Category: Short Stories

Recognizing My Grandfather

James Russell Lee died on Christmas Eve 1986.

I lost my Grandfather.

His heart simply gave out… it was his time. https://thelegacybuilder.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/grandpascan.jpg

I would like to say that I accepted the fact that he was gone with reverence and understanding – but I can’t. His death came as a crushing blow to me. It was sudden and I was up in Michigan when I should have been at his side.

Only a few days before he was holding my first-born son in his hands… now my son would be cheated from knowing the man that made me proud of who I was.

Nathan is now 33 and understandably has no recollection of his great grandfather.

And yet I recognize my grandfather in Nathan.

Facial recognition usually plays an important role in our day-to-day ability to identify other people. Apps now mimic our neurological abilities, making it possible for your mobile phone or your tablet to unlock itself for you when it registers that it’s really you.

So, you may assume that Nathan resembles my grandfather.Nate

But Nathan shares no facial features with his great grandfather. Those who know my son often say that he favors his father. Me.

Nevertheless, Nathan regularly brings my grandfather to mind for me.

For instance, Nathan’s quirky sense of humor, his childlike affection for babies, his unwavering kindness, and the cheerful grit that he shows brings my grandfather to life right before my eyes.

I hear echoes of my grandfather’s spirit in the way that Nathan carries himself in this world.

I do not see my grandfather’s face, but I recognize him.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, your face is, well, just your face. You may be male or female. Old or young. You may trace your heritage to Asia or Africa or Europe. But if you genuinely want to follow Jesus, you hope that other people can feel the echo of his spirit in how you carry yourself in this world.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus put it this way: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

When we love, Jesus is making himself known through us.

To follow Jesus does involve seeking to make Jesus known to others by how we navigate this planet. But Jesus is also showing us that He dwells in those we register as strangers. Jesus urges his disciples to seek Him in the stranger. Every stranger. Even the unlikely and off-putting ones.

Let’s be honeshttps://thelegacybuilder.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/last-pic-scan0001.jpgt. Seeing Christ in the stranger—especially in the hard-to-love stranger—can be a challenge. It can be easy to judge someone or to write them off.

But Jesus urges us to do this instead: Look for a familiar face. His face. Especially in the most unlikely people.

As I see my grandfather in Nathan, my prayer is that I see Jesus in others as well.

But more importantly, may others see and recognize Jesus in me.

Drawing Circles In the Dirt – A Tribute to Dr. Larry Haag

I’ve written many times about my travels when I was a student at Liberty University.  I traveled all over America and to South America and all through the country of Brazil.  I traveled to Africa and the country of South Africa.

As I listened to church this week, I had a memory of something that had happened years ago.  It flooded my mind with such clarity and vividness that it took me by surprise.  It was if I was right back there and nothing had happened in the 35 plus Image may contain: 14 people, including Scott Davis, people smilingyears since then.

The memory was of a church service I was in while traveling with the ministry team when I was a student at Liberty.  We would come to a church and teach and sing about our responsibility to reach the world for Christ.  Now for sure, I had been in hundreds of these same type of services.  Why this specific one stood out and was flooding my memory all these years later was a surprise.

We had a church service somewhere in North Carolina.  I don’t remember the town, but what stands out about this service at this church was I was having problems with the sound system.  I was the sound man for the group.  I had everything set up correctly the night before and tested it but for some reason, I was hearing a local radio station through the speakers.  I was doing everything I could think to do, but I couldn’t stop it from happening.  

Our team leader was Dr. Larry Haag, he was teaching at Liberty after Soundboard Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 4315025 ...coming back from the mission field in Brazil and he would travel with the team each weekend.

I was so frustrated because the sound was not working properly. Dr. Haag was not shaken by such things. He smiled and finally stood up and said, “We are going to do it old school today. I have done more than my fair share of preaching without a microphone.” 

I kept trying to fix the problem until Dr. Haag looked at me and said, “David, it’s all good. Nothing is going stop the message getting out today, so relax and take the morning off and listen to what God has laid on my heart.”

I smiled and sat down at the soundboard and listened. What happened next is something that has impacted me since that day.

Dr. Haag said the following, “I‘ve always done a small thing when I go to a new place. It’s simple really, but it’s a way for me to remember what I’m here for and who I am.”

“In my mind or if possible, I draw a small circle in the dirt.”

Then I pray. “Lord, begin a revival in this place and begin in this circle.” Then I step into the circle and pray, “And Lord, begin with me.”

“This simple exercise does two important things for me. It reminds me that my presence anywhere is a chance for God to work in that place. And, it’s also a reminder that any place I am I will touch other lives. How I interact with them can draw them to the Lord, to his love, or turn them away. I pray that my little exercise will allow God to work in that place and in me.”

“So, let me invite you to do my little exercise. Draw a circle in the dirt and then step in it.”

Image may contain: 1 person

“You are in this place, in this time, encountering people for eternal purposes… never forget that. If a simple reminder like this helps you I invite you to join me as I draw circles in the dirt.”

Dr. Haag’s words were simple… yet so profound.

Sometimes it is the simple lessons that have the biggest impact.  I almost missed the message by being distracted by a sound system that didn’t work properly.

That Sunday was one of the few services where I got up from my seat at the soundboard and made my way down front to the alter. I had to make a few things right.

Sometimes you get so busy doing “God’s work” that you forget that it begins with you being in the right place.

When I think back to a message that I heard in 1983, I think of the message and illustration that has stuck with me all these years. When I think about it, I remember some messages that I heard way back in Sunday School than the ones I have heard as an adult.

Dr. Haag passed acircleway a few years ago and he is in heaven. I never really told him about the impact he had on my life before he passed. But this I do know… God welcomed Dr. Haag into heaven with the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

May my life forever be influenced by Dr. Haag and his wonderful message… “I draw a small circle in the dirt. and I say, Lord, begin a revival in this place and begin in this circle. I then step into the circle and pray, “And Lord, begin with me.”

May it forever be true in your life as it is in mine.

 

When AM Radio was King

My best friend, Bryan Blakely was always a step ahead of me whenThe Monkees - The Monkees - Greatest Hits - Amazon.com Music it came to music. Even at the age of eight or nine, he liked his music to be harder. We called it “hard rock” and I wasn’t a fan. At that time, I still liked the sappy love/pop songs of the era. The Archie’s, “Sugar, Sugar” and “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe was about as “hard” as I liked my music.  As a matter of fact, I knew the music catalog of The Monkee’s better than that of The Beatles.

For my eighth birthday in 1969, my mom gave me a portable AM transistor radio. I was thrilled. Everyone I knew wanted one. My radio was six inches by three inches or so, ran on a 9-volt battery, came with a brown leather cFirst Gen. Regency tr1 transistor radio w original leather case great conditiOnarrying case, and most important, a white bakelite single earphone. I wish I could remember the brand. There were days when I carried my radio with me everywhere I went outside of school hours, and that earphone was in my ear from the time I got up until I left for school, and after I arrived home from school until I fell asleep at night.

