Dear Recreator,

IMG_2916Dear Recreator,
I do not want to be responsible for your injury/death when you come flying around a corner in the middle of the road and are surprised that someone else could be out on the same roads as you as you meet my steel bumper head-on.
Yesterday I took the “scenic route” home after work. Immediately, not even a half mile up the small sandy road, I nearly had a head-on with a four wheeler and then 100 yards later a side-by-side nearly went off the side of a wash in an attempt to avoid a collision with me. Finally, coming down off of the mesa nearing my home another side-by-side scrambled at the wheel and locked up the brakes as he veered wildly to his side of the road.
Each time this crazy look of surprise in their eyes at the sight of a vehicle coming the other direction. Although I’m hugging my side of the road as I enter the corner, these roads are only so wide and that only works to avoid a collision if the oncoming traffic takes the same precautions. This is becoming a more common occurrence as I hit the back roads around my home-town.  Why does it surprise you that there might be someone else on those roads? It’s not your private playground. It is public land and a popular recreational area!
SLOW DOWN and stay on your side of the road when you go around a corner. It’s common backroad etiquette. I get the thrill of acceleration. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you that drifting around a corner gets my blood pumping. But think ahead and realize that if you can’t see what’s on the other side of that corner ahead of you, that means the rig coming the other way isn’t prepared for you either.
Oh, and another thing: those signs that say “NO VEHICLES” posted in the middle of an abandoned section of trail MEANS YOU TOO! It doesn’t mean that if you can fit around it you can still drive it. STAY ON THE DESIGNATED ROADS!
This is my public lands and I’m willing to share it with you. But the more nonsense you enable equals more and more routes shut down to play on.  If you aren’t apart of the problem, let’s educate those that are.
BE SMART AND BE SAFE!
Sincerely, #BossDad Adventure Guide

The Monumental Task of Procrastination

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As a father, my daughter never ceases to amaze me when it comes to doing her chores.  I know that I am at work way too much and don’t get the opportunity to see her in every task, but the one task I have seen often enough is that of putting the silverware away.

I try hard to remember what it was like to be a kid.  I know that at the age of nearly 6 I shouldn’t put so much emphasis on her work ethic and cringe at her excuses and complaints on why putting silverware away is such a hard and mountainess task.  But then I remember my childhood chore of putting away dishes for a family of 7.  I compare that CHORE to her half-full tupperware of spoons, forks, and spatulas, and immediately feel more passionate about the fact that she’s got it pretty easy.

The most frustrating part is that we warn her and warn her: “J5, your dishes need to be put away before watching a show”, “J5, if you do them right now you’ll be sad later when it’s time to watch a show and you don’t get to because you didn’t put your dishes away”, “J5, you’ve got half an hour”.  These warnings are brushed off as she plays, dances, and does anything BUT her chore of putting the silverware away.  Soon we are down to: “J5, you’ve only got 20 minutes until it’s time to watch a show”, then: “…15 minutes”, and finally: “…5 minutes”.  The clock ticks down to the zero hour and the waterworks and meltdown begins as we sit Thomas on the couch in front of the iPad to watch his show while she misses out because she didn’t put her dishes away.

Then there is the process of observing her putting the dishes away.  I can only liken it to my trips to Costco.  I mentioned before in Waiting  that I am a shopping machine.  Costco is the cheapest place I have found to purchase just basic copy paper so when I go in I’m pushing the big industrial flat-bed cart loaded with boxes of paper.  I’m on a mission to get in, get what I need, and get out all while zig-zagging in and out, slamming on the breaks, and tailgating those “Sunday drivers” who are there to browse as if I were a street racer in a riced out Honda.

These people meander around at a snail’s pace looking at all the shiny items packaged in bulk that they don’t need but have to have because it’s Costco.  They also don’t clue in that isles are for moving about and, just like on a highway, you should pull to the side of the road if you want to look at something.  You don’t just stop your car in the middle of the road, open the door, and walk away so you can smell the flowers!!!!!

…..I have store rage worse than road rage…..I’m working on it.

In that same aggravated agony, I watch this little girl, sobbing as if I had taken her favorite toy pony, skewered it, and was slowly melting it over an open flame in an attempt to cause as much emotional pain as I possibly could, as she puts away her silverware in, and I kid you not, 5 MINUTE INTERVALS!!!!  A task that should only take 2 minutes tops is drug out over the next 20 – 30 minutes.

Then, suddenly, she flips a switch in her brain.  She is magically healed from the wound we had inflicted by enforcing what we’d been warning her of ALL EVENING.  She focuses on her task, and like that she’s done and a happy, beautiful, little girl again.

It baffles me every time

Yesterday I got a taste of my own medicine

One of the efforts I make when running my printing press at work is to try and bundle all of the like jobs together so they can be run at the same time.  Because a press is intended for larger jobs (thousands of sheets) the feed system is more complex and easily fine-tuned versus that of a copy machine pulling sheets from a drawer.  It is made to run at a higher speed, pulling each sheet in the exact same way so that it goes through the press in the exact same spot, finally landing in the delivery stacked neatly.

As I run these jobs I can fine-tune this by adjusting the pile height, suction, blast, side jogs, etc. allowing the job to run smoothly, avoiding jams or miss-feeds that would interrupt the job and cause other quality issues during the run.  Once everything is dialed in I can just load paper in and let her run.

One of the best feelings is being able to knock out three or four jobs rapid fire because all I have to do is mount a new plate and wipe down the blanket for the new image in between each job.

Life is good when the paper is feeding beautifully.

About a week ago I began running a job that I was unable to finish because of a miscommunication in our shop that left me short of the paper I needed to finish it.  Further more, after placing the order for the paper needed to finish the job I found out that it was going to take about a week before I could have it in my hands.  Irritated, but having no choice, I cleaned up the press and moved on to other jobs while I waited for the rest of the paper to show up.

Well, the paper was here now and it had been a long enough time that I REALLY needed to finish printing that job so we could complete it and get it to our customer.  The dilemma I was facing was that I was set up for another paper type and size.  I had run stacks and stacks on the days prior and the press had just motored through those jobs without any issue.  I also knew that I had more that I needed to run in the coming days using that same paper and setup.  I really didn’t want to go through the effort of changing that setup just so I could run a couple thousand sheets to finish this job and then have to go back to the setup it was already running on.  This was also a specialty paper that needed some extra attention in order to run smoothly.  Changing the setup opened the doors for flaws and miss-feeds, heightening my frustration and lengthening out the time it would take to finish the jobs.  It felt like so much work, so much effort, and I just did not want to do it.

So I did what any responsible adult would do and went and got a strawberry shake, sat at my desk, and watched YouTube for a good half hour.  Procrastinating even further, I looked for any excuse not to start that job by working on other jobs, cleaning up my email inbox, fine-tuning the floor-plan for our new building……

I was able to find ways to kill hours out of that day putting off the inevitable.  But I had to face the fact that I needed to do that job NOW.  There wasn’t any more time to procrastinate and I would face the wrath of an angry customer if I didn’t just finish it up so the job could be closed and go out of the door.

