Neglect

“What else am I neglecting?”

I couldn’t help but think as I slowly rode the fourwheeler back to the house in the dark after moving water on the field next door.  Tears left cold streaks down my cheeks as the cool breeze of the night air brushed by.

The hurt was deep as I thought about the friend I had just lost a few days before.  She had been a close companion for the last 11 years and I wasn’t ready for her to go.  Even so, I was struggling trying to understand why this loss hurt so bad.  Even now emotion brims to the surface as I remind myself that she’s gone.

I’ve experienced loss in my life.  I should be better at this process, maybe even desensitized a bit.  Beginning with a daughter that didn’t make it beyond 19 weeks of a pregnancy and only lived for about 45 minutes outside of the womb.  Then a father-in-law who I helped care for through the last several years of his life.  And most recently the loss of my dad, a man I miss on nearly a daily basis.  All of these were deaths I experienced first-hand.  So I was no stranger to that as I sat in the small room and kept her company as she took her last breaths.

“Why is the hurt of this passing lingering so long?”  I continued to wonder for days and weeks following her passing.  That hurt is part of the reason it has taken so long to document it here.

The question kept coming with every wave of emotion.   And why do I question it?  You see, this is different.  “Her” is a pet.  A dog.  That is why I keep having that question arise.  Yes, a human friend or loved one, it makes sense to mourn their loss for some period of time.  But I feel like with a pet that bond doesn’t run as deep.  I don’t allow myself to become that attached to an animal.

But apparently I do.

We adopted Izzy from a family who had brought her into their home for their kids.  Having a puppy was so much fun at first, but then she grew, gained a youthful energy, and the work began.  Soon none of the kids wanted to walk her, play with her, feed her, and so the responsibility fell to the parents.  That was not their plan.

Word spread to us that this puppy needed a home and we already had a young dog that needed a companion, so we went and picked her up.

img_3998.jpg

Izzy needed a lot of work.  She was energetic with no sense of direction.  But with some consistent input, she picked up manners and commands quickly and became one of the best dogs I have ever known.

It was pretty evident from the beginning that she was mine.  She loves attention from anyone who will give it to her, but I was always in her sight and it was my side that she wanted to be next to.

Because she was such a well mannered dog, it allowed me to confidently bring her with me regularly.  She would come to work with me, camping, adventures.  She loved the ride even if that’s all it was; just a ride, never to leave the vehicle.

She learned to heel, so she rarely was leashed.  She learned to stay until I, and only I, gave the “ok” to get up and follow.  I could walk across the street with her, stopping at both sides of the road to look for traffic, with her in perfect step.  I would then have her lie down next to the door of the store I was entering and tell her “stay”.  It didn’t matter how long I spent inside, she would not move from that spot.  Strangers could visit her, other dogs walk by, it didn’t matter the distraction, she was waiting for me to return and give the “ok” to move.

She was also great around food.  Especially in a situation where you have many young nephews and nieces around, holding food at just the right height for a dog to snitch a bite or two, it was important to me that she wait for my “ok” before she help herself.  Then, she would very gently take the food with her lips first, as to not “bite the hand that fed her”.  I never worried about even the smallest child giving her a treat because I knew she was a gentle pup.

One of the things I loved the most about my pup Izzy was her companionship.  She became my faithful companion on my adventures.  Hot or cold, long or short, she was eager to go with me and loved it just as much as I did, maybe even more.  Down dusty, bumpy roads, up steep nail biting climbs.  Leaping across washes and bush wacking through the sage brush.  She did it all with me and loved every minute of it.

I never had to worry that she would run off.  She would wander and roam but always return back to check in.  On morning runs she would criss-cross my path over and over again heading out into the bushes to explore smells.  Sometimes getting far ahead of me, or lagging far behind.  But never loosing sight of me and all it took was a quick whistle and she would be at my side.

Recently I could see age taking it’s tole on her.  She couldn’t quite keep up with the fourwheeler as I headed to the field to move the water line anymore.  Just two or three throws of the ball was enough, where as before she’d go till she was foaming at the mouth and we were worried about heat stroke.  I now had to help her into the back of my truck where before she was already mid-air before I even let the tailgate down.

But I thought we still had a few more years before I’d have to say goodbye.

She stopped eating and a physical change was evident.  She lacked energy and was visibly unsteady on her feet.  At the vet clinic it was discovered that she had a very large tumor in her abdomen that was crowding and shutting down her organs.  An attempt at surgery could be made, but at her age, and with damage that was already done, it was unlikely she would make it through.