So many times, when we think of our childhood memories, we think of friends, family and the events that surrounded us. It might have been playing baseball, swimming at the lake, going to Cedar Point or just hanging out with your friends in the neighborhood.

For me, many of my childhood memories were filled with sound. When I hear these “sounds” today, I am instantly taken back in my mind to the 1960s and 70s. I can remember memories and I can go back to where I was when I first heard it. I can smell the chlorine in Teagarden’s pool or the smell the freshly mowed grass of the field all my friends and I played on. These special sounds… were the sounds of Motown Music.

In those days, long before FM Stereo, the only radio station that was of importance was CKLW out of Detroit / Windsor, Ontario, Canada. “The BIG 8” as it was called When CKLW Was America and Canada's Greatest Rock & Roll Radio ...back then. It was a loud, glitzy noise-making radio. Everything was shouted — even the news. The 50,000-watt AM radio giant spewed rock and roll and hyped-news across 28 states and mid-Canada. It broadcast from across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, but it was Detroit’s station. I will never forget the tagline that the DJ’s would say, “C-K-L-W, The Motor Cit-eeeee.” The capital of the music world was not Nashville, nor was it Los Angeles. Back then, it was Detroit, Michigan.

The style… the sound… the hits.

It was Motown. It was everywhere, and it was ours.

I have clear memories of long summer nights spent listening to music. I carry that Motown sound in my musical tastes even to this day. All I do is put some music on from that era, close my eyes, and suddenly I am drawn back to the times when all of us listened to music on our dime-store AM transistor radios.

We had not yet experienced the stereo sound of FM channels. That would George "Keys" Izquierdo's Music Book 2015 - Main Menucome in the coming years, but back then, we were content to have our musical tastes defined by AM radio stations.  There were only a handful of AM stations that you could tune in to during the day and most of those stations went off the air when the sun went down. When we would tire of CKLW, we would try to get channels that you couldn’t tune in during the day and if the weather was right and the wind blew in the right direction, sometimes you could bring in other stations. If you had a transistor radio, you knew that there was a special niche in getting your favorite station to come in. Sometimes you had to hold it just at the right angle and maybe above your head to hear your favorite channel.

One summer day, Bryan and I were riding our bikes around the neighborhood when he said that we should put in our earphone and tune into the same station. That way we could listen to music as we rode around. It was brilliant! I had no idea why we had not thought of it before. So, that is what we did. We put in our earphone and soon all our buddies were doing the same thing.

All of us riding our bikes around town with the mono earphone blasting in our ear. If the music sounded tinny on the main speaker of the radio, the headphone Earphone with 6 ft. Cord Classic Radio Designearpiece was much worse, but we felt cool and we would listen to the same music as we rode around town. It was like living our own version of a music video.

One day, I guess the sheer fear of the potential “gang” violence coming from a group of adolescent bicycle riders wearing an earphone in town caught the attention of the police of our small town. The “gang” of five from our neighborhood was riding in the unfamiliar territory of Erie and Portage Streets. As far as we were concerned, it could have been as far away as Toledo to us. The corner of Erie and Portage was not a place where we would frequent. But there was a feeling of strength in numbers and all five us rode with no fear of attack from a rival “gang.”

We were just passing time, trying to escape the boredom of a hot sunny day. Our parents would have been upset at us for being so far from our block. I am not sure exactly why we were over there; it was probably because of a girl. That was usually the motivation for much of the things we would do. We were riding in circles and just hanging out on a street corner that wasn’t familiar to us.

No mischief, nor ill will towards anyone.

Then we saw the police car coming down the street towardspolicecar_1970 – Sixth Amendment Center us. All of us, for some reason, knew that they were coming to ask us what we were doing so far away from our own turf.

Back then, our small town had just a few police officers. Most kids only knew the name of the chief and one other officer. That officer was Larry St. Clair. Larry seemed to know everyone and always had the reputation of being “cool” and fair whenever he had to deal with something.

I looked at Bryan and said, “I hope it’s Larry St. Clair.”

It wasn’t.

It was the police chief, Bill Paulsen.

Now by all accounts, Bill Paulsen was a wonderful man, a good man. Someone who dedicated his entire life to protecting the small-town of Oak Harbor, Ohio. I’m sure he knew all of us by name and knew we were not going to be the cause of any oak harbor ohio | eBaytrouble. However, this was the late 1960s, and there was a certain aptitude for standing up against authority figures. So, we fought the immediate urge to flee and sat defiantly on the banana seats of our stingray bikes, waiting to hear what “the man” had to say.

He had a job to do and he pulled up next to us and said, “What’s going on boys?”

Boys!?! Did he just call us boys? While the fact remains that we were, in fact, “boys,” we were at the point that anything that came out of his mouth we would have found something wrong with it. Even though we thought ourselves to be bad and rebellious, we would never show outward disrespect.

We simply responded, “nutin” to his question.

“What brings you to this side of town?” he asked inquisitively.

Bryan responded with clarity, “Nothing… just riding our bikes.”

Chief Paulsen paused for a moment to look at us and make a mental picture of who was lined up in our “gang.”

“Well, boys, behave yourself,” he replied as he started to pull away.

He suddenly stopped his car and said that maybe riding around town with our earphone in one ear wasn’t safe, so it was a good idea to put it away while we were riding our bikes.

Bryan defiantly rolled his eyes as Chief Paulsen continued his safety lecture. The rest of us all disconnected the wire, wrapped it around the radio and stuffed it in our pockets. Bryan was the last to comply.

Chief Paulsen waited until all of us put our radios away. Bryan waited all of 10 seconds after the Chief drove away to put his back on. He was always a rebel when Pin on facebookit came to those sorts of things. We quickly followed his lead. We pulled our radios from our pockets and one-by-one, turned the AM radio on and put the earphone back in our ear. We all looked each other in the eye like we were the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. We knew that the police never bothered us on our own turf. We gave each other a head nod, never spoke a word and took off again on our bicycle journey. Our unspoken quest was to ride across town, back to the confines of the safe zone of our neighborhood without getting caught by the “fuzz” or Chief Paulsen.

In reality, Chief Paulsen wasn’t chasing us. He probably never gave us a second thought after he pulled his car away. But, fueled by our active imagination and an attempt to create some drama to kill the boredom, we now had a quest and a story we would talk about for years.

Each of us was on our own to find any way possible to get back to “home” base.

Stingray Paintings | Fine Art AmericaSuddenly, we split up and each one of us was zipping down separate alleys and sidewalks… riding our bikes through backyards and boulevards, all in the quest to get home.

Bryan was the first to arrive back at our home base in the alley between Walnut and Washington Streets. I was the second gang member to get there and we waited patiently for the others to return. It was like waiting for soldiers to return from the battlefield, hoping they would report to the command center, but knowing it did not end well for them if they didn’t show up soon.

