Category: Small Town America

Silence Speaks When Words Can’t

It’s been over two years and I still have so much that I have wanted to speak out about.  So much “stuff” I wanted to vent over.  As hard as it might seem for some of you that know me… I didn’t say or write a word.   I said nothing at all. I stopped commenting, I stopped trying to get other people to stop causing division among my friends and family.   

I’m a little sorry about that.  I’m a little not.  Silence Speaks

Silence speaks when words can’t.

I am at a place where my usual fly-off-at-the-mouth (or fingertip) doesn’t seem so hard to control anymore.

I am so happy that I have not posted on Facebook my feelings about politics and the current condition of our nation or my feelings about the team up north. I am much better prepared to ease the thoughts that go through my mind.  I realize that my words are just that… my words.  I needed to take the time off.  I am no longer “triggered” to spew my opinion at every post I disagree with.

I needed to be silent about those issues… I needed to push the keyboard away when I was tempted to comment.

However, I am still discontented, wearied by a heaviness in my soul. I am done with the noise, the squabbling, the violence, the hate.

I look back to a time when social media was a place of pleasantries, pictures of our children and grandchildren, posts of sharing music we love, or the recipe to make a loaf of freshly baked bread.

There is no value to social media anymore. No one is changed by the things we post.

That doesn’t stop people from posting things just to stir the pot. 

I have read where people say they are trying to inspire thought. HImage result for social media sucksowever, when it comes to social media you are just reaching friends that either already know and agree with you or you are a post away from losing that friend because they disagree with you.

What I have discovered is that social media is used like weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t matter who or how many are affected by the carnage of the hate… the only thing that matters is their opinion and their ability to say it.

In the meantime, family members are caught in the crossfire.  I know that members of my own family have “blocked me”, “unfollowed” or “unfriended” me on social media.

Is it worth it?

I am keenly aware that by writing this post, I am adding to the noise. I see the irony… writing about the evils of social media by posting on social media.

Where and when might I draw a line in the dirt, claiming my side of thinking? I’m wondering if there is any worth in drawing that line at all?

Image result for opinion over politicsRecently, a local FACEBOOK group that focused on news about my hometown was overtaken by a few people who posted multiple times a day political memes and articles.  Pro-Trump, Anti-Trump… attacks on the Repubicans and attacks on the Democrats. It was all there.

What followed was hate speech towards each other.  People I had known my whole life started spewing hate towards other friends, it quickly got really out of control. Everyone was posting and no one was listening. I am sure that friendships were damaged… some to the point of no return.

All of these people posting things to a group of 6,000 members as if their opinion would change the direction of the nation. The only affect it had was ruining lifelong friendships, causing family members to not talk and in-fighting in our small-town.

It hurts me to think that people are so “triggered” that their opinion is more important than family and friends.

When the line is drawn, we stand toe to toe, speak our thoughts, never thinking to listen. In truth, should we not be listening before we utter a word? Before we draw that proverbial, decisive, divisive line?

When I turn to the wisdom in the book of Proverbs, much is said about the tongue.

There is more hope for the fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. Proverbs 29:29

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap  the consequences. Proverbs 18:21

Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

This past week, spirits were crushed, lives diminished, freedoms obliterated. Why? I believe in the heat of anger, in the heat of being right, in the heat of the-only-sin-that-we-never-forgive-in-each-other-is-a-difference-in-opinion-quote-1drawing lines in the dirt, not one person thought to listen before they spoke or posted their hate-filled speech.

My experience tells me that most people who call for tolerance are the least tolerant people I know.

Friendships lost… family in-fighting. For what? Your opinion? What makes me wrong and you right? Is it worth it?

As in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson… “The only sin that we never forgive in each other is a difference of opinion.”

I have a friend on FACEBOOK that is a pastor. No one locally mind you, just someone who used to live in my hometown. He posts daily about his disdain and hate for Trump. Always stirrring the pot. For what? To cause division of the people of from my hometown? Doesn’t he see that the influence does not change a thing in the big picture but causes so much destruction in the little. For me… the little (in this example) is more important than the big picture.