I don’t know that I could count how many miles of road we’ve driven, or how many hours of hiking, how many nights under the stars we’ve spent together, or how many sticks and balls she’s chased at my hand. But it adds up in my heart as I realize that she won’t be coming on my next adventure with me.

I miss her daily, as she was apart of my life daily.  The hurt comes back again and again as I think about her.

But missing her is only apart of that hurt.  The other part is regret.

This year has been such a hectic year for me.  We are remodeling a commercial building to move our business into.  Our largest client is considering major changes in their production which could be a huge game changer for our business either for the good or for the bad.  These two things on top of other every day life changes and commotion has filled my days with tasks, duties, challenges, etc.

……..oh not to mention the STRESS!!!

Hours turned into days, and weeks, and months.  I can’t believe I am already seeing Halloween decorations in stores and talking about upcoming dates in November.  I have had my nose so deep in these projects I have hardly come up for a breath.

I have neglected my hobbies with my Samurai parked under a shed and my camera sitting….somewhere.  My shoes don’t have any sand in them from being out in the hills.  I’ve been camping once.  I’ve been fishing once.

I’ve neglected the things that feed my soul as I’ve put the business first each day.

That’s what contributed to this death hitting hard.  She was my pet.  She depended on me for food, shelter, water.  But she also depended on me for companionship and love.  Sure, I’d see her each morning as I brought her breakfast.  Most mornings she’d follow me out to the field as I moved water.  She’d get a few pets and a “good puppy” from me.  But then it was back in the kennel as I headed off to work for another long day.

Mom would get her out, J6 would play with her, but there was a visible excitement when I arrived on the scene.  She loved me and found joy in my companionship as I did in hers, but she didn’t get to choose when she got that interaction.  That was dependent on me.

This last year, the last several months of her life.  I did not provide her the joy and companionship she deserved.  I have been so tied up with these projects that I have neglected, not only her, but many other very, VERY important things in my life, all with the precursor of; “just give me a little longer and things will get back to normal.”  “Give me a year” is a common promise that comes from my lips again and again.

These projects are important and my hope is that they will provide a future stability that will allow me to give more attention to my loved ones and hobbies.  But I think there is more I can do now to not allow them to overshadow everything else.

Now I’m not saying that I should be turned into the authorities for animal neglect.  Izzy had a great home, better than most.  What I am saying is that, again, I lost sight of the things I loved because of the focus I had put on my business.  It took the loss of, who I truly consider one of my best friends, Izzy, to realize that.  It has been a stiff reality check.

The collar I made for her from a length of chain now hangs from the mirror of my truck, along with a couple of other visual reminders of important pieces of my life.  I hope to not forget the gift she was to me during her life, but also the reminder she represented in death.

The final service I was able to preform for her was to wrap her in a covering and carry her from the clinic, lifeless, in my arms.  I dug the deep hole in the earth that would act as her final resting place as I considered the deep love I had for that pup.  She was quite simply the best.

I gave her one last pet as an attempt to transfer the feelings of love and appreciation I had for her and I lowered her limp, lifeless body into her grave to be covered by the dirt I had just shoveled out.

This would be the final resting place for that pup’s body, but I’m sure she’s now chasing shadows of birds and butterflies in a long grassy valley, splashing through a cool creek with a big grin on her snout.

Izzy, I’m sorry you didn’t get more of my love and attention over the last few months of your life.  But know that I am grateful for the faithful companionship you provided to me throughout your life.  My adventures just won’t be the same without you.  I will remember you with fondness and gratitude.

Love you pup!

IMG_3108

A Monster

IMG_3468It’s been too long since my last post.  If you know me personally then you know that I’ve been completely flooded with the various business aspects of my life.

My wife hosted a game night last week with some friends and one of the challenges posed was an attempt to keep three balloons in the air at one time.  Seems easy enough, right?  Well, give it a try before you pass judgment!

The sound to start was given and I tossed the first balloon in the air, followed by the second.  My confidence was high as the third left my hand until I noticed the first nearing the ground.

Within a matter of three or four swats I was leaping to and fro, flailing my hands at the balloons in a desperate attempt to keep any of them from touching the ground.  The game was over in an instant as a balloon settled to the ground, but not without huge physical exertions on my part.

And so my days have gone; with the number of balloons I am attempting to keep in the air, my exertions continue day after day with the hope of “in a year it will be better” always looming on the horizon.