I remember whooping and hollering as a group when everyone made it back. We defied “the man” and we weren’t just boys on bikes that could be bossed around. We leapt off our bikes and were jumping around like we just won the World Series. We patted each other on the back, gave each other hugs and looked each other in the eye with the acknowledgment that we were forever tied together by this single act Soccer team children celebrate Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfileof defiance.

No longer boys… but men.

We were hardcore.

We were a gang.

We were rebels… rebels without a clue.

That was how that summer progressed. We were no longer bound to the alley between Walnut and Washington Streets. We were gaining some independence and our music was changing too.

On one of the many sleepovers that summer, we were down in Bryan’s basement discussing music. We would always have music playing and we would sometimes act as if we were the artist singing. This night we were talking about the song, “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and The Shondells. Bryan was trying to explain to me how the song was made and all the benefits of the sound of stereo music.

As we grew older, Bryan would be the one to introduce me to stereo FM music. He was the first of my friends to have a record player that played stereo music and had an FM radio receiver attached to it. Suddenly, music was about listening to albums. Aerosmith Logo Download VectorI was introduced to bands like Aerosmith, KISS, The Edgar Winter Group, The Doobie Brothers, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk, Bad Company and Deep Purple. In front of Bryan, I always told him I liked the music he was exposing me to, but deep down when I would turn on my transistor radio, I would always turn on CKLW and listen to Motown and the sappy pop songs on AM radio.

I am a child of a time when AM radio was king.

No offense to anyone reading this… but if you never listened to AM radio on a transistor radio you probably will not understand the significance of this period of history. It’s not your fault, you just don’t know that you were cheated out of a great time period in music history.

For me, it was always wrapped up in the music. Saturday mornings were spent watching cartoons and the afternoons were spent watching American Bandstand so you could see the latest dance moves and possibly your favorite singer or band.

It was the decade of The Beatles, Dylan, Aretha, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and Zeppelin. But that’s not all it was. The 1960s also included The Monkee’s, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Jackson Five. While my sister was The Temptations - streaming tv show onlineenamored with Donnie Osmond and my brother was into Steppenwolf, I was all about The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder just to name a few.

It was a single-oriented era—a startlingly inventive period following the initial explosion of rock‘n’roll but before the album became dominant—when entire new genres seemed to bubble up every few months. The 1960s marked a time when pop music became more than a teenage fad. Music was turning into an important art form as it sound tracked the civil rights movement, the hippie heyday, and the Vietnam War.

I’ve wondered what it must look like to the younger generations who didn’t live through the 60s. Are they awe-struck by the moon landing? Is teetering on the verge of nuclear war just the start of a good sci-fi movie? Are the assassinations of political and human right leaders just names and dates to memorize for a history exam? Were the hippies, flower power, Woodstock, the Vietnam War, women’s lib, civil rights, the space race, the Cold War, the British Invasion, TANG, miniskirts, Charles Chips, bell bottoms, lava lamps, tie dyed t-shirts, Green Stamps, Evel evel-knievel-logo-image.jpg 500×440 pixels | Logo images, Logos ...Knievel – and who could forget the Manson murders – just evidence of a random decade? I think not. The list could go on and on.

It’s inevitable that all of us would see when AM radio was king through our own personal lens. The 60’s and 70’s were like an epic blockbuster that involved music, clothes, politics, social unrest and social change. There really hasn’t been anything like it since. So many historic events happened in that period.

But that doesn’t mean that I want to go back.

History has a knack for showing the flaws of a generation that planted the seeds to produce it.

That’s what all historians do; they look back and see things that were planted and the results of which may not be seen for years. While I love to look back and remember, it’s important that we don’t forget that many of the seeds that were planted all those years ago are the reasons we now see major political, social, and cultural changes in our society. We wonder how this generation of young people can be the way they are, and truth be told it is because of the seeds that were planted in the 60’s and 70’s.

We have made the mistake of ignoring the seeds that we planted.  In many ways we don’t like the results, yet we are the ones to blame. Our children pay the price of not having the freedom we had to play outside and have the run of the town. We now dare not let our young children out of our sight for fear that they may one day have their picture on a milk carton. We thought we had it under control, yet we act as if the change itself remains unexpected, invisible, even unimaginable to most people. We should never forget how surprisingly fast these changes can happen.

Nevertheless, looking back at the seeds planted when AM radio was king is very important, because it can help us pay more attention to seeds that are growing Logopond - Logo, Brand & Identity Inspiration (AM Radio)underground right now. Of course, we can’t predict which seeds will connect with which other ones to create significant change, and certainly not when or how it will happen. But history can teach us to watch more closely and optimistically for signs of change that might be coming surprisingly soon.

The seeds of change. I can fully appreciate how malleable history is and how its perspective changes with time. I imagine 40 years of perspective on any decade we’ve lived through would be interesting.  Forty years from now, I’m confident that the Obama and Trump years will also look much different through the lens of history. I really regret that I probably won’t be around to read it.

I enjoy U.S. History more than most, but in the years that have passed, I’ve forgotten more names and dates than I remember. Our history is complicated and imperfect. There are facets of it I don’t fully understand.

It was all filtered by growing up in a small town. It was easy to find people who sneeringly complained about how trapped they felt there as a teenager. I was no different from most kids growing up there… I began making plans of escape early on, but I still got to experience the life of living in a small town when AM radio was king.

Oak Harbor held on to those days longer than most and that makes me smile even after all these years. But once the seeds of change are planted it is hard to ever go back to the way it used to be.

The history that was built for me was wrapped up in what we had when AM radio was king. It’s gone now, and we will never get it back. We have future generations that will never fully understand what it was like back in those days.

That makes me incredibly sad and I will forever miss the days when A.M. radio was king.

A Hard Promise… Life Isn’t Fair

There seems to be a lot of talk these days about what is fair, and what is not.

Some of the 99% seem to believe life has treated them unfairly, and some of the 1% percent feel life hasn’t treated them fairly enough.

My questions are these: What is fair? Is life fair? Should life be fair?

I’ll frame the debate, and you decide…

We clearly have no choice about how we come into this world, we have little choice early in life, but as we grow older choices abound. I have long believed that while we have no Image result for this is faircontrol over the beginning of our life, the overwhelming majority of us have the ability to influence the outcomes we attain in life.

Fair is a state of mind, and most often, an unhealthy state of mind.

In business, in politics, and in life, most of us are beneficiaries of the outcomes we have contributed to.

Our position in life cannot, or at least should not, be blamed on our parents, our teachers, our pastors, our government, or our society – it’s largely based on the choices we make, and the attitudes we adopt.

People have overcome poverty, drug addiction, incarceration, abuse, divorce, mental illness, victimization, and virtually every challenge known to man. Life is full of Image result for I blame my parentsexamples of the uneducated, the mentally and physically challenged, people born into war-torn impoverished backgrounds, who could have complained about life being unfair, but who instead chose a different path – they chose to overcome the odds and to leave the world better than they found it. Regardless of the challenges they faced, they had the character to choose contribution over complaint.