So I flipped that mental switch and got to work.  Within minutes I had the paper loaded, the feeder dialed in, and was running off my first few sheets as I centered the image and got the ink density where it needed to be.

Soon I was into the meat of the job.  The press was running a beautiful rhythm as it fed sheet after sheet without flaw.  As the minutes ticked by the feed stack got smaller and smaller while the delivery pile grew and grew until, like magic, the job was suddenly finished.

I didn’t set my watch, but I would guess that it took less than an hour to completely set up the job, run it, and clean up the press.  Somehow, what I imagined in my mind as an attempt at moving the Eiffel Tower one block to the east was, in reality, as simple as walking out and moving my car one space to the left.

The effort was minimal, yet, the procrastination was monumental.  I guess that’s something you just don’t grow out of.

The Allegory of the Loose Tooth

The morning ritual was nearing it’s end as I stood at the bottom of the steps trying to project my voice without yelling “J5, are you ready to go?”  We weren’t running late…..yet, but we were getting close.

My boots were dirty from the morning chores I had just finished.  It had rained through the night and the dirt was wet and packed into the treads so I didn’t want to leave a trail up the carpeted stairs and I didn’t want to have to remove them only to put them back on.  It was a beautiful morning, and I must confess, part of the reason we were getting close to being late was my fault.  I couldn’t help just stand facing the east, casting my gaze from one scene to the next, taking it all in.

The air was cool, but not cold.  It smelled of fresh rain.  The air was still and the surroundings were quiet other than the the sounds of our horse, Apache, shuffling through her hay, Izzy and D.C., our dogs chasing dog food around the bottom of their bowls, and a few birds tweeting their morning stories.  I would have loved to have just wandered around slowly, hands in both pockets, letting my mind wonder and search as my senses basked in the beauty this morning held.  But school and work beckoned and it was time to keep moving.

As I stood with my left ear aimed intently on the noises upstairs trying to detect evidence of progress towards the door, my mind was already at work.  I was going through my to-do list for the day, thinking of contacts I needed to make, and also the preparations I needed to make for the scheduled meeting with the bank that afternoon.

Then my ear caught the familiar noises of Momma wrapping J5 in her coat, telling her that she loved her, and sending her down the stairs.  I wasn’t paying attention because it was the same ritual every morning.  I had stepped aside and was gathering my things so we could head towards the car.  Then I heard her say “Congratulations on your tooth!  That’s a big step in life.”  I had to chuckle to myself as I considered the minuscule impact a loose tooth would have on someone’s life.  “A big step in life” is not where I would file that experience.

J5 was excited to show us the loose tooth a half hour earlier as she sat warming by the morning fire.  We both huddled around as Momma checked all the others to see if it was alone or not.  Of course, Daddy had to make the usual offers to “rip that sucker out right now” as he reached for the Leatherman on his hip.

She had seen nieces and nephews with gaps in their grins, and heard their stories.  Her friends at school had shown off their trophies and spoken of Tooth Fairies and treasures under their pillows.  So it was quite visible, as shy as she can be when the spotlight is turned to her, her excitement that it was finally her turn.

It takes about 12 minutes to get from our door to the school.  I’m a little ashamed to say that I usually have to fight my mind’s instinct to kick into work mode and keep my attention on family during this drive each morning.  But I’ve recognized that commute time as an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my daughter and I try to visit with her about things in her life, fun stuff she’s done, friends at school, etc.  Often the response I get is “I don’t know” making it hard to carry any sort of conversation (the only consolation I have with this is that Momma gets the same response) but my hope is with patience and time it will open a line of communication that will be valuable for the future.

Another standard activity on our morning commute is I Spy.  Every week it get’s a bit harder because it is the same sights over and over again and I’m finding it hard to come up with unique ways to describe the air freshener that is hanging from my rear view mirror.  But this morning I was able to spy something that was “small, white, and wiggly”.  She laughed as she said “my tooth”.  I praised her for getting it on the first try and we talked a bit about when she discovered it and what her plans were with it in an attempt to have a chat.

After dropping her off at school I turned back onto the main road and headed to work.  Usually my mind immediately hits the switchboard allowing work to take over while family rests in the corner for a while.  But this morning I considered again my wife’s bestowal of a “big step in life” on the process of having a loose tooth.  I chuckled again as I compared what I considered “big steps” to my daughter’s tiny tooth.

Late last night I got word that the appraisal finally came in for the building we are in the process of purchasing.  This was a BIG STEP towards that success.  The number is good, and as long as the bank determines there are no mistakes, it should allow us to carry out the plans we have for renovations, improvements, and ultimate make-over, aiming this venture towards success.

The purchase of this building is what I would consider being “a big step in life”.  This business has been an 11+ year learning curve for me, but a huge part of our lives as well.  Not only does it occupy most of my time, much of my wife’s time, and some of my children’s time, it is our life-source as it provides for all that we have.  The purchase of this building will not only provide our business with a more secure home, with more space, a better location, and more amenities suited for our needs; it will also decrease our overhead allowing more of an investment back into the business.  We will be investing into our own equity and, finally, be able to diversify our income a bit more.  I could go on and on, but the benefits that will result from this “big step in life” are many.

Considering this step I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride.  There would come with the building a sense of inclusion as I viewed other business leaders in the community who have found success in their ventures.  This would place me on the list of those that are business owners, property owners, and who have diversified to “having their hands in many pies”.

That’s when I made the connection and my love for my wife increased a little more.  I know I’ve said that she is an amazing woman many times, but she continues to prove it with each day.  A large part of that amazement comes from her talents related to motherhood.  She was able to look at that tooth with a humble perspective while I looked at the tooth with belittlement as I compared it to my “big boy life”.

Looking through J5’s eyes, this tooth was “a big step in life”.  Her life career consisted of being born, learning to walk, talk, eat, poop and pee on her own.  Then comes the step of school.  Suddenly she is thrown into this social sphere where life begins to form around her quickly.

I had to revert back to my school boy mind for a moment to really let it settle in:  As she stands with classmates and friends I can only imagine the status that comes from having a loose tooth.  I relate it to the first few classmates getting their driver’s licenses or the first few girls getting asked to the prom.  Suddenly you feel separated from the pack as more and more show up, trophy in hand, and a story to tell.  You can’t wait until your time comes when you can finally be apart of that pack.

Digging a little deeper than the superficial implications, I considered how she must view her age now.  Up until this point it was kids bigger and older than her showing off the gaps in their smile and how loose their tooth was as they let it wiggle and wobble far beyond the point where it would be easy to pull savoring every flick of the tongue on it.  That was years in the future until now.  She had made it and the fact that her tooth was loose was directly tied to the fact that she was years older now.

Finally, we consider what this means to us, her parents.  Of course, my dear wife jumped on this meaning first while I, the oblivious man, compared my daughter’s loose tooth to the six-figure transaction I was hoping to make in the coming days.

According to Colgate; the average child tends to have 20, what we would call, baby teeth.  This is distributed evenly with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.  Basically, they act as placeholders for the adult teeth that would soon come.  Notice the word ADULT.  As the baby teeth fall out they are replaced with the adult teeth and during that process they will gain another 12 teeth in most cases.