I thought I would share a quick story that made me pause and think as I related my daughter’s challenges to my own.

Our poor daughter has been battling ear aches lately.  On Friday night her ear started hurting again.  My wife doctored it with some oils, and we got her to bed with a heat pack. She went to sleep easily and we felt like we were successful for another day.

A couple of hours later my wife and I readied ourselves for bed. I was looking forward to not only a somewhat early bedtime, but also the fact that I didn’t have an obligation in the morning to get me up early.

As is often the case, just as I started to doze off I decided I needed to roll over one more time….and that roll over triggered my mind to start working again. Pretty soon I realized that I was in full on work mode as my mind reeled with projects, problems, and worries. Trying to sleep was useless.

So I headed out in the living room, got a drink, and sat down in my recliner to watch some mindless videos on YouTube in an effort to ease my mind out of work mode and back into rest mode.

About an hour later I was just starting to feel tired when I heard “mommy, mommy” from the kids room. I hurried in so my wife could stay resting. J6 complained that her ear was hurting.  I reheated the heat pack and stroked her hair until she drifted off to sleep again.

I then went in and climbed back into my bed only to toss and turn for another 40 minutes before I began to drift.  Again I heard “mommy, mommy” coming from the kids room. So, Being the good husband that I am….I knew Melanie would want a chance to attend to her child, so I woke her up for her turn.

She was able to ease Joanna back to sleep quickly and come back to bed.

All too quickly our room was filled with light as morning came. Not having much time to spend together during the week, I seized the moment to snuggle up to my wife for a cuddle and an attempt to doze off for a bit longer.

In an effort to make up for the lost sleep from the night before, and the week before, I closed my eyes and began to drift just as I heard some sort of cry out in the hall. I laid there half awake, and half asleep waiting for the “mommy, mommy” we had heard the night before. But it didn’t come.

Suddenly, frantic screams from J6 came in rapid fire causing T2 to join in as well. This distressed cry from my offspring caused me to go into full on cave-man defender mode! I flung the covers off and leapt out of bed. My track running days of High School coursed through my veins as it only took me two strides to reach the bedroom door. Pausing briefly as I made the hallway I realized the screams were coming from the bathroom.

Again with lighting speed I reached the bathroom ready to take out and foe that was threatening my daughter.

As I reached the doorway the first thing I saw was Joanna backed up against the wall as stiff as a board with terror in her eyes. Her hands were clasped together and held tight up against her chest.

My heart pounded and I heaved in deep breaths. My eyes scanned the bathroom searching for the monster that I was about to battle.

Not seeing anything I frantically said, “what what!”

That’s when she revealed the location of the beast. I followed the line her pointing finger drew straight up to the window where I discovered…..a moth fluttering against the glass trying to escape…..

…..all I could do was drop to my knees and chuckle at the whole experience. I then went to the window, and pinched the moth delicately between my pointer finger and thumb, and disposed of it, folded in a square of toilet paper, into the garbage can.

Of course after that adrenaline rush, any attempt to try and go back  to sleep would have been futile.  Funny enough, I didn’t feel irritated or mad at the fact that I had been drawn out of bed early in the morning, after a restless night, by my daughter being afraid of a moth.  Instead I felt an increased love for my daughter.

As I stroked her hair during the night in an attempt to sooth her back to sleep, all I could think of was her health and well-being.  I was concerned that the ear ache may not be only an ear ache, but could be a symptom of something greater.  A mere side-effect of a storm that was brewing.

I ached for the pain she was having to try and sleep though and tried to will the pain to transfer from her body to mine as my hand ran along her beautiful red hair.

That morning all I could see up against the wall was an exhausted and startled little girl who was delirious because of the lack of sleep and the efforts that she had exerted fighting back at the infirmity she was battling.

Because of the circumstances leading up to that bathroom visit that morning, that little moth had been turned into a monster to her.  She’s not afraid of a moth.  She knows a moth can’t hurt her or cause her any harm.  But that morning, with her cup already brimming, the startle that moth introduced into her life was suddenly magnified into a monster.

The sayings go: “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, “The needle that broke the camel’s back”, or “finding a straw in a hay stack”…..or something like that.  These are all aimed at the idea of small and simple things becoming a stumbling block in our lives.

Why do we allow that to happen?  It seems like we should be able to easily identify that small and simple thing and handle it as such.