I don’t dispute that challenges exist. I don’t even dispute that many have an uphill battle due to the severity of the challenges they face. What I vehemently dispute is attempting to regulate, adjudicate, or legislate fairness somehow solves the world’s problems.

Mandates don’t create fairness, but people’s desire and determination can work around or overcome most life challenges.

It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon, plastic spoon, or no spoon at all.

It’s not the circumstances by which you come into this world, but what you make of them once you arrive that matter.

From a leadership perspective, it’s a leader’s obligation to do the right thing, regardless of whether or not it’s perceived as the fair thing.

Fair blends the norm, and in doing so, it limits, inhibits, stifles, and restricts, all under the guise of balance and equality.

I believe fair only exists as a rationalization or justification.

The following 11 points came from a commencement speech widely attributed to Bill Gates entitled Rules for Life. While many dispute it was proffered by Bill Gates or not, I tend to agree with the hypothesis:

Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-presImage result for Wait till you get a bossident of a company unless you earn it.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your parents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Here’s the thing – we all face challenges, and life treats us all unfairly.

We all make regrettable choices, and we all suffer from things thrust upon us due to little Image result for It's not your parents faultif any fault of our own. The greatest adversity life can throw at you simply affords you an opportunity to make changes, improve, and get better.

Fair is not an objective term – it is a matter of perspective filtered by a subjective assessment. My subjective assessment is that fair is an entitlement concept manufactured to appease those who somehow feel slighted.

However, you try to justify the efforts to make it so doesn’t ever change the hard promise that…

Life isn’t fair.

No, life’s not fair.

And in a cruel twist, our wish to see it as fair keeps us from making it so.

 

 

Being Real in a Fake Society

Can I be honest with you?

The very last thing I want to do right now is write an inspirational post. 

I’m tired and I’m a little lost.

I could lie to you.

I could put on a happy face and borrow from the inspiration I’ve felt at another time. I could pull out a book I love and repeat some version of what someone else has said. I could paint you a rainbow and hide the part of me I don’t want to give voice to. I could suppress what I’m feeling and protect what you think of me.

Or I could be real.

I know… there is a cost of being real in a fake society.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sure wish I could see the cracks in the people around me – especially those who are out in front, claiming to have the answers we need. Sometimes I think the best thing they could do is admit that taking their own advice isn’t always easy. 

How refreshing it would be to see a break in their relentless smiles for a moment. I think it would help me more to know that they struggle sometimes than to hear their “3 Steps for Getting Over Your Hurdle”.

So here I am – facing my own hurdle. I find myself unemployed for the first time since I was 16. (No… I wasn’t fired, my company sold out the business and closed the plant) I worked a 40-hour a week job at 16. I was hired into H.J. Heinz as a fulltime employee.  That isn’t even legal today.  I went to school my Jr and Sr year working a job from 11:00 PM to 7:00 AM. That is a fact about me.

After 42 years of working a full-time job, and the last 23 years working at a career I loved and being very successful has ended. I know I’ll find a job soon and this all will pass. But I am trying to be honest with myself and be transparent to others.

I don’t have all the answers.    

So, I am sailing in uncharted waters. Some days there isn’t much wind and I am relaxed just sailing on calm waters. Other days it seems as if the wind will never Image result for sailing in rough watersstop and I get these great big gusts and my boat leans with the wind and the water gets rough. Today is one of those days. There is a part of me that is imagining the world is flat and I’ll sail off the edge.

I hide it well. At least I think I do. Most times no one is any wiser to the storm that is raging just below the surface of my smile.

I know the right things to think and say. I know what I’m supposed to do. I understand what’s good for me. I know that God has His hands on all of this. I keep reminding myself of this truth.

But the truth is, right now, the anxiety will just take over and feelings of failure creep in.  

Now, I’m not one to embrace a funk for long. I’ll get past this quickly – probably even by the time I post this. And because I know that, I was really tempted to lie to you and to hide from you. But if I share the best of me with you, if I ask you to rally around my words, if I call you to boldness and authenticity, then it feels right to be bold and authentic in return… even when I don’t want to be.

So, what’s the lesson here? Well… maybe there doesn’t need to be one. 

Maybe it’s enough just to drop the facade with one another, to admit that we don’t always want to practice what we preach.

Life is harder sometimes than we let on. 

It gets especially tough if you’re not sure where all of this will end up.

Sometimes, anxiety and pressure will shut me down.

When it does, I remember that life could be worse. 

And when I need to, I go see my grandsons… and I find my smile again.

It doesn’t get more real than that.

What You Leave Behind

As I write this, 691,197 different people have visited my blog since I published my first article over 10 years ago.

In additioImage result for What You Leave Behindn, my articles have been read well over a million times.

I am amazed by that… and I am humbled.

I had no idea that it would go that way.  I was only looking for a way to express my thoughts and feelings.

I have had many years where writing came so easy, but I also have had those times where I struggled to write. Over those years, I always had the motivation to write. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and just get up and make my way to my keyboard and get the thoughts that were in my head out. Words would  just flow out of my fingers and I found a deep satisfaction in the process and the release of my thoughts.

In those times when I struggled to put my thoughts down, it wasn’t because of a lack of desire to write. Over those brief seasons of “writer’s block” my desire was there… I just couldn’t find a way to get the words out.  I would start to think it was time to shut down my website and find something else to fill the void. As a matter of fact, I did just that a few times. I even posted that I was done writing and would have weeks of silence and then out of the blue the words would be there and once again it was easy to write.

Publication2I even woke up one day and had the crazy notion to write a book. I did just that. On April 12, 2018, My book “Footprints in a Small Town” was published.  I honestly believed that between a few close friends and family, I would sell about 10 copies (5 copies which would have been purchased by my mother). I was wrong about that. It has sold far beyond any dream I may have had for it. One year later, while sales have tapered off, it continues to sell and I am still amazed at the response. Thank you to all who have played along and read my book. I am forever grateful.

Again, I am amazed by that… and I am humbled.

However, for the past 4 – 6 months, I have been going thorough a time where I am struggling with finding the words to write.  As I have said, I have gone through seasons like this before. 

This time it is different.

For the first time in over 10 years, I have lost the drive and desire to write.

I am not saying I will never write again. I will probably post something next week.  

Simply put… I have grown in good ways and God has helped me change my perspective on a few things that I would not have learned if I had not been writing.

Hopefully, the footprints that I  continue to leave will point others in the right direction and towards Jesus Christ.

Please do not interpret this change as anything other than what it is.  It has been a wonderful, amazing time in my life and I have no bitterness, nor regret of anything I have done with my writings.

I will continue on my journey and my hope and prayer is that one day I will be free to share more of my stories and be able to regain the desire to write once again.

As I have said from the very start of this blog… 

  • Thank you to all who have commented on my posts… 95% of your comments never got posted (sorry about that… I think).
  • Thank you to those that played along and allowed me to pick up some of the broken pieces of my life and share a portion of my story with you. 

Always remember that your footprints leave a legacy for the world to see… may God be honored by what you leave behind.

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A Valentine Story

I always thought I would marry a girl from Oak Harbor.