I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am against free-speech. We all have the same rights to say what what we feel.  And yes, you have the right to express your opinion. However, is it worth it when it will cost you friendshps and possibly family members?

Words can speak life and words can speak death. Before we choose to speak, andImage result for just because you can doesn't mean you should jump into the fray of divisiveness, wouldn’t we all be better off if we listened before we speak? Or at least realize the consequences before we speak?

Because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Because you feel 10-foot tall and bullet proof behind a keyboard, just remember the consequences of it  when you post it.

If we are standing on the side of Christ, our words should be life-giving.  If we are standing on the side of Christ, we speak truth with love. Sometimes that means we speak more truth and love by our actions and not mere words. At the end of the day, I want to be standing on the side of Christ.

Silence speaks louder than words. Listening speaks louder than words.

 

 

 

 

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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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Good Ol’ Days

Who remembers the good ol’ days?

You know way back when teenagers could ride in the back of a pickup truck, jump off the bridge into the river for an afternoon of swimming, or you could spend the Image result for The good ol daysday doing whatever you wanted.

Remember the good ol’ days when you didn’t have social media? You did not have to read everybody’s slightest gripe posted in your face on your facebook page. If you had a problem in your life, nobody needed to know. Nobody wanted to hear. And, by God, if an eight-year-old wanted to ride his bike around the town, he could do it.

I remember very few days in my adulthood where I could do “whatever” I wanted.  Responsibilities and bills to be paid controlled a lot of what I was able to do.

Like I said, the good ol’ days!

And, sure, these might not be the golden days you have in mind, or what most people think about while sipping lemonade on the front porch. But, the fact is, it’s easy to cherry-pick our memories and then let selective recall convince us that life was so much rosier in another time.

I know I am guilty of this. I definitely refine my memories by what “good” was going on in my life. It’s the curse of getting older. At least it can be.

But, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a hard curse to fight, especially when today’s world is so complicated and challenging to navigate.

It’s easy to get lost in nostalgic moments—open the photo album and rewind to simpler days.

And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, we all want to spend a little Image result for The town of Mayberrymore time in our own Mayberry—Floyd’s for a haircut and Aunt Bee’s for a piece of pie.

Most of us have our own version of simpler days—a bubble-like period of time when life was easy-going and untroubled. We had no responsibilities, mortgages or debt, along with healthy bodies and sharp minds. Sunscreen was optional. Good hearing was a given. You could do flips off the diving board at Teagarten’s pool whenever you felt like it.

Pick your own rose field. We all have one, even if it’s buried somewhere deep in the confines of our memories.

I might choose to reflect when I was in college, or perhaps that time when I drove down to Florida from Ohio on a whim when my girlfriend (now my wife) broke up with me.… I was alone in my 1976 Pinto with just an AM Radio to keep me company. It was what I needed at the time and it was wonderful way to heal from heartbreak. I might choose to remember the times when I traveled to Brazil and Africa. Swam in the Amazon River and the Indian Ocean all before I was 21.

Truth be told… there are many sweet spots I could reflect upon.

But, if I’m being completely honest, and had to choose just one particular time where my mind travels back most often, it would be when I was nine-years old.

It would be the time before my brother was killed. Long before I would face the awkward phase of my teenage years. Before the loss of my hearing. Before the time when I would lose three of my best friends all in the span of one year. Life before my body became compromised, and suddenly everything became more complicated. Long before I would discover my weaknesses and failures.

I know I’m not alone. Most people who have had struggles in their lives. (and isn’t that all of us?)  We can’t help but let our minds occasionally play the “life before” game. If you’re lucky, you’ll realize how exhausting and useless a game that is.

Cliché aside, time does indeed march on. And I have learned that I either march with it or I don’t. Don’t get me wrong; memory lane is a beautiful place to visit. It warms the heart and helps us appreciate all the blessings that have come our way. But, stay there too long, and that sweet nostalgia turns into a dissatisfaction that comes when you don’t want to be where you are, or believe that being where you are is a consolation prize—good, but not quite the real thing.

