Be Kind

It is Saturday morning and I am sitting at the eye doctor with my 4 year old son.  He is in the back room practicing something that is supposed to give him depth perception.  Usually he goes with mom on Mondays but he has a different appointment at that time this week.

I have only been here one other time but today I notice something different.  The two ladies at the front are just about the crabbiest two people who have ever worked.  So far they have complained about people canceling because they have street throat.  Called the computer and the lady who works during the week stupid.  And ‘debated’ why someone would ever bring in white cupcakes instead of chocolate.  The two doctors are extremely nice and my son loves going there.  But I have watched people come and go for the last hour.  Some enter and are able to leave without incident.  Others produce eye rolls, biting tongues, and discontent from the two dictators behind the poorly wallpapered counter.  I don’t know how anyone could go through life this way.  Everyone has bad days but you can tell that these are two miserable people.  They come into contact with such a variety of people everyday… imagine what would happen if they tried to make others feel more welcome?

Never Know What A Day Will Bring

I had just arrived back from Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois.  It was Saturday afternoon, September 29.  The Illini football team had just beaten 25th ranked Louisville 34-10.  I was on a high that only true lovers of sports can comprehend.  The game had been pushed back due to the September 11 attacks and the stadium was filled with patriotic fervor.  As my dad and I sat in the stands, the clock ticking down to zero, it never crossed my mind that  something way more essential to my life was about to happen.

As we approached my apartment, I was ready to jump in the shower and quickly get dressed so I could head out again to visit some friends at Illinois State for the night.  When I walked into the apartment around 3:30pm that gorgeous Saturday, I was greeted by one of my roommates and three girls from our high school.  I knew two of the girls but even though I had met the third one standing there, I had never spoken to her.  I introduced myself, made some small talk, and then headed out the door.  When I returned home the next day I asked my roommate about that girl Jenny.  Did he know much about her…. was she currently seeing anyone?  He just smiled and said, “You know it’s funny, she asked the same thing about you.”  Six weeks later we went on our first date and the rest (15 years, 3 kids, and many sporting events) is our history.

Just Be Kind

It is Saturday morning and I am sitting at the eye doctor with my 4 year old son.  He is in the back room practicing something that is supposed to give him depth perception.  Usually he goes with mom on Mondays but he has a different appointment at that time this week.

I have only been here one other time but today I notice something different.  The two ladies at the front are just about the crabbiest two people who have ever worked.  So far they have complained about people canceling because they have street throat.  Called the computer and the lady who works during the week stupid.  And ‘debated’ why someone would ever bring in white cupcakes instead of chocolate.  The two doctors are extremely nice and my son loves going there.  But I have watched people come and go for the last hour.  Some enter and are able to leave without incident.  Others produce eye rolls, biting tongues, and discontent from the two dictators behind the poorly wallpapered counter.  I don’t know how anyone could go through life this way.  Everyone has bad days but you can tell that these are two miserable people.  They come into contact with such a variety of people everyday… imagine what would happen if they tried to make others feel more welcome?

St. Patrick’s Day

As I watch my students being dropped off this morning, decked out in all kinds of green I had to chuckle.  We are not a predominately Irish community.  I would be shocked if even 20% of our families considered themselves Irish.  But yet it seems that the hallways are awash in green today.

I have always though that St. Patrick’s Day was a peculiar holiday.  I have 0% Irish in my blood, but every year my mom would make corned beef and cabbage and dye our milk green.  As I have gotten older it seems that the day is as an excuse to start drinking just a little earlier and just a little bit more.  This also seems an odd way to celebrate Saint Patrick, given that he was a pious missionary.

But what is fascinating is that for some reason it seems to be a holiday in which people of all backgrounds celebrate.  St. Patrick was a foreigner in Ireland and was beaten, robbed, and put in chains awaiting execution.  I can’t help but see a connection with our current cultural climate.  Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we will find other reasons to celebrate together as a country.  Although I have long ago given up on the myth of America as a melting pot, it is days like today allow me to see why the myth was started.

My Three Sons

People often ask what it’s like having three kids under the age of 5.  I usually tell a joke that I have no idea because I’m never home and my wife is a saint.  That last part is not a joke.  She really is a saint.

Last night as we were watching a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond on TV Land…. Please don’t judge us…. This exact question was posed to Ray by a therapist.

Like my answer, Ray’s was tinged with truth and humor, “Well, I like to tell people it’s kinda like a frat house. Nobody sleeps, everything’s broken and there’s a lot of throwing up.”

This has been our life in different degrees for almost five years now.  I think I go the humorous route in my answer because telling the truth would just take too long.