That’s right. What my wife was recognizing was a sure sign that our beautiful daughter was growing rapidly.  She was loosing her first BABY tooth.  This wasn’t the first haircut where you give it a month and it’s right back to where it was before you cut it.  This is something that once it’s out it’s replaced with the ADULT version.  That’s the version that will see High School and dating boys.  It will see tears of girl drama and boyfriend breakups.  It will shine in smiles of competition successes and (even against Dad’s best efforts) as a result of a first kiss.  It will go on to college and careers.  Marriage and family.  It is the beginning of a path that leads to adulthood.

My throat tightened as my heart skipped a beat.  It was “a big step in life”.  I understood that now and my vision was blurred as that progressive scene played out in my mind.  How could I selfishly set my life steps above my daughter’s?  They were both a big deal in the worlds we are living in.

It was another reality check.  I find myself gaining tunnel vision too often.  I get wrapped up in MY world, MY concerns, MY stresses, MY mountains and forget about the fact that there are other people living in the same world around me.  Taking it a step further, I tend to place MY “stuff” at a higher importance than others and this includes those closest to me.

I wish I could rewind a bit and look at the revelation J5 presented that morning again.  I would hope to see it through her eyes and also through my wife’s eyes in that moment versus gaining that perspective hours after.  Too much of my life is lived that way; with some hope that time travel would be discovered and I could fix all of the misplaced stepping stones over the years.

That loose tooth peeled  back my blinders allowing me to see what my teammates in life are experiencing as we battle together.  I had been so focused on placing that ball in the end zone because of MY duty to the team, resulting in MY success, adding a page to MY story……forgetting about MY team that I had recruited to help me get there.

We’ve all got a story and a team backing us up as we write that story.  Some teammates are only apart of it for a brief moment while others are ahead of us the entire drive making blocks and exerting as much effort or even more than we are with an eye on the end zone.  Whatever that moment is, I want to make a better effort to be in that moment with them rather than just as a character in the room.  There are so many successes by so many team members that total the eventual group success we are all hoping for.  I want to celebrate their successes as they celebrate mine.

I want to be apart of those “big steps in life” just as much as I want them to be apart of mine.

 

Waiting

Typically I like to take things slow and at my own pace.

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A few months ago I dropped my wife off at the hospital for a surgical procedure.  We had made arrangements with Grandma to watch the kids so that I could take my wife and be with her for the 23 hour period that was designated for this procedure.

Living in a small, rural area (as defined by UPS who recently informed me that even though my freight delivery said it was scheduled to deliver three days ago, I needed to add another 1-5 business days to that date) our local hospital, as great as it is, was not up to this task.  So the appointment was set at a larger facility 100 miles away.

We made the drive in early that morning, fitted her into one of those flattering hospital robes (she makes them look so much better than I do) and waited in the tiny cubical for her name to be called.

Eventually that time came.  After poking and digging mercilessly to find a vein, the anesthesia was given and my love was wheeled off.  I was pointed in the other direction to the waiting area for what I had been instructed wouldn’t be a very long time.

We had some errands to be run, as there always are when you go to the “big city”, and my wife had encouraged me to run those while she was under the knife.  I didn’t feel very comfortable doing that; what if I was needed for something and wasn’t there?  But finally I convinced myself that once she was released she wouldn’t have any desire to drive around town to complete those errands.  She would just want home at that point.  Besides, it will take a good 45 minutes of prep before the procedure even begins.  So I went out to the parking lot, hopped into our Hemi powered Durango, and let the horses run!

I’ve gotta admit, I am a bit of a shopping machine when I am given a list and a schedule to keep.  Even pushing one of those flat-bed industrial carts around Costco, loaded with 300 lbs of copy paper, I can fit through gaps at speed that would make Dale Jr. proud.  Today I was in top form.  I made the errands, grabbed a breaded chicken pocket of some sort at the last stop, and was back in that waiting room in no time at all.

And then it began

It was a pretty standard procedure with not a lot of risk involved.  Should be in and out and on the road to recovery in no time at all.  But, like they stated in all the forms we signed, there are some risks…..and that unknown was the catalyst for what was to follow.

I surveyed the room and picked an area where I could be away from everyone else but also where I had a clear view facing the windows.  I didn’t have any interest in the TV that was set on CNN or something with the volume down so low you could barely hear it, forcing you to try and keep up with the subtitles to follow the stories.  I also wasn’t interested in giving anyone an opportunity to ask me my name or why I was here.  I didn’t have a desire to chat.

I was here for a two-fold mission and that was: 1-Make sure my wife comes out of that room ok, and, 2-Be available to my wife for any need that she might have for the next 23 hours.

The chicken pocket turned out tasting pretty darn good but, although it was lunch time and breakfast had come very early that day, I just didn’t feel that hungry.  So I wrapped up the wrest and put it back in my bag.  I was able to make it through an episode of something on my phone, I honestly can’t even remember what.  As soon as the ending credits began scrolling I stood up, stretched, walked around a bit, eventually returning back to my seat.

I think I then scrolled through YouTube for a while, watching some videos about people hurting themselves and generally making fools of themselves.  Then I was on my feet again.  I checked my watch against my phone and against the clock on the wall in the room.  Ya, there was a couple of minutes of variations between them….but they all told me the same thing.

I struggled to remember the timeline the doctor had given me.  Two hours?  Two and a half?  Somehow I thought I had been there that long already, but between the three clocks I had access to, I clearly had thought wrong.

Pandora was next.  I checked my emails and responded to a few.  Facebook, YouTube again, and then surfed Netflix for a bit.  But nothing was keeping my attention for very long.

Back to my feet.  I found a restroom and then headed back to my seat.  Before sitting down I just stood staring off into nothing in front of the windows.  I turned around and made another survey of the room.  A few faces had changed, but most were the same.  Then someone who had arrived after me was told their family member was in recovery and they could go see them in such in such a wing.  Why was theirs so quick!?!

I tried reading a bit, but I couldn’t keep my mind focused and paragraphs would go by before I’d catch myself and have to go back to re-read them.  I took a few more nibbles of my chicken pocket.  YouTube, again, Facebook, emails…..nothing new there.  To my feet.

This was the third time I had studied the “status screen” the hospital had provided on the wall of the waiting room.  No one had explained it to me and no one was there to ask.  But this time I made the final decipher of the codes it shared to realize that, at least according to their TV, she had been in recovery for some time.

This was the moment that land marked when the seconds had gone from feeling like minutes and launched into half-hour intervals.  I have never felt so bored, useless, tired, and anxious in my life.  There was no indication of when it would end and there was nothing I could do but wait for some unknown event.  Would they call my name?  Would someone come find me?  Do I need to go ask, maybe they didn’t realize someone was waiting for her.  Why has she been in recovery for so long?  Did things not go as planned and they don’t want me there yet?

Again my phone came out but this time all I managed to do was unlock it and stare at the screen.

Back on my feet.  I paced back and forth now, not really realizing that I was.  With each transition I would look at the door I had been shown out of hours before waiting for some sign, some signal, just something!  I continued to watch it as if I had been given an opportunity to see some rare animal and if I blinked I might miss it.