Last night we sat out on our deck enjoying an amazing light show the thunder storm east of us was providing.  “Sheet lighting”, or at least that’s what Google told us it was, danced through the clouds, lighting off in random locations across the horizon as rapidly as a strobe light.  It was brilliant to observe.

But one of the most peculiar things was that the lighting was not producing thunder.  Every once in a while you would hear the rumble that you have learned to anticipate whenever you see a flash of lightning.  But this beautiful display of power that was playing out in a 180 degree view across the horizon was hardly producing any sound at all.

It was just a super wide-screen show that was being played out in silence before us.  The turmoil that was boiling in the skies, frantically acting and reacting overhead, was somehow playing out without the thunderous rumbles it would normally produce.  We were watching in still, peaceful, silence as the storm played out and moved on.

My hope is that I can somehow learn to manage my schedule, stresses, and loads in a similar manner.  That the turmoil of the day and duties demanded of me can be managed in a way so as not to turn the moths into monsters.

The lightning storms will always come.  That’s just part of being a business owner.  There are just too many variables to ever aspire to be on top of it all, ready for anything that comes.  Those lightning storms will always happen no matter how organized or educated we think we are.  The trick is keeping the boom at bay.

The Struggle

img_3091.jpgMy wife never ceases to amaze me.  My children are so blessed to have her as their mother.  She is constantly attending to their needs and ever actively searching for the next learning opportunity, engaging activity, and skill developing experience she can find to help our children learn, grow, experience, and expand their understandings.

The most recent of these was the purchase of a butterfly kit.  It consisted of a few silk-weaving caterpillars in a small plastic container.  Over the coming weeks the caterpillars would weave their silk, living out their adolescent lives and eventually work their way up to the lid of the container where they would shed their outer skin as a chrysalis encasing worked it’s way up their bodies.

The transformation was exciting to watch and what it left us with was three hardened chrysalises where the caterpillars once were.  Two were hanging from the lid and one had fallen to the bottom of the container.  Already, the original count of caterpillars were down with our hope resting on these final three.

The kit included a pop-up netted enclosure for the chrysalises to be moved to as we awaited the exciting unavailing of the eventual butterflies.  The kit also included a small plastic standard where the lid of the container, chrysalises still attached, could be rested for easy viewing.

The new pop-up netting home was erected, the standard placed and the lid rested on top carefully as to ensure the two chrysalises’ safety.  A small potted flower that Mom had gotten for Mother’s Day was also inserted in to the new home and finally a small flower-looking dish, dripped with the kit included butterfly food, was placed in anticipation of the final emerging of butterflies.

All that was left now was to move the final chrysalis that had fallen to the floor.  Our concern was that it was no longer living and that becoming detached was a sign of that.  Of course, Momma wasn’t going to pick it up, so Daddy was summoned to orchestrate the move.

As I reached in, I was surprised at how hard the outer shell felt.  I gently gripped it between my pointer finger and thumb and lifted it out and rested it on the palm of my hand.  My wife then dabbed it with a cotton swab in an attempt to remove any silk that would interfere with the newly emerged butterfly.

J5 wanted to feel.  So I lowered my hand to her level and she reached out and gently dabbed the outer shell with her finger.  Suddenly the tail end of the chrysalis began flicking about wildly as a reaction to being prodded.  J5 and Momma shrieked and jumped back in surprise.  I will admit that I was quite startled as well, but luckily kept my wits about me and held my hand steady as the small chrysalis flicked and rolled about in the palm of my hand.  After the surprise of the movement settled, relief was expressed that we still had three soon-to-be butterflies resting peacefully in their new sanctuary.

Anticipation over the event built as the days pressed on.  They were checked on multiple times each day in the hopes that some new sign would appear indicating that the new butterflies would now emerge.

Finally Momma noticed one of the chrysalises turning darker and darker.  This meant that development was nearing it’s end and the butterfly would soon show itself.  Lunch was had and to her amazement at the next look there was a beautiful butterfly clinging to the netted side flicking it’s wings.

The second butterfly emerged the next day leaving only the chrysalis laying on the ground awaiting it’s turn.  Although we had seen it’s life manifested as it was moved over, there was still concern that laying on the ground it may not develop as easily as the others and that it may not make it through the transformation.

Another day passed and still only two butterflies flitted around the net-encased home.  Landing on flowers, pumping their wings, and sipping at the provided food.  They would need to be released soon so they could fly into the world, lay eggs, and beckon on the next generation.