Image result for Runner UpUnfortunately, this is what age has become for so many—the “runner up” life, a less relevant and not quite as meaningful existence as the one you had. Life before and life after. And go ahead and compound this with physical difficulties and diminishing energy, and it is no wonder we spend so much of our “dream time” back in another day.

But, I’ll say it again, not being where you are takes so much more energy than being where you are. Living in the past (or the future) sucks the life force right out of you. It takes away all the energy you need to live and enjoy today.

In our 24-7, always-on, lightning fast society, we have access to the world at our fingertips. Unfortunately, this comes at the high cost of actually having the world at our fingertips, and with it, every possible bit of bad news imaginable. We don’t just have our own problems and heartaches to deal with, we have 7 billion other people to think about. It’s an impossible load to handle.

And while the world may feel close and connected, it still takes an hour to get to the closest mall. And for all the social connections we may think we’re having online, people are more isolated and lonely than ever before. Get yourself a bowl of ice cream and do a Google search on how many people are dying alone.

And, of course, we all know how dangerous the world has become. Who wouldn’t wish for a life in which we didn’t have to lock the doors, shut the windows, or tell the kids not to talk to strangers? Or if we didn’t have to be suspicious of packages left on the street. Or have to worry if a porch pirate was going to steal the one off your porch. We wouldn’t have to Image result for andy griffith aunt bea show mayberryworry about the growing divisions in the country and the world. Hostility. Paranoia. Anxiety. It’s a crazy time to be alive. It’s definitely not Mayberry. But, guess what? Mayberry wasn’t Mayberry. Fun fact: In real life… Aunt Bee wasn’t warm and cuddly. She didn’t even like Andy in real life. And who doesn’t like Andy?

Life might have been simpler in another time, but only if you kept your eyes shut and stayed in your small bubble. It’s a lot easier to find bliss when you’re living on an island in the South Pacific. It’s not so easy when the guy on TV is shouting at you and telling you that YOU are the problem, or when someone gets ten-foot tall and bulletproof on your Facebook page blaming you for all the country’s problems because you support a political candidate that they don’t.

Name calling and threats.

Throw in wildfires, hurricanes, flooded coastlines, and senseless shootings, and you’d be crazy not to want to escape to another time.

But, before you purchaseImage result for island in the philippines that island in the Pacific, you should probably know there’s a storm heading that way. And, even more important, you should know there is a huge silver lining to the world we live in. And, no, this is not a “look at the bright side of life and keep a stiff upper chin” silver lining. You can’t just put a bumper sticker on the back of your car and will yourself to happier days. You have to get your hands dirty and do the work.

This silver lining is simple, although it’s a hard pill to swallow.

It is this:

The crazier, screwed up and more challenging the world you live in, the more opportunity there is to discover who you are and what you’re made of.

But you have to be willing.  You have to step outside your comfort zone. Step away from the past and embrace the future.

In a world filled with such heartache, anxiety, and pain, you have three choices: You can sink, tread water and stay afloat, or swim to higher ground.

Most of us are strong enough (or have enough support systems) to stay afloat, to find a way to keep going and get by. It’s called survival. But, for those who aim to live beyond survival, the alternative is higher ground, where the view is spectacular and life-altering. Of course, this takes conscious effort.

Again… we have to be willing to swim to higher ground.

It calls for us to be stronger than we thought possible—kinder, gentler, more compassionate, forgiving, and loving. In other words, it calls for us to live at the top of our game—balanced, mindful, and awake. Always searching.

Quit being so offended at the drop of a hat.

It is a life that requires us to become fierce warriors committed to a better world.

To live in today’s world, we must be part Mother Theresa, part Gandhi, part Terminator, and part Monty Python.

Wise and humble, fearless and bold, and with eyes to see the humor and absurdity of it all.

To live in today’s world, we have to be immune to the toxic poisons that surround us. We have to choose to live above the noise—to turn off what doesn’t matter and tune into what does.

To live in today’s world, we must honor our past with gratitude, plan for our future with purpose, but live for today.

In the Now.0000056_happiness-is-here-and-now-woman

Visit the past… but don’t stay there.

Live your remining life with…

No judgment. No resistance. Not better or worse. Perfect, just as it is.