Finally I realized that I was wearing a strip of their industrial carpet down and was beginning to attract attention to myself.  So I found my seat and brought out my phone again.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone walking towards me with scrubs on.  I turned to register that it was her doctor and I shot up out of my seat and closed the 20 foot distance in a split second.

He explained that she was recovering well.  Everything had gone to plan, aside from one hiccup that was resolved quickly.  All was well and I would be able to see her soon.  He told me that I would need to wait just a bit longer while she stayed in her observation space and would then be moved to a room where I could be with her.

Finally I had some information.  The wait for the unknown was over and the seconds were calibrated back to their former time measurement.  My mind settled and my feet rested as I now sat more content.

It still took sometime before a nurse came and directed me to the room where she would arrive.  Again, sitting in that small room waiting for her, I found myself anxious and unable to focus on any sort of entertainment or time-killer.  But the wait was different.  The information I had received from the doctor calmed my mind and was used over and over to talk myself down from the pacing and lengthening of normal time intervals that had ensued before.

I find myself in this extreme phase of waiting again

We are so close to closing on a new space for my business.  I am told that we have done all we can up to this point and we simply have to WAIT for the appraisal to come back now.

The appraisal has been what we have been working so hard for since we signed the counter offer acceptance documents.  We need a good number in order to receive the financing required to make the renovations and improvements that will make this a successful venture.

We feel pretty confident that the purchase price is a good price; easily lower than what the building will appraise for.  We also feel confident that the contractor bids and future plans we have drawn up,  gathered, and submitted to the bank will show valuable improvements that will be made.  Between both of these, the chances that the appraisal will be to our favor are very good.

But just like the surgical procedure my wife underwent, there are risks.  There are unknowns and things that are out of our control.  Hiccups, potholes, variables, whatever you wish to call them.  They are there and could take every confidence we’ve had and throw it back at us with a sly smirk.

Purchasing this building is a chance to solve so many issues and to open a door for future successes.  We have pushed as hard as we could, planned everything out as best as we could see, and built so much excitement over what this could mean to us.  All if this now hinges on that number.

That unknown is what makes the wait so hard for me.  I like to take things slow and at my own pace.  I like to have the control to stop, soak it all in, and continue when I am ready.  I need to be able to methodically think things through in order to move forward in a controlled manner.  I pride myself at being able to open something up, observe all the bits and pieces, and solve a mysterious issue with my own two hands.  But I’ve got to have the time to focus and make it happen.

In these cases I know what is going on.  I am involved in every step of the process so no blindfold is drawn across my mind.  Although things may not always turn out the way that I had planned, I am aware of that fact the moment it is realized and can process what the next step is immediately.  I am in control of finding those solutions and answers.  My hands and mind are free to work and do everything I need them to in order to continue forward.

I hate those waits where my hands are tied and my mind is given no foundation to work from.  It’s as if you were given a flashlight and directed out into the middle of a forest on a dark, moonless night.  You’ve been able to see everything you’ve needed to in order to convince yourself that all the dangers that exist there are distant.  But suddenly the light is shut off and your mind can’t depend on your eyes anymore.  You begin to imagine shapes darting through the trees and soft, harmless noises turn into monsters charging at you.  Doubts erupt, fears are constructed, and focus is unobtainable.

All I can do is take every ounce of control I have to act like a normal human as I watch the seconds tick in slow-motion towards the demystification that has been promised at some point.

That and hold onto the hope and feeling I have that it WILL be OK and work out for our good

Since the day that my wife was informed of the procedure I was obviously concerned.  Anytime you or someone you love is involved with something like that there is a natural fear.  But I felt like it would be a good choice and solve some discomforts and potential future health issues.  But even that couldn’t ease my uncomfortable wait.

The only thing that could was finally being in that small, cramped, uncomfortable hospital room with her and seeing with my two eyes that she was well and that all was good.  And, yes, all is good.  She’s since made a full, albeit uncomfortable, recovery and is happy and healthy as a result.

I trust too that soon we will have our appraisal and be well on our way to the healthy and happy future that this building is promising to be.  The wait will be over soon enough.  The unknown will be decoded.  The seconds will revolve as they once used to.  The future will be bright.

Change

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It’s been a VERY hectic couple of weeks for BossDad.  Our largest clients at the shop have been sending in mass orders, one after another, keeping me on my toes and constantly jumping from one job to the next.  Then mix in the interruptions and stresses with aligning the stars so this new building purchase can be a successful transaction; and you’ve got one wore out dude on your hands.

Not only have my weeks been filled with 10-14 hour work days, but throw in Saturdays and just the pure mental exertion involved and I feel like by the time I get home my brain has turned into mush!

Then there are moments when I am just so dang tired of making decisions!!!  My wife, the sweetheart that she is, began cleaning off my desk at work the other day while I was finishing up my lunch in an attempt to help me with my tasks.  I protested and asked her not to.  She insisted that having a clean desk would help me get more organized and focused by working in a clean and tidy space.  While I agreed, I explained I just needed a few moments of making no decisions.  She responded, “I’ll ask all the questions of where things need to go, you just have to respond yes or no.”  As simple as that may seem, I was at the end of my rope and the simple act of trying to process what was there and what was next would be the final straw that broke this camel’s head!!! (I know the correct saying is back, but my back was fine….it was my head that was verging on failure).

So yesterday when the orders I planned on doing got put on hold by the customer, then a plan “B” supply run fell through because the supplies weren’t ready for pickup yet, and finally plan “C” couldn’t be implemented because the supplies I needed for it weren’t ready; the mental exhaustion got the best of me and I ran away.  I decided that the other jobs could wait for the morning when I would have a clear mind and a motivational recharge.  This was my chance to run to the hills, reboot, relax, recharge, and renew my focus.  I wasn’t able to go far.  I only had about an hours’ worth of daylight left.  So I hopped in Sami, my Samurai, and went for a drive up in the hills behind my home.

I’ve covered these trails many times over the last 13 years.   Driving or walking, they’ve worked out my emotions in a way no trained therapist could.  They have seen many stages of my life from flirtatious rides with my wife back when we were dating, to the emotional pangs and hurt from loosing a beautiful daughter only 45 minutes after she was born.

We have a good three-mile stretch of open land between our home and the tall red mesas that sit behind us.  It is pretty desolate really, just sagebrush and cactus dotted with a few sparse juniper trees.  But in the middle of it all is a shallow wash that cuts across the land creating a defined path that stands out among it all.

Not only have I used this many times as a destination to walk along before I head for home, I have found it to be a highway for wildlife.  I’ve seen golden eagles, plenty of jack rabbits and cottontail bunnies, coyotes, deer, and, while they still allude me, I’ve seen the sign of bobcat in that wash as well.

On my way back from my drive up against the mesas I decided to stop at this wash and go for a quick walk along it.  This time of year the buck mule deer are dropping their antlers and this wash has often been a good place to find those.  So I hopped out, threw my back pack on my shoulders, and headed off on foot just as the mist of a rain began falling down.