Soon enough, that sure sign of the darkening chrysalis showed itself and silently, yet surely, the third and final butterfly emerged to join it’s comrades in adulthood.

The decision was made to release the butterflies this morning in our back yard.  It was cool out and a slow and steady breeze was blowing.  We brought the enclosure out and set it on a side table.  The top was zipped open and again Daddy was enlisted to help J5 encourage the butterflies on to her hand where it could be lifted out into the open air.

Daddy instructed J5 that she needed to be gentle.  That she couldn’t just grab and hold a butterfly because it could damage it’s fragile wings making it unable to fly.  She did a great job coaxing the first butterfly from my hand on to hers where she stood fixated on it’s small and beautifully colored wings.

img_3094.jpg

Then it suddenly flapped up and launched into the air.  We all oooed and aaawwwed as it fluttered low to the ground and then landed abruptly in the grass.  Then terror struck as Daniel the cat, already hunched down at the sight of the moving object, took three strides and pounced directly onto the small, fragile, butterfly.

Of course our disapproval was voiced and he turned his head to our direction with a look of “what!?!?!” in his eyes as we briskly made our way towards the scene.  Daniel was pushed off and away and the butterfly was carefully retrieved.

It’s wings were battered and an injury to it’s abdomen was evident.  But it stood erect on my hand and pumped it’s wings a time or two.  Not knowing of anything else that could be done for this butterfly, it was placed high on a leaf and left there to rest.

The cats were chased away as the second butterfly was lifted from it’s enclosure and out into the open air by J5.  It was observed closely and then taken over to another tree and deposited safely on a high leaf.

Finally the last butterfly was lifted out.  Again it was observed closely in an attempt to take in every detail.  As J5 was hemming and hawing over where to place it, it pumped up it’s wings and launched into the air.  We watched as it flew high above our home and headed towards a tall cottonwood tree.

We could see it attempt a landing, then fly back out, again attempt another landing, and finally it disappeared into the leafed branches.  We continued to watch intently, but the  butterfly was never seen again.

We made the rounds a final time, the injured butterfly still standing strong on it’s leaf and butterfly number 2 stood contently on it’s leaf.  We said goodbye and headed into our home to attend to the morning chores with the satisfaction of releasing those simple but beautiful butterflies into their new and wide open home.

As I drove into town and began my work day, my mind kept coming back to that little injured butterfly.  Would it make it?  Would it go on to be a strong mother, or productive father?  Would it get the chance to fly high up into the sky and experience the world it had just been thrust into?

Then I suddenly wondered if it was the butterfly that emerged from the chrysalis that had become detached and laid on the ground.  It had to fight through being a caterpillar and was the last to encase itself only to become detached and fall to the ground.  It was the last to be moved to it’s new home where it had to be cleaned of the silk mess it had fallen into.  It was then laid on the ground where, again, the last of it’s group, it had to fight it’s way out of it’s encasing on the ground rather than having the advantage of hanging from the lid.  Finally, feeling the freedom of flying through the air, it was pounced on by a predator and left to sit alone on a leaf to recover.  Wings damaged, injured and hurting, would it be able to fight on again?  Would it make it?  Was that it’s lot in life, to struggle on every single day?

When compared to the other two; one flying away strong and vibrant, ready to move on to the next step easily with the other sitting healthy and strong on a leaf, taking it’s time and choosing when it was ready to go; this butterfly seems to have drawn the short straw.

I reflected back on a show that my wife presented as part of this butterfly experience.  It stood out to me that a female butterfly will lay 300 eggs in its life.  Of those 300 eggs, only 1% will survive to adulthood.  Those odds just aren’t that great.  As I think on that 1%, I considered this damaged and broken butterfly.  It made it because it was willing to fight on even though it seemed to have constantly been dealt a bad hand.  Would that percentage be even less if some weren’t prepared to fight through the struggle?

With it’s damaged wings, it’s broken and bruised parts, it has a choice.  It can give up and let the odds win or it can fight on and prove the odds wrong.  All three butterflies may survive through their adulthood.  All three may fly far and wide, seeing a portion of the world in all it’s glory and wonder.  All three may fulfill their calling of becoming father’s or mother’s to a new generation of beautiful butterflies.  But of the three, who will gain the most satisfaction from those accomplishments?  The ones who had it easy, or the one that struggled and fought every step of the way?

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”

-Sigmund Freud

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

img_2896.jpg

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.

IMG_2774

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.