Monday, September 28, 2015

Homecoming Ladies

Since my girls were 2, I have called them “Ladies”.

…when calling them for dinner, when referring to them in public, when walking through the door to greet them.


I never liked the sound of ‘the twins’…seemed a tad dehumanizing, and “kids” seemed to casual.

I think in my subconscious I wanted them to know that, at least to me, they are royalty...not queens that get everything they want, nope: Ladies…who deserve respect but still have to work hard and define their own journey. During these years of training, while I wanted to guide them in many ways, I wanted them to know at ALL TIMES they I respected them…that they deserve respect from others, and they should demand respect from anyone who dares court them or take interest in them.

…and what better way than to call each of them a Lady.


This last weekend was their first homecoming weekend.

They wanted to go but they are new to the school so didn’t know anyone…

…so they took each other.

Over the past month while traveling I heard stories of how one got a dress, the other got a necklace, but it wasn’t until they came down ready for pictures that I realized how stunning they both are…

…and how truly proud of who they are turning out to be.

…and how truly not-ready I am for them to be launched into the world.

I took photos of each of them, and the camera betrayed me.

Whether it was the “magic hour” of lighting, or the “now all grown up” lens filter, I felt like I was shooting a fashion show with two familiar but wholly foreign young adults:

First Julia:

Then Renna

Then some together:

Once those were done we took some of us parents:

I think my goal was to show that we are still the adults and that they are still just children…

…but I think these photos reinforced is that the adults are just OLD and the children have grown into wonderful young Ladies.

After looking at these, I started to wonder, “What’s left for me to do?”

While the "make sure they’ve got clothes and food and a roof over their head" is checked off, I know I still have a few years to reinforce what being a Lady means.

  • Demanding respect
  • Confidence in your self, and your unique journey
  • Not letting anyone define you
  • Not letting your identity be subject to any boy/person/sport/job/event
  • Staying humble
  • That true happiness comes from genuine relationships with God and others, not things (although horses are things…and they make them quite happy…but maybe it’s the relationship they are creating with the horses…I’ll go with that)
  • Helping others
  • Putting others first

I’ve basically got 3 years left. I feel I’ve done OK so far, but time is fleeting…it’s time to double-down.

The most effective way? To model those traits in myself, to live in more moments, to not be defined by my job, but in my self and my unique journey, and possibly most importantly: in how I treat MY lady…so they know how a Lady is treated and not accept any less from anyone.

Here’s to life! It never stops changing, and my prayer is I can become a better me…

…if not for my own benefit, then for the benefit of my 3 Ladies.

Love you, Ladies.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Secret At A Taylor Swift Concert

I haven’t blogged in a long time, which is weird because SO MUCH has happened in my life, our family's lives, that I should be posting a couple times a week.

The problem is I start to second guess myself. I think, “Uh, oh. It's been a while. The next entry has to be awesome”…after all, all the people in the world that read this will expect an amazingly thoughtful piece of work after so many months of inactivity.

Which made me start thinking, "Why am I even doing this?".

It's not for the money, it shouldn't be for vanity.

I had to remind myself that it's for my future family: My future self in 5, 10, 35 years, my wife, my kids, grandkids...anyone who is interested. If others enjoy it? Great. But There some pretty interesting things they may want to experience through my eyes that if I can capture a glimpse of what I thought as these experiences whizzed on by, and they can learn/grow from it, then that's all I hope.

So what better time than a weird moment I'm experiencing at this second to start blogging right now!

This is my view right now after dropping my girlies off to the Taylor Swift Concert. I thought I’d try to find myself an “extra” ticket by wandering the streets. You know what I found? Tons of others wanting a ticket, and 15 professional scalpers who are giddy that scalping is now legal.

I did hover (Stalk? Leer?) around the will-call window in hopes someone would shout, “Dang, I can’t believe Sally couldn’t come…what ever are we going to  do with this ticket!?!”

I never heard that.