As I trudged along, the wet dirt starting to pack to the bottoms of my shoes, I continued to think about all the mess I was up to my chin in.  The stresses at work, the building purchase, trying to be a more present father, better husband, oh, and Sami needs the front suspension worked on as well. Then I saw it.  It was a 30 foot wide clear swath that had been blazed across the land leading just up to the edge of the wash.

It took me by surprise as I stood there staring at the scar on the land.  For 13 years I had spent hours and hours out here walking, exploring, and working out my issues on my own.  Not another soul had I ever met out here, to the extent that it had become my land.  How dare someone come out here with a tractor and cut this swath right at the edge of my wash!?!?

Then my eyes focused in on a bright orange stake that had fallen over and was laying on it’s side right at the edge of the wash.  A wave of sorrow settled into my stomach as I realized that while I have enjoyed this land for 13 years…..it wasn’t mine.  We only own about 5 acres right on the edge and we had been made aware that about a year ago plans to divide and sell the space behind us had been put in motion.  This swath was dividing parcels of land where homes would be built and my wash would soon be someone’s back yard.

My feet fell a little harder as I tried to envision this huge open expanse dotted with homes and yards.  No longer would I be able to walk and drive freely back there.  No longer would I be able to look out to the mesas without homes contaminating the view.  These paths that the wildlife have trod for, centuries possibly, would soon be blocked by fences and garages.

As I neared the fence line that marked where the wash flattened out and pretty well ends, the two old abandoned cars that sit there came into view.  Rusted, broken, and strewn with bullet holes; those cars have been there for who knows how long.  They too have been a destination for me and have often acted as a land mark as I’ve made an afternoon loop hike.  And, yes, a few of the bullet holes are mine.

My face softened a bit as I viewed them fondly.  Then a sudden desperation came over me as I considered what the new owners of that land might do with them.  I needed to save them!  They would be yanked from their homes and hauled off as if they were some sort of pest that needed to be exterminated.

To me they were unique and, well, beautiful.  They added a character to the area.  Not only am I a sucker for that 40’s and 50’s era vehicles, but the patina and age just fight right into the countryside.

And then there is the mystery behind them.  I knelt down and pulled my camera out hoping to save them at least in an image.  My mind wandered as I framed the shots:  Where did they come from?  What lives had they lived before they landed here?  Who put the first bullet hole in them and who has added their mark since?  The storms they have seen, visitors they have had both two legged and four legged, and the changes they have witnessed over their lifetimes.

It was nearing time for dinner as the landscape was darkening quickly now.  My shoulders and head were wet from the rain and my shoes were heavy from the compacted wet dirt that had doubled the thickness of my tread.

As I trod along, still scanning the sides of the wash and the surrounding landscape for antler sheds, my thoughts came to rest on that last statement; change.  What I was battling, not only with this land but with my life’s challenges as well, was change.

In years past January and, in particular, February have been our slowest months at work.  But suddenly I am up to my eyeballs in jobs.  Then there is the prospect of this new building being thrown into play and the new challenges I am facing with it.  My wife and I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old taking our lives from lone souls, to friends, to lovers, to partners, and then to parents and our home that had wide open spaces around it is working towards suddenly being the entrance to a community.

There’s no way around it.  Change is hard and often uncomfortable.  And as I thought about it further, I realized that it doesn’t matter if it is good change or bad change; either way it requires effort.  Maybe that is why we fear and fight it.  The simplest path is to stay the same.  But as soon as you veer to the left or to the right, there has to be some effort involved.  The only difference between good change and bad change is your perspective through it all.  Your perspective will effect your motivation and either ease the burden of change, or weight it.

I soon arrived back at the house and as I rolled into the drive way I spotted my beautiful little girl running towards the driveway with a coat and boots on.  I opened the door of Sami and peered down at her.  Her eyes were bright and her face was pure and void from any stress or concern.  I asked if she wanted to go for a quick ride and she responded that she did.  I hauled her up and over my lap into the passenger seat and I began to feel my stresses and concern over change start to melt away.

We headed for the “up and downs,” a small track that we have carved into our back yard with some small hills and whoops for the four wheelers to go around.  Luckily Sami is skinny enough to go around the track as well.

With my left hand on the wheel and my right arm stretched across her lap, bracing her into her seat, we headed up and down, over and around the track, me emphasizing each hill with a “whao!”.  I continued to glance over to her making a mock-nervous face to build the anticipation of a hill and her giving the same face back but with more of a smile.

On about the fourth lap she informed me that the real reason she came out was because Momma had asked her to come tell me that dinner was ready.  So I headed back for home so we didn’t hold up dinner for too long.

By this time it was pretty much dark outside.  We took off our coats and removed our shoes.  J5 beat me to the table and was already in her seat as I stepped into the living room.  That’s when I saw one of the most beautiful sights my eyes could behold.

The rest of the room was dark and of course the windows were dark as well.  That just put more focus on the lit up dinner table with my daughter, son, and stunning wife sitting there waiting for daddy to come join them.  It was beautiful to behold and I paused for a moment trying to engrave that image in my mind.

In that moment, all the changes I was experience were OK.  They are signs of what the future will be.  I don’t know what that future is and I think that’s what generates so much of my stress; fear of the unknown.  But like I mentioned before, this family I was sitting and eating with represented change in my life.  Not only change, but also a future.

20 years ago I never would have dreamed that this would be my life.  That I would be here, in this town, with this career, and this family.  That I would be living this lifestyle, enjoying these comforts, and building these relationships.  But here I am, in the future, and I’ve gotta say that I am a blessed man.

I look around and realize that all of this is a result of change.  Changes that have taken place over the past several years.  Some changes I had control of and some I didn’t.  But they came, they played out, and the result is before me.

Maybe change isn’t something to be feared and stressed over, but to be welcomed and accomodated.

 

BossDad Against the World

If you have read any of my previous posts you would recognize my friendship with solitude and being a lone soul.  It is not only something that I enjoy, but something that I stand in need of.

Even in my youth, though I grew up in a home with four other siblings, I would often seek out opportunities to be alone.  To function in my own little world without the distractions and interactions around me.  I think it comes down to a sense of control.  When I am in that world, I have control over the aspects that I am interacting with.

One of my favorite toys growing up was small cars, Hot Wheels, to be more specific.  I had come to own a small collection of them and they would occupy my attention for hours at a time.

I specifically remember having a spot out in our yard where I had dug a depression in the ground near a sagebrush.  I would retire to this spot with several of my cars, leaving the nicest, most beloved few in the house safe and clean, and a putty knife I had found in with the tools.  This putty knife was the perfect width to carve out streets, intersections, and driveways for these cars to travel along.

In the desert soil I would encounter either very hard, concrete-like ground, very soft and dry loose sand, or moist and easily compacted dirt.  The first and the last were ideal for what I was trying to achieve but the middle, soft sand, just wouldn’t do.

I was a realist with my play.  My cars couldn’t fly and didn’t have super powers to push through a pile of soft, loose, sand that was deeper than they were.  Play didn’t work unless it was in conditions that were real to life and to the scale of these cars.

I don’t really recall any sort of story-line to my play either.  It was mostly building roads and driveways, then placing the cars at their homes.  In turn each car would back out and go for a nice Sunday drive.