It was something I always accepted. I never thought it would work out any other way. I never really looked elsewhere. I always assumed that I would find her, and we would marry and leave Oak Harbor for a while, but we would come back home to raise our kids. Our children would walk the same halls as we did in R.C. Waters Elementary School, they would play on the same little league teams and ultimately, they would be nurtured in the same environment as we were.

That wouldn’t happen because that plan would change on an April day in 1976. TheImage result for heart girl of my dreams would cross my path and from the moment I first laid eyes on her, I knew I had found my heart’s desire. It took me a while to convince her to have the same interest in me, but I wore her down until she went out with me. I guess I am lucky that my “persistence” didn’t get me served with a restraining order. She has been my wife for many years and I am still a very lucky man.

But it didn’t start out that way. My interest in girls started early and as the story goes, more than once, my mom had to retrieve me and my tricycle from a girl’s house a block away. I don’t remember doing this, but apparently, I would escape as often as I could.

One of the things that characterized and shaped my budding social life in the days of elementary school was the concept of “liking” a girl. It was a topic of great interest to me and it always took up more of my attention than it ever should have. Notice that I say it took up more of my time, but I do not say anything about it taking up any time for the girls I was interested in. That’s because most of the girls had no idea that I “liked’ them. Many times, I was too shy or too scared to say Image result for going steadyanything to them. It would cause my stuttering to go out of control and my words would be a jumbled mess as they spilled from my mouth. So, I just never said a word.

However, each school year would start the same way. Within the first few days of school starting, the conversations at recess or in the lunch line, revolved around “who liked who” and who was “going steady” with whom. I always found the term, “going steady” a funny expression when it came to the pursuit of a relationship between two kids. They don’t use the term “going steady” anymore. What exactly did it mean? Considering the filter of the 1960s, it meant that you “liked” someone and were “exclusive” in who you liked. There was not, in fact, anything at all proprietary in who you liked. It required no acknowledgment or even the knowledge of the person being liked, and any number of boys would like the same girl without antagonism. Most boys did like the same girl. It only became serious when you would cross the line and “go steady” for a few weeks.

While I had several “going steady” relationships throughout my elementary years, I have had two… yes, I said “two” relationships where the term “going steady” applied but I never had any direct verbal conversation between me and the other girl. Communication between the two of us took place only on handwritten notes. At no time during our torrid two-week relationship did we ever speak to each other. Maybe we would smile at each other and maybe you would get real bold a give her a head nod and have brief eye contact for a moment in time. The only physical contact between a couple was made during recess playing “tag.” You could always tell the couples by who they chased during recess. It was innocent and harmless, but back in those days it seemed important and we took it seriously.Image result for love note folded

The notes of communication passed through the hands of trustworthy friends that would not embarrass you. The note would pass through no less than two boys and three girls as it made its way to the girl I was going “steady” with. The same path of communication would be directed back to me. Handwritten notes, folded in various ways, that would make even the professional origamist (a person who performs origami) proud. The more intricate the folds of the note indicated the level of “like” someone had for you. The tell-tale indicator of problems on the horizon was paying attention to the folds of the note that was passed on to you. A simple bi-fold note was a sure sign of a “Dear John” letter. I must admit that I received more than my fair share of bi-fold notes. I would be heartbroken for a few days and then my attention would drift to someone else and I would “like” them for a while. I was always waiting for the opportunity to find out from the rumor mill at recess or the lunch line if there was any interest from the other girl to “go steady.”

Usually, there wasn’t any interest.

I had mentioned earlier that many of the boys could “like” the same girl and there was never any doubt about which girl was the central figure of my elementary years. It was “Church Street.”  Now, before I confuse you with the name Church Church Street signStreet, let me clarify that I call her that name because I have no intention of ever saying her real name so that I don’t embarrass her after all these years. It is just a term I use to reference her existence and I will never confirm that she ever lived on “Church Street.” She has lived all her adult years without the knowledge or the reality of having me “like” her, she surely doesn’t need the humiliation of me giving her name out and writing about it all these years later.

In my elementary years, the girl who drew the most attention was Church Street. It seemed obvious that she was oblivious to all the boys who liked her. However, it seemed to me that there was one boy that every now and then, would draw her attention. He was one of the few people who I must admit to having envied in my life. I always kept the secret from everyone, even friends, of the name of the one I really liked. I suppose I did that from not wanting to be a person entertaining false hopes, and the uncertainty as to what might be required of me should Church Street like me back. I don’t know what I would have done had she showed any interest in me. I don’t believe I would have been completely comfortable being around her. She was more mature and self-assured than I was at the time. I never made public my interest, I secretly joined most of the other boys in asserting the wishful title of “liking” Church Street.

The question of what “liking” a girl meant to me is not an easy one to answer now. I can’t remember ever having a strong crush on Church Street. I would experience “crushes” in my life and that isn’t what I felt towards her. I just really thought she was sharp and that she set the bar of what I “liked” in a girl. She was always nice to everyone and she always seemed so sure of herself and everyone wanted to be like her. At that time, I viewed her as the standard of what I wanted in a girlfriend. That standard would remain in place until I met Pam, who would one day become my wife. My wife would re-set the bar and she maintains that ideal to this very day. However, back then I was just trying to figure this whole boy-girl thing out. I knew boys liked girls and vice versa and that there was some silliness involved in the pairings, and that eventually one day, they would kiss and of course get married.

That was probably the depth of what I thought about “liking” a girl. I knew that my friends and I were fascinated by girls but none of us had any clue as to why. All of Image result for Stingray bike 1970this is worth more contemplation, but there was a prestige that went with being liked by the prettier, higher status girls. And at the top of that list was Church Street.

Church Street lived in a house that I would find an excuse to ride my bike by every now and then. I would peddle my bike by just to see if she was there. If she was out on her porch, I would ride by and never give any indication that I even saw her. I would never dare to stop and talk to her. I would ride the loop and head back home to excitedly tell Bryan or one of my other friends that I saw her out on her porch. Mind you, she never acknowledged me or said anything to me as I would pass by her house, but for a few years, it was something that would make a dull day exciting.

During the summer, she spent time at Teagarden’s pool and that was one of the reasons I made a point to go there every chance I could. Even if I didn’t want to swim, I would go just because there was the probability that she might be there.

I must finally admit that I also called her constantly on the phone. Note: I did not say I talked to her on the phone. I’m merely pointing out the fact that I called her.

One school year, as Valentine’s Day approached, I was already dreading the day when Valentine cards would be distributed in class. My mom had already bought the kind that were full of silly puns like: “You’re swell” or “I like Bee-ing Your Image result for old valentine card you're swellFriend” with a bee pictured on the card. All of them wishing the other person a Happy Valentine’s Day. Usually, the cards were so generic that you could give them to any boy or girl without much thought. But there was never enough of them to cover the whole class, so I would sit at the kitchen table trying to select the right card for each classmate. You put them in piles. One pile for the boys in the class, another for the girls. However, trying to pick out the card to give to the girl you secretly “liked” was like trying to figure out the equation of nuclear fusion. You wanted to find the perfect card, not too forward but something that left no doubt of your interest.