To live in today’s world, we have to transcend the madness and illogical world of mind and matter, so that we may pursue who we really are.

And who we really are is wise beyond space and years, and always aware that the good ol’ days are right where they always have been…

Here and Now.

 

Where There Is

I entered my first-grade class with my head held high.

After a summer that seemed to last an eternity, I could finally say I was officially out of kindergarten and moving into grade school!

Image result for first last day of first gradeI would have my very own desk to sit at this year. No more nap time, I would have real recess outside on the playground and with the big kids!

Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

My mom helped me locate my very own desk. It wasn’t that hard. I recognized my name taped to the top of it. David L.

I wondered why my name always had the letter “L” attached to it at school. I was the only David in my kindergarten class, I also was the only David in my first-grade classroom too. Image result for H

Other kids got cool letters, like the girl sitting beside me, Jackie H.

H was a great letter, it was fun to write. Always reminded me of goal posts. 

“L” was so boring, I’d had been stuck with it for 6 years in a row now.

“Bye David!” My mom said kissing me on the top of my head. I was too busy digging into my paper bag to get my pencil-case so I could put my three brand new pencils in the pencil spot on my desk. I barely looked up to say goodbye. My mom talked to the teacher at her desk for a few minutes before leaving to go home.

It was the last, first day of school that I would ever experience my mom taking me to school.

After my pencils were in place, I sat in awe, taking in the entire classroom. It was so amazing! The walls were covered in pictures and words and charts! I loved charts. I wondered what they were for. I recognized a calendar Traditional Manuscript Alphabet Line By North Star Teacher Resourcewith birthday cakes all over it in random spots. On top of the blackboard was an alphabet. I already knew that A was for apple. There was a corner filled with colorful books. I couldn’t wait to look at them. Beside the books were at least three board games I’d never played before, and one I had. I loved board games!

At the door, I spotted my friend from kindergarten, with his mom. His eyes were red and puffy. I wondered what he could possibly be crying about on the first day of first grade. His mom said something to him, then gave him a kiss goodbye. As she turned to leave, he latched onto her left leg and yelled, “mama, nooo!!!”

My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe he was doing this in front of everyone! Crying might have been okay in kindergarten, but now we were in first grade! We couldn’t be crying and causing a scene. That was unacceptable.

Now truth be told… I was on the verge of jumping up from my desk screaming and running over, crying to my mom. Fear, embarrassment and the unknown kept me Image result for Old elementary schoolroomglued to my seat. At that time in my life, I would not do a thing that would draw attention to myself. That would change as I grew older, but for now, I was trying my best to become a wallflower and not say a word to anyone. I learned real early in life that it would always be better to blend in and not make a scene.

The teacher had heard his outburst and was headed across the room right toward him! Uh oh. He was in trouble now.

But to my complete surprise, the teacher nor his mother seemed upset with him. Nobody was yelling at him to get off the floor, or to stop making a spectacle of himself. Nobody seemed mad at all. That confused me. The teacher knelt, whispered something in his ear, and suddenly he looked reassured. He stopped sobbing, stood up and nodded. She flashed him her perfect smile and took him by the hand to his seat. I figured she must be the nicest person in the whole entire world.

“Good morning boys and girls,” she finally greeted us, standing in the middle of the room.

“Good morning Mrs. Provonsha,” we chorused.

She started explaining all the wonderful things that would happen. This year, we would learn how to read! I needed to learn how to read so badly. My brother and Image result for Dick and Janesister knew how to read, and they would always tease me about it.

Dick and Jane would soon become part of my everyday life. I would learn to read about them and their dog, Spot.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize that they were the BIG things.

She then walked over to a corner of the room and picked up a bowl and held it up Image result for Look back and see the were BIg thingsfor us to see. There was a real fish in there!! A goldfish! He would be our class goldfish for the whole year! Every week, one student would have the responsibility to feed the goldfish! I couldn’t wait until it was my turn. It would be like having a pet. (I don’t remember if it lived the whole year…lol)

I decided pretty quickly that Mrs. Provonsha had the best job ever.