If a bump was too large, or dip too deep, it needed to be smoothed.  If the corner was too sharp it needed to be rounded off.   If the road was too sandy or soft it needed to be cleared and compacted until it was solid.

So my hours of play would proceed, out there on my own, fixing roads and solving problems.  I loved this play and would return as often as I could to this same spot.  Roads would change, the hillside would evolve, and even a waterfall under a small wooden bridge I made in Cub Scouts would be added at one point; but the play was the same.  On my own, at my own speed, without the complications others might contribute.

As an adult I’m much the same.  I often find myself adventuring alone because, although it is not a safe practice, it is easier and less-complicated to do so.  I can make choices and decisions without having to consider anyone else.  I can start and stop when I want, eat when I want, wander off the beaten path if I want, and so on.

And, I can be alone with my thoughts.  Working out stresses, problems, life mysteries, and coming up with a sure path towards world peace (okay, I’m still working on this, but I have a theory…..)

I need those situations for my own sanity.  But that loneliness is of my own choice and my own making.  I control when, where, and how, and that is why it works.

Just a short time ago I found myself in a much more damaging situation.  As a boss I had to make some corrections and institute some changes with my employees.  This can be hard to do.  When you spend 8 hours a day in a 2,500 sq ft. building with just a few other people, you build a friendship and association.  I work in this space just as they do and it creates a sense of equality.  We joke and laugh, enjoy lunch together once in a while, celebrate birthdays, and enjoy each others’ company as we work through our various tasks and duties.

But, at the end of the day, I am the owner and the boss.  The company is where it is today because of my attention to issues, changes to policies, and forward thinking.  So I often have to define our roles as these processes are brought forward, reminding everyone that I am the boss and they are my employees.

I consider myself a people person.  I communicate well and can adapt myself to be able to associate with many different characters.  I think that is a big part of my success.  But sometimes you just can’t approach matters of this nature without someone getting defensive or hurt and this was one of those times.

The discussion left my employees feeling offended and irritated by me.  I had made no personal attacks, nor had I said anything that was untrue.  But sometimes the truth hurts and because I was the authority figure telling those truths and implementing changes that were viewed as irritations, I was viewed as the enemy and a clear change an dynamics evolved leaving me as the odd man out.

Meanwhile at home the waters were choppy as well.  I had been working long hours with a sudden influx of jobs, so my time at home was short as is.  My wife and I were not communicating well with some struggles in our marriage.  We couldn’t seem to find a time to really talk through it and work out what we needed to.

Not only did kids complicate this, but my mother-in-law lives in our home as well.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the typical “evil mother-in-law” stereotype that is portrayed in the world.  I love her and have no issue with her in our home.  It is good for her being able to be around her daughter and her grand kids.  Plus it is a huge help for my wife to have her there.  She allows us our privacy and is simply apart of our family.  But it can make it hard to have those private discussions that husband and wife need to have on a regular basis.

What I was finding during this time was; I would arrive home around 7-7:30 pm.  I would sit at the table alone and eat my re-heated dinner while the kids played and my wife and her mother cleaned up dinner and took care of things.  Then as I was finishing, bedtime would arrive and the processes involved with that.  Finally, with the kids in bed, it was adult time.  I would kick back in my chair because my tasks for the day were finished and I could just relax.  But with the kids in bed my wife still has items on her to-do list she needs to do.  So she’s at the computer, working on crafts, or preparing an activity for the next day (she is a real-life Super Mom.  Amazing!)

Then bedtime rolls around.  We are both tired and after preparations for bed, we both just long for the rest of sleep knowing we need all we can get to fuel us through the next day.  Although this time-slot may be our only private time during the day with the kids and her mother in our home, exhaustion puts off our motivation to utilize that time for the benefit of our marriage.

When morning arrives the focus is on getting ourselves and our kids ready for the day.  Mom is working on breakfast, getting J5 dressed and ready for school, and dad is getting himself ready for work, doing outside chores, and then I’m out the door, with J5, headed for school and another long day at work.

Basically what I was encountering was a sense of being displaced.  At work I felt shunned and outcast.  I was the “mean boss” that everyone wanted to avoid.  At home I felt like I wasn’t really needed there either.  Much like the feeling of being the odd friend, or fifth wheel, invited on a road trip with two other couples.  You are just kind of along for the ride and if you jumped out at mile-marker 12 they wouldn’t even notice until the next gas station and only because it was your turn to buy.

Each night I felt like I was a guest in the house.  My wife and her mom had a routine and things just rolled along whether I was there or not.  I would just find myself some leftovers to heat up, eat, and do my own thing while their process continued on towards bedtime.

It honestly felt as if I was a technician working in another town.  I was commuting back and forth from my hotel, working long hours in the corner of a building where no one knew me or cared that I was there even though I was solving a major problem for them and when I was done for the day I would hit the hotel restaurant for dinner, eat alone, then back to my quiet room that I happened to be sharing with another person.

Day after day this feeling of loneliness and darkness got worse and worse.  Here I was doing huge things for these people around me and yet I felt like a ghost whose presence was unnoticed as I went about my days.

I was feeling hurt and discouraged.  Even though I was paying their wage and providing them with the place and the means to support their lifestyle, I was shunned by them and looked upon as a thorn in their sides.  Even though I was providing for their daily needs, comforts, and toys, I was unnoticed and kept at arms length.  There wasn’t time for me among the other daily demands.

How can the people that I am working so hard for, that I stress and worry about so much, simply treat me like I didn’t exist.  Treat me as if I wasn’t important or needed?  I’m doing this all for them.  I didn’t ask for this loneliness.  I didn’t choose or create this solitude……..or did I?

These waves of loneliness seem to come and go over the months.  A sense of being alone in this world full of people.  That I’m the only one battling to create a balance that effects everyone around me, but that no one is willing to assist me with.

Being a natural problem solver, I studied these situations looking for solutions.  I didn’t like the way I felt during these times and especially didn’t like the way I began to view the people I loved as my hurt got deeper and deeper.  They were my friends and most importantly, my family.

What I began to realize was that I was creating an atmosphere around myself that they were reacting to.  I would come home from work exhausted, with an aged look of stress written across my face.  I was hungry and needed to eat and unwind a bit before I allowed myself to be ready for their interactions.  So they gave me space.

My wife had duties that needed to be taken care of.  They couldn’t wait because there are protocols that have to be followed in order to ensure the success of bedtime.  And, just like me staying after hours to finish jobs because there are no interruptions at that point, after bedtime was her after hours.  It was her chance to finish up her jobs uninterrupted.

And what of our private time before our bed-time?  Well, being a simple man, my bedtime process is quicker than hers.  So while I laid in bed waiting for her to finish her readying, my phone would come out and YouTube would eat my attention.  Then she’d come to bed, see I was focused on my phone and pull out a book.  When that “just one more” video would finish I would see her reading her book and go back to my phone.  It was that simple.  When I needed that time to visit with my wife privately, I allowed YouTube to take priority.

I also realized that at work the only time I would have a serious discussion with my employees was when there was a problem that needed to be addressed.  I wasn’t concerning myself with their needs, their ideas, or their jobs, unless I had something that I had seen that needed to be addressed.  Although we were friendly and had positive interactions as co-workers, the only time they would see me in “boss mode” was when I needed to criticize their work and address something that had come to my attention.  Of course that would create a barrier and put up walls.