That year, I was convinced that I only had cards for the girls. I struggled to find cards to give to the boys and it was even harder to find appropriate cards for the girls. I did not want to send the wrong message to a girl. It’s my duty to say that a big part of my reluctance to giving such cards was my dread of the ridicule and teasing I might receive from having given cards to girls that might read into the note on the card. Anyway, there was that fear of ridicule which went beyond the already strong desire not to be the odd boy with a stuttering problem. I dreaded hearing that one boy, who would love to embarrass me, say to the class “Hey look! David gave a card with ‘I like you’ on it to _____!” My solution was to only give cards out to the boys. Safe, generic and no fear of ridicule cards. My mother, on the other hand, made sure that I made one out to every class member.

So, there I sat at the kitchen table, filtering each card and trying to come up with a viable solution to my fears. My mom had somehow arrived at the notion that I should give every girl in the class (not to hurt any of their feelings for having been left out, always one of her prime concerns) a Valentine card. I don’t know how my mother could have been so out of touch with the reality of elementary grade school life as to think that was something for a boy to do. The charm of the idea was so great for her that she would not yield to my objections, and I had to accept this unfortunate whim of hers.

The fateful day of our class Valentine party arrived. Full of dread, I dutifully took Image result for Home made valentine boxmy cards to school and inserted them into the slots of our homemade Valentine boxes. The absurd thing about this Valentine card episode is that, despite my struggle against having to give cards to the girls, I had begun to hope that it might turn out to be a blessing in disguise regarding Church Street. Here was the opportunity, though one I would never have chosen, to let her subtlety know my interest in her. Certainly, her card was chosen carefully. It was the one I had truly taken care of, while striving to make it special. Surely hers was the one for which the words in some sense spoke the truth. I had no doubt that the card was beautiful. How could she not be struck by that beauty?

What a thrill it would be if she looked over at me and smiled with pleasure after admiring my card! I could picture her complimenting me on it as she thanked me for having given it to her. Perhaps my card would so impress her that its message would be met with favor. Perhaps she would even start to “like” me. What a boost it would be to my status in the class when her new fondness for me became known!

I watched intently as she went through the pile of Valentine cards on her desk, casually examining each one. Anxiety, anticipation, and hope mounted in me as she came to mine—and instantly she set it aside! She discarded my card with scarcely a glance! It was hand-picked just for her and she treated it as unworthy of a second’s contemplation. It just was a trivial message from an insignificant boy.

Now to be fair… she never stopped and read one card more than the other. They were all met with the same reaction. It was just that card was mine and I had so much hope that she would acknowledge it with a smile or a head nod.

I don’t know whether she had been aware that I was watching. There was no look my way. I’m sure she never gave it a second thought or had any idea of the feeling of rejection her indifference had caused. But to me, it was a rejection, and nothing is worse for a man’s ego than being rejected by a woman, even when the “man” and “woman” in question are only eleven-years-old.

Nothing had really changed, no one was any wiser to the event, except for the split second it took to dash my unwarranted hopes. The acid of disappointment became so concentrated that it etched the memory deep in my mind. The memory of Church Street’s indifference to my carefully chosen card and its hidden message of “like” is still there, lurking in the back confines of my mind, only to return every Valentine’s Day.

As I grew older, she and I would indeed talk. I am sure she knew of my interest and “liking” her but we never brought the subject up. We would talk when we would walk home from school and sometimes on the phone. I stopped making the “no talk” phone calls and if she had any clue it was me who was making those calls, she never indicated that she knew.

Now… I would like to point out that Church Street and I did “go out” one time. My Image result for poseidon adventurefamily took her and me to the movies. “The Poseidon Adventure” was playing at the theatre in Port Clinton and I asked if she wanted to go and she did. Nothing like a disaster movie of a ship capsizing with mass casualties to set the mood for a successful romantic date.

In the coming years, Church Street and I would drift in different directions and eventually we stopped talking.  I would find “love” the moment I laid eyes on the girl who would one-day become my wife.

I have no idea where Church Street is today, but I am grateful for these memories that are strong enough to place me back in my elementary years.

But this truth remains… I will never confirm, nor deny that she was my first kiss.

A gentleman never tells.

How John Lennon Saved Christmas for Me

OK… alright… I know Christmas is over. It was almost three weeks ago.

I have taken a break from writing during the holidays. I have been trying to finish my second book and have it published in the spring of 2019, but I have run into a bad case of writer’s block. I am struggling with motivation. That isn’t uncommon, I experienced it last year.

So why am I still writing about Christmas?

While I struggle to finish my book, I just have not been able to shake the thoughts and feelings that have overtaken me. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am not a huge fan of Christmas.

Well… let me clarify.

I love Christmas. I love the reason we celebrate it. I loathe the decorations and I am (much to my wife’s and sister-in-law’s disdain) not a fan of Christmas music or movies.  The music is too much and too overwhelming. At least for me.

Just about the time my Scrooge started kicking in and my to-list was growing, I desperately tried to hide my scrooge face from my wife. (which I am never successful at doing). Trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, stockings, holly, cookies, gifts. I needed to get into the spirit.

Then I turned on the radio and this happened… christmas

“And so, this is Christmas…”

John Lennon’s unmistakable voice came on. I listened, feeling the annual stirring. It occurred to me I’ve heard “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” every December since I was 11.

It took me back to the Christmas, my family celebrated in our Walnut Street home in Oak Harbor, Ohio. We had a tiny decorated tree with strings of lights and tinsel.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later, I heard that song played the night John Lennon was assassinated. I was out of high school and was lost in a world that had moved on without me. I was working at HJ Heinz and all of my friends had left for college. I had no plan, no dream, no clue where I was headed, and I definitely had no idea where I would end up. I sat in the dark in my room and listened to this song, among others that John Lennon had made and cried until I had no more tears.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Then a few years after that I would listen to this song as I drove back from Michigan, with my son peacefully sleeping in his car seat. I was driving home to my grandfather’s funeral. He died on Christmas Eve and I wasn’t there. That was over 30 years ago… and I am still bitter about it.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Memories of two little boys dancing around, waiting for Santa. They woke me at 5:45 a.m., breathless with excitement, jumping on my bed.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

Years later… opening presents with our blended family of my two boys and the two girls that are as much a part of me as my son’s. My wife made sure Christmas was extra special for our family.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

More years pass and now it is just my wife and me on Christmas morning. Instead of waking at 5:45 a.m., we sleep in. Those little boys are now men. The girls are now married and are making Christmas memories with their husband’s. Two grandsons’ now wake their parents with dreams of presents dancing in their heads.

“And so, this is Christmas…”

2018… Christmas is still Christmas, but I have a son that hasn’t talked to his father in almost three years. I reach out to silence.  

