush towards a solution rather than fully investigate all the ramifications. Occasionally can be verbose and can get off topic and spend a large amount of time talking and not doing." This would be a kind description of who I was professionally when Shannon got a hold of me. What I believe she also saw, was someone who loves to lead people, who is an optimist, who can inspire others, isn't afraid to ruffle feathers, and shares similar personal priorities. The honesty and openness that her mentoring provided was an environment where I felt safe to make mistakes. I had an ally who was willing to mold me into a better version of myself and would not hang me out to dry when I did mess up. She has my back and the good mentors do.

My mentor has the self defeating attribute of being so selfless it hurts her. Every person who is under her management is coached to realize their potential, whether that's on her team, on another team, in a different role, or even at a new company. She would literally sacrifice her own advancement for the advancement of her team. That is what a REAL leader does. She has a vision and actively inspires her team to achieve it. From the outside or from a higher position in the company it could appear that her team is always in flux but that would be a superficial way of looking at it. The reason it's in flux is because she is tirelessly working to find the best fit for every team member and maximize their potential.

In the past four years of mentorship, I have gone from Inside Sales Rep to Manager of Global Operations. The old me would have been upset that it took so long. The new me recognizes it ONLY took four years because of the direction of my mentor and persistence to my own vision.

Running is another passion with which we share an interest. She likes the big races, I like the small ones but if life works the way it normally does, I will be running a big one in the Fall and she will be running a small one. We rub off on each other even when we don't know it.

I'm also mentoring on my own now. She inspired me to take on that challenge as well and it's tremendously rewarding. When we are growing up, we need role models. Whether it's our parents, teachers, entertainers, athletes, presidents, we look up at others and look to behave like them. We don't stop needing them just because we get older. Now, we give them a fancier name, mentor, and it's really an adult role model both professionally and personally. I saw what she had, how she behaved, and the respect with which others in the organization saw her and I wanted that. The only way to get it was to ask her how she got there. That little spark of a conversation has blossomed into a real friendship and I don't know about you, but I don't make friends as readily as I did when all it took was a shared love of play-dough and crayons.

Shannon Glass is someone whom I will forever be indebted. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your friendship, kindness, compassion, encouragement, laughter, listening, and guidance. I can't say this about more than a handful of people in my life but I can say this about you with 100% complete confidence, you made a positive difference in my life and I am a better human being because of you. I'll miss you Shannon Glass. I'll miss you.

To new adventures my friend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Adventures Coming Soon...

I have done a lousy job of chronicling my adventures in coaching. From where I started with youth wrestling, to soccer, to competitive soccer, to club soccer, then cross country and now track, it one of the most rewarding and challenging parts of my life and I want to share it.

For the remainder of the year, I will be kicking out one a week, to share my love of coaching.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for...
my wife
my kids
my health
my friends
my family
my health
my house
my clothes
my food
my freedom
my running
my job
my boss
my dog
my shoes
my car
my life
my life
my life
my life