After visiting with my brother, a therapist (ya, he’s better looking and better paid than me too….figures) he said something that really stood out to me.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something to the effect of setting priorities, but then also making sure that you show that those things are priorities to you.

For example:  I had set my family as a priority in my life.  I mean, heck, I don’t work 12-14 hour days weeks at a time because it’s fun.  I do it because I want to provide a good life for my family and take care of their needs.  I also try really hard to be home by bed-time so I can be there to kiss my kids goodnight.  But what good is it doing when I come home after work in zombie-mode.  Ya, I’m there…..but am I really?

What does it show when I am in bed with my face glued to my phone?  Or when I only sit down to visit with my employees over something negative?  What does it show when I’m there to be with my kids, but only my eyes are there and my mind is somewhere else?

My employees are a priority in my life.  They do a great job and there is no way I could ever run this business without them.  They make mistakes, yes, but so do I.

I began to try to have regular employee reviews.  I visit with them about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I ask for their input on business decisions, because those things could effect them just as much as they effect me.  I specifically ask what they like about working here and what they don’t like.  I also try to notate positive things I see them do so I can make sure to spotlight those.  These reviews give me an opportunity to have a well-rounded visit with each individual employee.  I can make needed corrections, but also highlight positives.

I also began to have a weekly 1/2 hour morning meeting.  We all gather and talk about our current job load so that we can all be aware of what is currently being worked on in the shop.  I also have a white board where anyone can write down “meeting topics.”  Anything that anyone feels needs to be addressed or talked about.

For the last five to ten minutes of this meeting I choose a clip from The Office TV series.  I call it a “training video”.  It lightens the mood a bit and is something they look forward to each week.  If you’ve ever watched The Office then you know that it’s typically just silly humor.  But I can usually twist the topic to relate to an actual point that could be learned from.  I also ask the employees what else could be learned from it invoking creativity and collaborative input.

I have found these practices to help significantly, especially when it comes to points of criticism.  I am still able to be the boss and exercise my authority on the rare occasions that I need to stick to my guns on something, but am still able to maintain a friendly and comfortable work environment.

I’ve also seen a definite boost in morale as I’ve made conscious efforts to praise the good that they do and focus on positives.  I have become more approachable because the fear of “oh no, what did I do wrong this time” has been disposed of.  I am a better boss with the use of these practices.

My home life is a bit harder.  My family is my number one priority.  My wife is beautiful and amazing in every way.  My children are my pride and joy and I love the relationship I have with them.  My mother-in-law contributes to our household in so many different ways; we are blessed to have her there.  But when I can’t keep a consistent schedule because of my obligations and demands at work, how can I be available at the same times they are available?  Of course their days go on without me.  It would be selfish to ask them to wait for an unknown time.

So how do I make a show that they are a priority to me?  I think the best thing I can do is BE THERE when I am there.  I mean really give them my focus at that moment.  It may only be 5 minutes before bedtime.  It may only be that 10 minute drive into school each morning.  But if I can show them that for that moment they are my world, then they will leave feeling how much I care about them.

I also need to take a page out of my brother’s book.  When we have had opportunity to visit their home, I have noticed how much he helps with household duties.  It seems so seamless where his wife would start and where he would pick up and finish.  Maybe they have a schedule or system that they have worked out that works for them.  That would be hard to do in my situation because I often never know when I will arrive at home.

But rather than feeling like there is a system in place and I am an interruption to that system, I should pitch in and help out more wherever I can.  After all, it is my home and my messes too, and, the quicker she’s done with those things the sooner she can be with me.

I also need to make sure that I am available to her in those private moments.  In turn, she needs to make sure she is available to me in those private moments as well.  That private, heartfelt communication can be key I’ve found.

There is a saying in the business world, especially for small businesses that goes something to the effect of: Make sure you work ON your business and not just IN your business.  There have been times that I have became so focused on completing an order, working late into the night, but didn’t spend anytime on the pricing to ensure I charged enough.  All that work and effort is for nothing if there is no profit involved.

The same goes with a marriage.  What did it feel like back when you first met?  The first date, second date, first kiss?  It was electrifying!  It was for me at least.  I couldn’t wait to spend as much time as possible with her.  She was my focus for the majority of my days.  We got married and suddenly things started getting in the way.  Job, kids, bills, etc.   All of these came as a result of that marriage.  But if that foundation isn’t maintained, then the rest of it will inevitably fail.

If you are feeling like you are alone in the world, maybe it’s time to take a step back like I did and look in a mirror.  How much if it is your own doing?  My wife once told me that the reason we are here on this earth is for the purpose of forming relationships.  I think she’s spot on with that one.  Whether it is love, or friendship.  Casual acquaintances even.  What sort of impression are you leaving on that person?  What sort of relationship is being built?  If you knew that all you could take after this life was the relationships you had made, would you do things a bit differently?

Let this Valentines Day be the New Year of your relationships.  Set some resolutions that will help swing open doors, solidify loves, and secure support for your next stages of life.  You don’t have to feel alone and I can guarantee that no matter who you are there is someone trying to share a relationship with you.  Are you helping that or hurting it?

 

The Allegory of the Cookie Snatcher

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This weekend I had a chance to visit my brother.  His home is about a four hour drive from ours.  It’s not that far when you speak of traveling within the U.S. but when you both have families, careers, and other demands, it makes getting that good quality visit in a hard task to fill.

And then you add kids to the mix.  Love them, but let’s be honest; kids complicate everything, especially trips.  Kids take your preparation for that weekend trip to the next level.  My wife and I have a bag each, I mean, it’s only 3 days.  But with kids, her bag turns into the largest suitcase we own, plus three other bags for diapers and other accessories.  Add to that the box of snacks, the cooler of snacks and drinks, the backpack of activities, pillows and blankies, and suddenly our very large and spacious vehicle inevitably has some item tumbling out of the door every time you open it because things are piled so high.

For this purpose of this post I’d like to focus on that box of snacks I mentioned earlier.  80% of the items we bring with us end up in our room during the visit.  You have the cold items that go into the fridge, some toys stay down stairs, and then a few items can stay in the vehicle.  But the majority of this is in our room now.

It is a bedroom, and a spacious one at that.  But it isn’t a studio apartment or guest house.  So there aren’t cupboards to store things in, or counters to set things on.  So with everything that is now located in our room, things are on the floor……including the snack box.

It was bedtime and it had been a long day filled with fun.  Our kids had played with their cousins and thoroughly worn themselves out with running, jumping, screaming, and other adolescent exertions that would have left a grownup in the hospital on life support.

Baths were had, jammies were on, and teeth were brushed.  The four of us gathered into our room for our nightly ritual of “gratefuls”, and prayers; we will go around and all say something we did that day or something in particular that we were grateful for, and then we mention those things in our bedtime prayer.

As we were rounding the kids up into our little huddle, T2 stopped in his tracks as he passed the snack box.  He then dropped to a squat and his had dove into the box.  I saw this and immediately said “no, no.  It’s time for bed buddy”.