She got to be in charge of creating and organizing all these amazing activities and systems. She got to decide everything. She got to listen to all of our stories. She had access to all the books and games, and she could probably take them home whenever she wanted! She could do whatever she wanted.

Although I was already pretty impressed, it wasn’t until later that day that I realized she probably had unlimited access to endless amounts of school supplies; pencils, markers, crayons, maybe even pens! Upon that realization was when I started to think that I wanted to be a teacher too when I grew up.

Reminiscing now, well over 50 years ago, I would have made a scene so that my mom knew then how much she was my world. I will forever be an unapologetic momma’s boy. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to tell her that over the years. She is 87 now and I still talk about the past with her and how much she means to me.

I did not know it at the time, but this would be the last time my mom ever took me to school on the first day.

These things took place right there in my small hometown.

When people ask me where I am from… I proudly say from “there”.

I know where “there” is.

I am forever grateful for growing up “there”.

It’s important to know that “there” made up who I was, who I would become and who I am today.

Do you know where your “there” is?

 

Lessons Learned by Losing

I’ve had the fortune of coaching a few teams in my life.

I coached boy’s varsity for a few years, but coaching girls basketball was my favorite.
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Some teams were very talented… some were not. At the end of my head-coaching career, I had a win / loss record of 75-38.  There was a span in my coaching career where I had 28 straight regular season wins.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it?

It isn’t.   

I also experienced losing 14 straight games too. The experience of the victories are much more fun, but 25 years after I retired as a head coach, I have appreciated and applied the lessons I learned by losing much more. 

I don’t claim to be an expert. More than once I’ve thought I built a winner and had to go back and re-evaluate. Here’s what I know – I love building teams and I love coaching them once they’re built.

My favorite team ever was the one that taught me the most about leadership. 

I’d love to tell you more about them.

After I graduated from high school, I did not have any money to go to college and I was going to sit out a year before I started school. The girl’s varsity head coaching position was going to become vacant. The current head coach was moving toImage result for Girls Varsity Basketball Michigan and the school was going to be left without a head coach.  I was available and the principal of the school asked me if I could take the team for that season.

I accepted.

No formal experience… I was only a year or so older than the girls I was coaching.

What were they thinking? What was I thinking? I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The first portion of the year the girls struggled. I knew there was talent but they just never found a rhythm. We were losing. Something had to change.

First of all… this particular group never played as a team. 

It started with me. I had to come up with a plan. I decided to meet with each player and tell them their “roll” on the team. Too many of them wanted to the “high-scorer” and that was not possible. I told them very clearly what I expected from them. I then evaluated what kind of athletes we had and realized most of the girls also played soccer. They were aggressive. They were well conditioned. We just struggled to score.

So we pressed.Image result for basketball goal

We pressed a lot.

By the end of that season we had different versions of a press, traps and half-court defenses in our game plan. That was my favorite team. They fought. They competed. They started winning.

When they got tired we subbed and the bench crew would fight and compete too. We had a team goal to force the other team to burn all of their timeouts trying to figure out how to beat our press. During a timeout, we would change it up on them. With beat teams that were more talented than we were, we had a really good season.

I then found myself struggling with giving up coaching to go back to college. I am not saying I did not go to school in the fall because I wanted to remain the head coach.  It was just a benefit of sitting out another year. I started to consider of not going to college at all.

The next season, we didn’t change the team from the first year to the second. We just figured out how to put the team in a better position to succeed. We evaluated what we knew were our strengths and then pushed every ounce of energy we had into letting them maximize those strengths. Each player had a role and an understanding of what was expected of them. The goals were clear. It was a joy to watch and a joy to coach. We were undefeated the first half of the year.Image result for old school bus

On a ride home on the bus after one of our early season victories over a rival, I turned around and watched the girls talking and celebrating their victory. They pushed themselves as a team to become more than what they were.  I suddenly realized that I needed to push myself for the same goal. I secretly made the decision to get busy pushing myself to become more than I was. I committed to go to school in January. I had to find a way to tell the girls.