What I did hear is, “Fraud!?!”  “Decoy” “Fake!?!” Several folks bought craigs-list or street corner (just outside of the arena) tickets, walked in, and they couldn’t enter. They were out hundreds of dollars (the sad part was a little girl was usually next to them crushed I'm sure).

That got me to the point to not even ask, “you have an extra ticket” because the only thing worse than not getting a ticket to a show I’m marginally interested in is to get a ticket that is FAKE and be out $50-$100.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow, you got 26th row on the floor near the catwalk you must have purchased them months ago”.

Well, you’d be wrong.

I bought them yesterday.

Turns out, thanks to a chance AC/DC concert, I learned a secret from a wise “yeah I been to 87 concerts and never bought a ticket more than a day before” concert-yoda-meister.        

The day of that AC/DC concert, I decided I wanted to go. I called ticketmaster and they said, “Heck ya, we’ve got section 102, 12th row”. I looked and it was just off the stage…so close I could almost touch Angus’ AC/DC labeled boxers (if you haven't been...don't ask).

Once I sat down I commented how crazy-unique it was to get a ticket the day of, and concert-yoda leaned over and said, “I’ve been to 87 concerts, and buy all of them between 3 and 4pm the day before the show. The radio/contest tickets get released, and you can pick up REALLY GREAT seats…far better than anything you’d get buying them the day they go on sale…and you’ll know your schedule works for the concert!"

So, yesterday at 3:30pm I look up tickets and found 2 great seats on the floor next to the runway where she walks down the center of the floor. Since I didn't have much time I chose 2 tickets only since 3 together would have been a long shot.

I got them at face-value, no risk of scalpers, and now they’re enjoying a fantastic concert.

I love providing my kids concert experiences. My oldest I took to several hard-rock concerts, and the girls I bought tix for Miley Cyrus, Lindsey Sterling, and now Taylor Swift.

My next goal is to find something that my youngest wants to see. He’s unique in that he’s a GREAT drummer (at still 11), but he hasn’t found a band he can really sink into yet. We do play along with some classics, and we jam to blues and other songs to increase his chops. In fact I had him learn a “You’re a drummer? Prove it” riff.  Now he can rip off a really cool intro, beat, interlude groove, and ending that will summarize his skills. Awesome.

There ya go. soul searching, history, tricks, and fathering all in one post. Phew! 

PS: Now that I’m at the nearby pub, I see all kinds of people who were looking for tickets along with me. Reinforces I made a good decision to mellow and type my thoughts (with a Surley on the side). Turns out this is a focal point for all the scalpers! So interesting to hear them talk about the night…who they scammed, how much they made with each ticket, I wonder who they know that gets them these great seats? Unless they're all fakes.

Ah well...back to my Surley.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


This was a surprise photo, filled with surprise meaning. It was taken at the Chicago Style Gymnastics meet in February, 2015.

Initially it was going to be a missed photo since I feel strongly about respecting the National Anthem. But there was something about the way these gymnasts were standing after the struggles they’ve had all year, that moved me to take the shot.

I’m so glad I did. 

For me, it shows a focus, a drive, a dedication, a fierceness that will never be broken.

…even when some were injured

…even when most had painful rips in their hands

…even after a very tough year with tough scores

…even after drama that they should not have experienced

…even after a decision by some to move on at years end


They focus.

They dedicate themselves to something bigger than just a sport.

They strive to be the best women they can be.

They share a deep experience they’ll never forget.

They seem to stand before the world saying:

“I am ready to face whatever comes”

“I am proud of who I am, regardless of what happens"

“I am at my best when I stand side-by-side with you"

“Don’t worry…I got your back"

…and at least one of them, my daughter, seems to say:

“You may not know what it took to get here, but that’s OK. I won’t brag. I’m just doing what I love. If I get recognition…great. If not, well, that wasn’t really the point anyway. When it’s done, it will really seem like just the beginning…like I was training for something that the wisdom, confidence, and focus I’ve gained will help me in each future moment of my life."

I love you, Julia. I’m so glad I got to experience this journey with you. I can’t wait for the next one!