T2 is a snack machine.  He started off as a really good eater.  I mean this kid would eat twice as much as J5 at every meal.  I thought for sure he had received the perfect gene mix from my wife’s side of the family and my side of the family that would make him a 6′ 5″, 260lb, solid block of a linebacker.  But more recently he has gone from a good eater at every meal to a picky eater at every meal and a constant snacker throughout the day.

He always want’s a snack.  Apples and candy, crackers and bananas.  It doesn’t matter when or where, he wants a bite of it and he wants in NOW!  But if it is dinner you place in front of him, all he sees is a snack, and a snack is all he’ll eat out of it.

So when his hand dove into the box I knew he was intent on getting another snack.  He froze and stared into my eyes.  I stared back feeling satisfied that I had caught the snatcher red-handed and stopped the theft before it happened.

To my surprise he didn’t withdraw his hand.  Usually he responds pretty well to me even if he does throw a fit and hit the nearest object in protest.  But this time we were having a bit of a standoff.

I told him again “no, no buddy.  You just brushed your teeth.  No snacks.  It’s time for bed”.  He just squatted there, not moving a muscle and staring at me in the eyes for what felt like minutes.

Our eyes narrowed and a breeze blew a tumble weed across the room.  Vultures circled above us as the menfolk hurried the women and children from the streets.  The standoff music from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly played as we both sat waiting for the other to flinch initiating the shootout that was about to go down.

With quiet confidence I didn’t worry about making the first move because I knew that whatever he pulled out would need to be unwrapped, or un-packaged in order for him to access the snackie goodness inside.  My hope was to give him the opportunity to make the right choice by removing his hand on his own rather than me taking action and forcing him to remove his hand.

Just as I was thinking this all through, like lightning his hand shot up and to his mouth.  Finally my eyes caught up with his ninja like move and registered on a small cookie with a perfectly formed bite taken out of it.  I was shocked!  How did this 2 year old manage the stealth it took to open the bag, get his hand inside, and grip a single cookie without moving a muscle and making a noise.  The brazen defiance of my authority as his father surprised me as well.  I didn’t know he had it in him to make such a bold move.

My mind spun a bit trying to process what had just happened as I reached out and took the cookie from his hand and told him sternly “that was a very bad choice”.  He made a run for it to his mom who was trying to suppress her giggles at the humor of it all as a support to me.  A swift slap to his diaper-cushioned bum was the last straw as he climbed up into momma’s lap to have a cry.

He wasn’t crying because of the spank I had given him.  Had we been playing his reaction to that same spank would have been a laugh, it wasn’t hard enough to cause any pain.  It merely re-enforced my disappointment in him and helped him realize the opposition he was up against with the choice he had just made.

Upon further investigation I discovered that the bag of cookies was sitting down in the corner of the box wide open.  There were only a few left, so grabbing just one would be easy.  This little guy happened to see this opportunity and went for it.  Even further than that, when I was satisfied that I had stopped the snatching before it happened, I had no clue that he already had a firm grip on a cookie.  He could literally feel the rough texture in his hand and even the chocolate chip beginning to soften and smooth as he ran his warm thumb along the surface of it.

He could have a bite of that cookie and he knew it.  Everything around him was telling him he shouldn’t, or couldn’t.  But there it was, in his grasp, and he knew it could be in his mouth fulfilling his snack need.  He sat there, thought it through from every angle he could think of, and when he was certain his pursuit would be successful, he went for it!

As I knelt there, the prayer ended up being a bit of a muffled blur as my mind turned thinking about that audacious move.  He’s a good boy.  He can be a bit of a handful as he wanders the house digging into everything he possibly can.  Going from item to item, location to location, opening cupboards, picking up phones and remotes, and opening up backpacks and bags; finding anything he can get his hands on and giving them a thorough examination as he tries to figure out how it works and what it does.  But usually, he is fairly obedient if you ask him to leave it alone (even though he has to bring it to you rather than just setting it back where he got it from).  And then he is off to the next exploration.  But in this instance he determined in his mind that he needed that cookie in his mouth and he seized the opportunity to do so.

I hear those motivating stories so often about the guy that had an idea.  An idea he knew would work.  He set his mind to it and nearly lost everything he had as he scrambled and clawed his way towards success.  Now he is a hugely successful and respected business man living in the lap of luxury and soaking in the fruits of his labors.  He made it because he believed in himself and in his plan and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.

I usually walk a way feeling 6 inches taller.  My chest puffed out and my stride energetic.  My mind thinking “If he can do it so can you”.  I lay in bed that night day-dreaming and romanticizing about how it would happen for me as I stepped up to my potential and rode the wave towards enormous success.

Then the next day at work my momentum would quickly be restricted as the day-to-day realities settled in.  Thoughts like “I’m not him” or “he went to college” or “he had connections and a confidence that I didn’t” would start to cross my mind realizing that I was already chained to a career and a reality that I would simply have to live with.  Before I knew it the stars in my mind were replaced with the every day worries that needed that space more.

I have come to the conclusion that in my life I will have to work my way through life.  I won’t get a free ride and I won’t create a path that leads me to a millionaires’ life of yachts and summer homes.  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I find a sense of pride in my every day victories as my family moves along having what we need and not going without.

In fact, this process of purchasing this building has really made me check myself.  As I have looked over the numbers in relation to my business and my personal finances; we are doing quite well.  Well enough that I feel proud of myself (and that is a rare thing for me to feel).  This is as a result of the times that I stepped up and went for the opportunities that I saw.  When the need was there, I was ready to take action and make it happen.

Now that’s not to say that with a bit more confidence and a more ready willingness to take larger risks I may be in a different spot.  I honestly do believe that anybody can be hugely successful if they determine themselves to be.  But at what cost?   And for what purpose?  For my son, the bite of the cookie was enough.  Yes, he probably could have grabbed the bag and made a swift ninja roll underneath the bed and proceeded to stuff the remaining 5 in his mouth before we could have stopped him.  He, in that instance, would have been 4.75 cookies richer than he was only having taken the single bite.  But what would have been the consequences of that choice?

Instead, the single bite was enough.  His mom chuckled, his dad was surprised at his gall, and his taste buds were satisfied.  The risk was the stern retort from his father and a swift spank that, if he were his sister, he would have boldly said “that didn’t hurt”.  But within 60 seconds the tears were dry and daddy was kissing him goodnight as he incrementally lowered him into bed with a “whao” at each level as daddy searched for the smile and giggles of his little boy.  I don’t condone his choice to disobey dad.  But the boy got what he wanted and I’ve gotta give him props for that.

As we search for our successes we need to have a confidence in ourselves that will allow us to push closer and closer to our potential.  There will be calculated risks that we need to take.  They stretch us and force growth upon us that will be for our good.  But that needs to be balanced with what the real purpose of our success is.  Yes, we call millionaires and billionaires successful.  But does it come at the cost of a broken home, addictions, and health problems?  Do they have children who don’t know their fathers or who don’t care as long as their trust funds don’t run out?  At what cost?

It’s important to know what we want and then to go for it.  But we need to make sure that those wants are for the right reasons and achieved in the right way.