I was heart-broken at the prospect of leaving this group of successful girls. They showed me what a team can do if they work hard together. I clearly remember the practice when I broke the news to them. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I told them to stay together as a team and focus on the goals that were set for that season.

In just a few weeks they would face the toughest challenge of the season. I would not be there to coach them. They would play Mansfield, and that school was about three times bigger than we were. We had no business having them on our schedule.
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I had to leave them and move to Lynchburg, Virginia. 

I was so sad about that. A few weeks later, someone on my floor of the dorm knocked on my door and said that I had a call. I thought it was my mom, so I went to the phone and picked it up the receiver.  On the line were all the girl’s from the team. They had just upset Mansfield and they wanted to call me and let me know that they won. They were all thanking me for what I taught them.  

I hung up the phone when it was time for them to get back on the bus and go home to their families.

Once more victorious.

I cried for the next hour.   That happened 38 years ago and I’ve never told anyone that before.

In a way… I am still coaching.  I still have my team at work. The principles I use are still the same ones that I used when I was a 19-year-old inexperienced kid all those years ago.

I did not learn these at college… I learned them when I lost those games early in my career.

I now share the lessons that I learned from losing and have applied to my whole career as a coach, a teacher, a principal and manager.

  1. Evaluate Today – One of the first things you must do is see where you are today. What’s the health of the overall team? How is the culture? Is this team positioned for success or frustrated by lack of production? Before you can begin to assemble the game plan, you have to take an honest look at where you are today.
  2. Know Your Personnel – You have to get to know your players or those you will lead. What motivates them? What drives them? Which ones will need the most coaching and which ones are naturally gifted? Will you need to add more to the team and if so, how will they fit into the culture?
  3. Cast The Vision – Before you can move forward with a game plan, you have to set the sights of the team on the bigger picture. Success will take every single person understanding their role and embracing it. If they can’t see the vision, they can’t give all they have to it. This is one of the most difficult parts of getting momentum started. Don’t get stuck here but take the time necessary to get 100% support of the greatest goal.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice – We spent hours learning new presses and defensive schemes. It didn’t come easy. This is the frustration phase but when you break through, the momentum really starts going. Your team at work is no different. Once you’ve set the process, work the plan over and over and over again. Take the time necessary to make sure everyone “get’s it.” Remind them of the vision. Practice some more. Corporate teams and basketball teams are no different. The process must be clear and the execution is critical.
  5. Enjoy Game Day – When game day comes, bring the energy your team needs before you even take the field, open the doors, gather in the meeting room. “From the Jump” as I used to tell our girls. We had goals within the game (burning timeouts) and would celebrate the success of achieving it. Then we’d do it again. There were days when some players just didn’t have it. We picked them up and someone else stepped in. You won’t always fire on all cylinders but each time is an opportunity for someone else to shine. Enjoy game day. Enjoy the wins and learn from the losses.
  6. When it’s All Over Keep The Relationships – To this day, I still keep up on the careers of most, if not all of the former players. While the games were fun, the relationships are what mattered. Something special happens when you work together to achieve your goals. If done well, you’ll still be friends long after you’ve parted ways.

I told you that my win/loss record isn’t that impressive. Why? Because my philosophy of winning and losing is this… if my team does what I ask it to do and they do the job they were given… the victories belong to them and the losses belong to me.

I lost 38 games in my head coaching career.

These losses belong to me. The wins to them.

This is still how I approach my work in the corporate setting… it still works.

My job as a manager is to make my team successful… give them the acknowledgment and the victories. The failures/losses go back and belong to me.

How did I learn this?

In one of the most memorable games of my career, we got beat by a rival team in the tournament championImage result for scoreboard 49-48ship game by 1 point on a layup with just seconds to go in the game. Our best player made an errant pass and the other team scored off that steal with 3-seconds to go in the game. I called time-out and I was frustrated and said something I regret to this very day… I looked at her and said, “If we lose this game it is all your fault.”

The fans sitting behind the bench heard me say this, even more embarrasing, her parents heard it as well.  I had never said something like that before in my life. 

This girl had scored 40 points and left everything on the court… she just made a mistake.

That loss belongs to me.