 “And what have you done…”

This is the second lyric to the song… Lennon seems to be asking what we did with these 365 days. Did we try to help? Did we do our best? Did we learn? Did we grow? I hope I encouraged and loved and was there. I hoped I gave a smile and kind words when needed. I hope I was a good husband, a good grandfather, a good son, a good brother, and friend. More importantly, was I a good servant to my savior Jesus Christ?

Still, so many do much more. I see nurses and teachers who dedicate their lives to others. I have family and friends who spend their time helping the needy, children, and those who are sick. They inspire me to do better.

 “Another year over…”

I am not who I was a few years ago. I have changed. Regret is hard.

And yet good things happened. My sister-in-law beat Ovarian Cancer. She remains cancer free. The year started in doubt about that and we are grateful that she has been given a gift from God. My son found the woman he will marry in 2019. My wife still takes good care of me. She took a chance on re-inventing herself at her job and she has excelled. She still teaches (34 years now) and I love her more than life itself. My grandsons bring me more joy than I could ever imagine. I published my first book… and I reluctantly will now say I am a writer.  The sun still shines. And I still love my morning cup of coffee. Life goes on.

“A new one just begun…”

I pray we turn a corner, although it’s hard to be hopeful. The country is divided. Another mass killing takes place and my stomach drops. My generation didn’t grow up like this nor did my parents’. My heart goes out to young people who must navigate this world.

And yet, judging by my children and their friends I know they’ll be okay. This group is brave, strong, and resilient. They’ll not only make it through but will someday make a difference.

2019 will bring change to me. Uncertain things at my place of employment and new opportunities. Maybe the path to reconciliation with my son will become clearer… whatever the year brings… I am grateful, and I am ready for what God has in store for me and my wife.

“And so Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…”

Politicians / People work to anger us, focusing on differences, giving reasons to hate and fear each other. Regardless of your position… everyone is guilty.

 “Let’s hope it’s a good one… without any fear”

John Lennon died 38 years ago. I wondered how would the globe spin without him? Who would lead the cause for peace and non-violence? It seemed impossible he was gone. Yet the years sped by and here we are.

I still miss him.

I did not agree with everything that John Lennon did or say, but I can’t help wondering… what would Lennon say about the world today?

“War is over. If you want it…”

The song ends. And I feel right again.

Whatever petty Yuletide problems I have… don’t matter.

Now I know… John Lennon didn’t save Christmas for me.

Jesus Christ is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  However, this song by John Lennon has grounded me. It reminds me this holiday is more than tinsel and evergreens. Christmas is about time passing. It’s about life and love and family. Christmas is about finding joy where you can. Christmas is about hope.

Thank you, John Lennon.  

You did it.

You saved Christmas (wink) for me once again.

 

Mistakes and Grace

There was once upon a long time ago, I thought of myself as being artistic.

I had recently won a first-place ribbon at the Ottawa County Fair for my age group in “Pencil Drawing”.  I had never won first place in anything in my life and in aImage result for first place ribbon short time, I was convinced that this was my “talent” and I would make a career out being an artist.

I remember clearly rushing home from our local five-n-dime store with a sketch artists notebook. It was a notebook with blank pages, no lines just an empty page waiting to be filled with my drawings. I was sure that this was the first of many notebooks that I would have in my collection that would show I was a talented artist.

I still have that notebook.

It is filled with two whole pages of my doodles and drawings.

That’s right… two whole pages.

You see… it did not take long for me to see that what I had drawn in art class at school was just a fluke and I really had no talent at drawing at all. What is more important, I really had no desire to become an “artist.” Truth be told, I was 12 and I still had not given up on my real dream of becoming a professional baseball player.

That doesn’t mean that I did not learn a lesson or two from my short-lived career as a budding artist.

Related imageI learned this all-important lesson… at the very moment you touch a pencil to paper, you’re committed. You’ve made a mark that you cannot completely erase. The line may disappear, but the paper is smudged, it isn’t perfect anymore. I cannot tell you how many crumpled-up false starts sat next to my desk.

I simply stopped drawing and left that to people who were talented. 

When I reached high school, I started to take art class again.  Not because of my talent, but because of the cute girls that were in the class.

Linda Cherry was my art teacher. I learned a lot from her.  She taught in such a way to teach me much more than art. She used illustrations that have stuck with me my whole life.

At the beginning of the year she handed out another artist sketchbook and we were required to draw a picture to turn in at the end of each week. As you can assume, my book of hand-drawn pictures was horrific. Mrs. Cherry was always encouraging. She always gave constructive critiques and one day after she handed back my dreadful pencil drawing, she wrote this note in the corner of my paper…

“Learn to incorporate your mistakes into the picture as you’re drawing it. Arriving at a completed image is not about erasing your mistakes. It’s about continuing to draw in such a way that you make something meaningful from those mistakes.”

At the time, I did not pay attention to the real wisdom that is found in such a statement.

Only years later, as I would stumble across this old sketch notebook and read some of Mrs. Cherry’s comments did such a profound statement hit me like a ton of bricks.

God does not toss us out like all those pieces of paper I threw out when I made a mistake in my drawings. God sees the mistake. He sees the imperfection. If I allow Him to do so, He works with and incorporates those imperfections to paint a beautiful picture in my life.   

Image result for mistakes and graceWhen we cooperate with grace, living resembles the process of drawing. The beauty, goodness, wholeness, and even holiness of our lives incorporate and even emerge from the mistakes we have made and even the disfiguring marks left on our lives by the mistakes that others have made.

Jesus came to show us who God really is.

Jesus did not come to make sinners pay and to hand out gold stars to the world’s spiritual superstars. Jesus came to mend a shattered world. He came to offer forgiveness and salvation.

Each day we are drafting our messy life. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve inherited or suffered from the mistakes of others. And as it turns out, the picture we are drawing is more than a self-portrait and God joins us in the midst of this grand drawing project.

In Jesus, we see that God does not toss our mistakes into a cosmic waste bin.

Instead, God says, “Let’s see what we can make of this together. I think it can be something beautiful.”

That’s what grace looks like.

The Best Was Yet To Come

A friend tagged me in a post on Facebook and my face stared in disbelief as I read the comments.

“Hi everyone! It’s that time! That’s right: it’s been 40 years since we graduated from Oak Harbor high school!!!  Does anyone know if they are planning a reunion in the summer of 2019?”

First of all, that can’t possibly be correct.

Forty years? (wasn’t it just a few years ago?)

Secondly… I did not graduate from my hometown high school. Why would they ask me?

My guess is there might be some confusion.

Some confusion might be from the fact that it has indeed been 40 years… memories are the first to go.

The other is I wrote about a book about my memories of growing up in my hometown. I tell stories of being a student at Oak Harbor high school. Obviously, Image result for Oak Harbor High Schoolthis friend hasn’t read my book because I document the reasons why I did not graduate with my class.

Either way… I don’t know if they are having a reunion. I am not invited.

But this FACEBOOK post caused me to pause and to start counting on my fingers and toes as to how many years it really had been. I don’t normally keep track of such things.