Photo note: I also learned that while I could greatly improve my camera gear, at that particular moment, more important than the right gear was serendipitously being in the right location, the right angle to the flag, and low enough in the bleachers to get the shot. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Focus Fail - Its All About The Texture

Focus. It's a fantastic thing. 

Focus creates success.

Focus enhances productivity.

I believe so much I wrote about it here before.

But I’m learning…too late, I know…that I focus on the wrong thing…or too many things…or focus on stuff I have no control over. I also forget the point of focusing…to see the detail, the texture, that you otherwise would miss.

…after all, it’s that texture that gives close-up photos such interest, right? So why wouldn’t it give anything in life more interest?


Focus on what you are able to fix, and repair it.  

I get paralyzed with fear/anxiety/whatever if I’m overwhelmed and focus on the anxiety, focus on all the problems or deadlines.  Instead, if I focus on one thing (like this weed), I can understand what the problem is, and understand how to solve it. 

And, while I focus on on it, I may find that it is much more textured than I thought…and some parts of the problem are actually strengths! I mean look at the crown of this dandelion. It’s beautiful…and look how the seeds are just waiting for the next wind to propel it to create something new…there’s a whole world of inventions waiting just based on that observation. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if I treated the whole weed as a problem and just pulled it.

Focus on the beauty next to you, not the flaws

See the missing flower pedals? Me too. I actually tried to find a photo with only open flowers and no ‘flaws’. But now I look at it and think, “How beautiful are those flowers…and even more beautiful with the texture of the ‘finished flowers’"

I can’t control when the wind comes, when the rain will knock down these pedals, but I can choose to cherish the scent, the colors, and the textures of what I do have in my life right now.  I mean how awesome is it to have 4 kids and a wife in a beautiful home and land? Why should pressures at work, fears of ‘being valued’ matter when I’m next to them?

Focus on emerging opportunities

I could predict what will happen to these flower buds, but why? I should focus on where they are at in their journey now…just like I should focus on the journey my new opportunity is taking so I can learn, grow, and become a better person from it. Could the emerging opportunity go sideways? Not turn out like I thought? Sure. Most likely will. But I can find the good and the growth in it anyway…and it shouldn’t for one minute distract my focus from WHY I’m taking the opportunity (to be a better person, husband, believer, father, writer, musician…).

Focus on strengths, experience, and value

I’m turning into an ‘old-timer’. Just like this old bench, I’ve had many experiences that shape who I am today. I’ve got strengths that provide unique value. However, I tend to focus on how I’m different from all the new folks….how I’m not so polished. I should cherish that difference. Be confident in what value I provide that compliments the value others provide. 

Focus on Random Beauty

This is a budding Sumac. This will last all of 3 days until the leaves unfold. I never noticed it before, but it’s awesome. Instead of focusing on how the sumac is moving across our prairie and could take over more of our park than I want, at least for a while I can focus on the beauty it brings…how it stands confidently and almost gives a middle finger to whatever tries to get in its way. Maybe something to learn from.

Focus on Doing Things Differently

I know it’s a popular saying, but it seems to fit for me. If I try to be somebody else, or try to do things the way others do it, I don’t do it as well (whether it’s speaking, designing, playing guitar, etc). While the path may suggest to do it one way, if I do it different, like create my own arch over the path, I may annoy some, but I may create something beautiful that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

Focus on the Beauty All Around You

I’ve built an awesome life (like this awesome pond I built with my Dad). While some folks have their life planned out, mine seems to have fallen haphazardly into place through a thousand little decisions (and a couple big ones) that created the unique journey resulting in what we have now.

It’s beautiful. Wife, Kids, Home, Church, Music, Travel, Dog (damn dog), all of it…beautiful.

Perfect? Nope. There are rocks and rapids, and some rotten things flapping in the stream, but all of it adds texture. Gives it interest. Creates the compelling story.

Which comes back to focus on the texture.

It’s the texture that brings interest. 

It’s the texture that makes something beautiful.

So here’s to this awesome life…filled with texture…I shouldn’t wish it any other way.  

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