Why? Because for 31 minutes and 57 seconds, I could have coached differently that could have given the girls a better path to victory.

I have learned more from my losses than I ever have with victories.

Find the strategy that fits the team you have.

As a leader, manager or coach… apply the principles above, win or lose.

Then put on the full court press.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

When You’re Fifteen, It’s a Long Way to Cleveland

Everyone needs a place to go to be a kid.  For my buddies and me, that place was ten minutes from home if you walked it.  It was a world all its own. All the kids from that sleepy little Ohio town would gather there. It is where we grew up.  

Together.

That summer, the place to be was Teagarden’s Pool in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

So many things happened there… so many memories.

But of course, none of it was permanent.  Unless you count the flashes of images and thoughts of a time not cluttered with the responsibilities of adulthood.

Each day was filled with the shrieks of laughter and catcalls, as me and all my friends would swim on endless summer days.

Sure, they called it Teagarden’s Pool, but we knew better.   That pool… belonged to us.

On one beautiful day in June, I was at the pool to take a Junior Lifesaving course.   I had known how to swim since I was five.   I had worked my way through the Tadpole, Guppy, Dolphin and Shark divisions.   Now I was on my way to becoming a “lifeguard”.  

Looking back on it now, I probably took all of those classes because of the fact that they were taught by girls, not just any girls… but older girls… girls in bikinis.

And on this particular day, this pretty girl was there to take the class.    Now I knew all the girls in my age group from our little town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.   But this girl wasn’t a girl that I knew… she was “new”.    A rare find in our little town.

I tried not to look like I was staring.  I quickly looked away if I saw the slightest twitch that she may look in my direction.   I sat there trying to look like I was paying attention to our “instructor-in-the-bikini”, but I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful stranger that was dropped from heaven.   Who was this new girl?   Where was she from?   Where was she living and more importantly was she staying?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who eyes were fixated on the new visitor.   I looked around the class and every hometown girl who was taking the class was staring as well.  The evaluation was in full motion.   As my eyes and all of the others boys were looking in approval, the other girls there were judgmental and critical of new-found competition.

As fate would have it, when it was time to break up into groups for our first activity of the class, I was placed in the same group with her.   I couldn’t believe it, what luck!

She was walking my way and my mind was racing a million miles per hour.    I was going to be the first to talk to her.   I was desperately trying to think of something witty to say, something profound. Something to break the ice… something to let her see I was a “cool” guy.

I was sure I did not want to say something like…”Hi, my name is David.   What’s yours?  Where are you from?   How old are you?   Why are you here?   Did you move here?   Why are you taking this class? “

No… I did not want to say these things… but I did.

As a matter of fact, I said it without taking a breath and yes, I said this whole statement in less than 1.2 seconds.  

A world record I’m sure.

She was just staring at me.   The look on her face was evident that she thought she just  met Oak Harbor’s village idiot.

Her jaw dropped and I could see that she was trying not to laugh at the jumbled mess that just came out of my mouth.   She was trying to respond, but could not for fear that she would make fun of the village idiot.   So she spoke in precise, deliberate and painfully slow words.   She spoke loud.   You know, like when you talk to someone who is deaf or from a foreign country.    Like somehow if she talked louder, I would be able to understand what she was saying.   “MY NAME IS KAREN!!” she slowly exclaimed.

It was evident that I lost any chance of convincing her that I was a normal “cool” guy.   So I relaxed.   I interrupted her and told her that I wasn’t deaf and I was at least smart enough to follow what she was saying.   I tried to be coy and told her I might not understand everything she said but I would at least try.   She told me she was 15 and was from Cleveland.   She was camping at a local campground for few weeks with her grandparents.    She was bored at the campground so they let her take this class.

I was so glad that she didn’t catch me staring at her.  I mean, I already made an absolute fool out of myself; I did not want her to think I was a pervert as well.

Maybe she was just a kind-hearted soul that took pity on village idiots or she indeed liked being with me, because for the next two weeks we were inseparable.    I would wake each morning and hurry down to the pool at 8:00 AM and sure enough there she would be waiting there for me.  