Has it really been forty years since I received my diploma on that June day? Could I remember a single point of the valedictorian speech that would tell me to chase my dreams with gusto? Had it really been that long since I sat with that mortar board affixed upon my huge head and oversized nose? I weighed all of 130 lbs. at 6’2”.  45 of those pounds were attributed to my large nose.  It took another 15 years for my body to catch up to the size of my nose and now it has far exceeded the proper balance of nose size to body size ratio.

I don’t remember a single thing about my graduation ceremony. Oh… I remember the day, but I was too consumed with heartache.

What I remember about my graduation is the fact that my girlfriend broke up with me 3 days before it took place and I was devastated. It was over for my 3-year relationship with the girl of my dreams. My 17-year-old life was over, and it would never be the same.

At least that was what I thought at the time.

As I sat there trying to squeeze out any memory of that graduation ceremony, I immediately went into shock when I realized that I could no longer count the years Image result for 1979 yearbookI’d been out of school on my fingers and toes. I dug my senior yearbook out of the recesses of my attic. I dusted it off and paged through memories I’d long forgotten: Friday night games spent with my friends on the field and on the court. Long bus rides coming home from a victorious game or the sullen woes of dealing with a loss. All made right when I would spend time with my cheerleader girlfriend. Memories of walking the halls and lunchroom dramas. Tests, quizzes, and term papers. Not to mention the memory of conversations with my favorite teacher.

When I came to my senior portrait, I looked at that skinny young man with the light blue three-piece suit. I so wish he knew what I know now.

As I reminisced, I thought of all of the things I’ve learned along the way that I really wish I’d known ahead of time. Of course, I wouldn’t be where I am today without surviving the disco era phase but, still, there are a few things I would like to have known to make the next 40 years of my life a little easier to sojourn.

As I sat there with my graduation gown on and the graduation cap mashed upon my bulb-ish head I would like to have known these things… (in no particular order).

  1. Travel, while your standards are low. Youth hostels are a lot less glamorous at 57.
  2. Pack up your tiny, barely running PINTO and drive it until it craps out. See as much of the country you can and eat peanut butter and jelly along the way.Image result for john lennon
  3. John Lennon gets murdered, as does Marvin Gaye, so prepare yourself for that. Michael Jackson dies. And so, does Prince. And Tom Petty. So, enjoy them while you can.
  4. Your hair will turn grey, but it will stay where it is, unlike some of your friends, so enjoy it and quit worrying about it. You’re good.
  5. Speaking of hair… it will start growing in the oddest places. It will start to grow out of your ears and you need to keep that stuff under control. They will invent products that will make it easier. Hang on, help is coming.
  6. Enjoy the freedom of being lost on a country road with your best friend as you sing Tom Petty lyrics at the top of your lungs. Technology will make it nearly impossible to be as in the moment as you are right now.
  7. You will not recognize your eyebrows after you turn 40. Seriously, be prepared.
  8. The grunge phase doesn’t last long. I promise.
  9. When your favorite shows end, don’t panic. Turns out, networks “reboot” shows thirty years later and it’s like they’ve never left.
  10. You will discover in the coming years when life settles scores that you will be friends with everyone from your high school class, even the cool kids. And, 20 years later, you’ll talk with the people that ignored you and you’ll all wonder why you weren’t friends in high school.
  11. You will never get over the loss of your first love. But that heartache will lead you the one who will love you forever. As in the fact that she has been your wife now for many years. In the end, it all works out for you because twenty years after she breaks up with you before this graduation day… you will be reunited, and the rest is history.
  12. One day, you will realize you can’t remember the name of the kid who annoyed you in biology class. And you’ll text (yes… you will learn what that is and how to do it) your best friend to ask if he remembers and he’ll have forgotten, too.
  13. High school is good. College is better. Those that you thought were going to be so successful never are.
  14. Wear your faith a little closer to the top. Don’t hide your faith. Own it. Let people see that Christ lives in you. I know you hide it now… but you’ll regret that in the coming years.
  15. You’ll get a VCR but soon no one will use it anymore and this will come as a Image result for vcrshock to you. Also, don’t say “tape a show” to your kids because they will laugh at you.
  16. Cherish the friends you make in high school and do what you can to keep in touch. On the days when life is barely recognizable, they will help you find the guy who wore a light blue leisure suit to the dance. Be prepared, cause your kids they will continue to laugh much when they remind you just how hideous that suit really was.
  17. Be very grateful social media doesn’t exist. Your wild nights with friends won’t come back to haunt you at a job interview.
  18. Two words: Ear hair. Yes, I know, this is the second time I referenced this. It’s devastating. I don’t know what to say, either.
  19. High school football games don’t change. When you attend one in the coming years, you’ll swear you can hear your friends giggling next to you and if you close your eyes, you can see your home team playing on the gridiron. You will come to the realization that at the end of the day… it really didn’t matter whether you played or not. No one made it the NFL.
  20. Relax… you’ll become a teacher, soon after that, you will become a high school principal and you will be exactly what you always wanted to be.
  21. You’ll prove the naysayers wrong. Those that told you that you would not amount to anything will be wrong and you’ll achieve dreams far beyond those encouraged by this valedictorian speech.
  22. Prepare yourself. Read more about the things that excite you, question everything. Learn how to become a better speaker, writer, storyteller, son, friend, leader, boss, and father. Again, be prepared… you’ll discover that you will fail in all of these endeavors, but you can recover it by striving to become better today than yesterday.
  23. Clear communication is a key to personal and professional success. PrPublication2actice writing every day. Write about your day. The show you have seen, your feelings, fears and dreams, love and the perfect world. Make it interesting. One day, you’ll be an author.
  24. Don’t try to be important. It’s not about you. Your ego will demand attention, ignore it. Serve anyone without expecting anything in return. Amazing things will happen once you shift your mindset and start enjoying helping others. You will see how paying it forward comes back in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.
  25. Life is short. And sweet. And it really does go by too fast. As cliché as it sounds, one day, you’ll wake up and realize that 40 years have passed. And you’ll find yourself writing a list like this.

As I wrote these down, I realize that I could write a book about these lessons I wish I would have known when I was sitting on that chair on graduation day.

Truth is… some things matter. Most things don’t.

I would like to have responded “Yes” to attending my 40th high school reunion this summer, I remembered the teachers, the friends, and the memories. I smile at the antics on Fall afternoons, driving cars and chasing my girlfriend. I reminisced about dances, classes I loved and even those from hell. But there isn’t a 40th reunion in my future.

Sure… there are things I hated about it. It wasn’t perfect and there are things I know now I wish I would never have learned. Sometimes life experience sucks. Those things are appropriate for another book somewhere down the line.

Every now and then I wish I could go back… not to change a single thing but to feel the freedom of being young again and not know what I know now.

I know that my life is the sum of all my experiences. The same as it is for you.

I remember being that 17-year-old young man and wondered what would happen to him.  

Mostly, though, I remember myself wearing that light blue leisure suit and hoping that the best was yet to come….

And it was.

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