At times I feel lucky and filled with pride as I’m sitting with my three sons watching a baseball game.  I feel satisfied when they are climbing all over me while we read a new picture book for the first time.

But other times there is puke.  There is being woken up at 12:30, 2:17, and again at 2:58.  There are holes in drywall.  There are stains on the carpet.  Sometimes it would be so much easier if it was just the saint and I.

But over the last four years I have already either forgotten a lot of the misery or found a way to laugh about it.

So when someone asks me what it’s like having three kids under the age of 5 I don’t think I am going to use humor anymore.  Instead my response will simply be “It’s complicated.”

A Slap in the Face

It happens to all of us.

The bad week.  Traffic to and from work has been especially heinous.  The workload keeps piling on and no matter how much you accomplish no one seems to care.  It just keeps coming.

You haven’t felt well all week.  Something in the house doesn’t seem to be working and it always has to do with plumbing.  Every little thing and person you encounter seems to pile on the suckige.  (You know it’s a bad week when you have to look in the urban dictionary for a word that describes how you are feeling)

Even the ones that you love can grate at you from the moment you walk through the door until the moment you go to bed.  You complain incessantly about every aspect of life.  Sure she made dinner for you, but why did she choose this meal?

You are having a bad week and with no end in sight.

Then suddenly your perspective changes.  You get the phone call that someone you love is going through real pain.

You immediately stop all of your complaining.  You eat that wonderful meal, joyously fix the dishwasher, hug those around you, and pray no one ever gets that phone call about you.

Excitement

When was the last time you were so excited about something you couldn’t stop talking about it with everyone you encountered?

Here is an exchange between my four-year old son and a stranger he met at a birthday party last night.

Man “Hey kid how are you doing?  You look like a pretty cool kid.”

Tyler “Yeah I am.  I am in Miss Katie’s class now.  We do circle time.  And show and tell. And drink water, but we don’t have snack anymore.  I’m a big boy now so I go to Miss Katie’s class.  And next year I’ll be going to Kindergarten and ride the big Kindergarten bus.”

Man “Okay.  That’s neat.”

Not much of an exchange but it really has made me reflect.  He has been like this with everyone he’s encountered the last four days.  I have asked myself when was the last time I was so excited about something I shouted it from the rooftops?

Oh that’s right… November 2, 2016.  Cubs 8, that other team 7.

19 Days until Opening Day.

No Debate

The Smell.  The Feel.  The sound of crisp pages turning. The satisfaction of seeing all that you have accomplished.

Vs.

Nothing.  Cold.  The sound of a clicking button.  Everything appearing the same.

The differences between curling up with a good book and sitting with a sterile e-reader.

I have effortlessly embraced almost every technology available.  Yet, I still can’t seem to give up my books.

Physical books no longer make sense.  They take up valuable space.  They are often more expensive.  You can’t order one from your couch and be reading it 10 seconds later.

But in the case of books I have realized to say the heck with common sense and just do what I enjoy.

And that is to just READ.

Cutting the Grass

When I was 16 years old I was given the best job a kid could ask for. I got paid to cut the grass for our four local schools during the summers. I sat on a riding lawn mower all day, outside, in the sun. There were days when I probably complained that it was too hot. I know there were mornings that I yelled at my 5:00am alarm. But I did this job for 12 summers. By the time I was done I had gone from a 16 year old starting my junior year of high school to a married man getting ready to start a family. Throughout all that time the grass continued to grow

Over the years I got to know the people who surrounded the schools. There was the guy who washed his car every Thursday morning at 9am. The lady who wore

black leather gloves while walking a dog twice her size. On the hottest days of summer there were people who would come out and offer me water, Gatorade, and even beer. Every summer when I started back up again I would see the changes that took place in the surrounding community. Some homes got new roofs. Families added new children and grandchildren. Others changed jobs while some retired. Throughout all of this the grass continued to grow.

Most of the time as I sat on my perch, I just let my mind drift off and contemplate life. When I now sit in my air conditioned office during the summer and watch the custodians go back and forth on their lawnmower I become wistful for those lazy summer days. It was the best job because no matter how many things in my life changed, I knew the grass would always be there growing.

Music

Everyone knows that music can touch us in numerous ways. What surprises me is the variety of venues I have been in where the music still has an impact. I have sat on the edge of my seat during Phantom of the Opera on Broadway while feeling goosebumps just before intermission. I have been to numerous Jimmy Buffet concerts where the music allows everyone an excuse to relax and get just a little crazier.

But this week I sat in a middle school gymnasium. Nine junior high bands filled with students trying their best to get their audience to feel the emotions of the music. When I closed my eyes there were times I felt like I could have been in a music hall.

Music is music. We don’t all have the same reactions but it is the one thing that forces all of us to have some reaction.