After class we would stay at the pool until it closed that night.    We would swim and talk for hours.    We never left the pool.   Karen told me about everything in her life.    She told me about her school, her friends and her family.   She never had or wanted a boyfriend.    She told me how her father died when she was two and her mom had recently remarried a man she did not like.   He made her feel uncomfortable.   Always making comments and touching her in ways that made her feel uneasy.   That was really why she was in Oak Harbor in the first place. She was trying to get away from some things she did not want to deal with.

We talked and talked. I didn’t mind.   She told me things that she said she never told anyone else.   I guess in some way, I made her feel comfortable. Maybe she knew that she could say exactly what was on her mind and not feel judged because of it.  She was sharing her memories, feelings and her dreams as she spoke them to me.

At times, she would just stop talking and get real quiet. She wanted me to just to talk to her about my life.   We would talk about my brother’s death and life in a small town.   We talked about religion and what we believed.   We shared our love for music and what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.    It was special because we could talk, knowing that we could say anything and we would not be judged like we would have been had we been talking to our friends that we grew up with.  

And we both knew… it wouldn’t last forever.

Soon that inevitable time came upon us and neither one of us wanted to admit was taking place.   She had two more days before she was going to go back home.   It was Friday and she would have to leave Sunday morning.   As the pool closed that warm summer Friday night, Image result for girl looking at the sunsetwe stayed a little longer talking at the gate before her grandparents picked her up.   She looked nervous and I asked her what was wrong.   She just looked at me and stared.    With the sun setting in the distance and the color of her blue eyes reflecting off the last remaining rays of light, she looked up and kissed me.

No… it wasn’t my first kiss.  Maybe it was her first kiss, I don’t know.    But I do know that this was different.   This was not about a boy and a girl.    For in fact, in the two weeks we spent together we had not as much as held hands.   This was about friendship and the special time we spent together.

Karen placed a letter in my hand and asked me to promise not to open it until I got home that night. We had one more day together and we made plans to meet the next day at the pool, like always.

And in an instant she was gone.

I took my time walking home that summer night. I wanted to remember and etch it in my memory.

I read her letter.  She wrote of our first meeting at the pool.   She told me that she thought it was cute how I kept staring at her that first day and how I tried to look away when she looked over at me.   She had caught me staring!!  I thought I had hidden it.   She talked about the pool and all of our talks we had.   She told me she would miss me.  She told me goodbye.   Her grandparents were leaving early on Saturday morning, not Sunday. She wouldn’t be coming back to the pool.

I knew at that moment, that life was not fair.   In the haste of the last night together, I never got her address.   It was hopeless. When you’re fifteen, Cleveland is so far away. 

It might as well have been on the other side of the world.

I’d never felt like that before in my entire life.   The next day I ran down to the pool in the fleeting hope that she would be there.   Maybe there was a chance she would stop by before she left for home.   She wouldn’t come to the pool that day.  

Our time together that summer was over.

That was 40 years ago.   Even today, I think about a friendship that lasted for two weeks that I have carried with me for all these years.    I wonder what ever happened to her.  I wonder what would she be doing now and if some of her dreams came true.  I wonder if she still thinks about a skinny kid from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

I like to think so.

I kept that letter she wrote me in an old shoe box.   Over the years, I took it out every now and then, unfolded the tattered, yellowed pages and I was immediately taken back to another place and time.   Suddenly for a few moments, I was fifteen again and life wasn’t filled with the responsibilities I have today.

I have no idea where that letter is today.  It was probably thrown out with the trash when I wasn’t paying attention to what was in that old shoe box.

But I still have the memory.

Memory has a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are and the things you never want to lose.

Cause when you’re fifteen, it’s a long way to Cleveland.

Daydream Believer

The music of The Monkees has been my friend for over fifty years.

As a six-year-old kid infatuated with these fun-loving characters on my TV screen; I know how much The Monkees have always meant to me. Whatever man I am, whatever person I try to be, watching The Monkees, and listening tImage result for The MOnkeeso The Monkees, was an essential part of growing up.

In fact, unashamedly I admit, while it would be cooler to say it was The Beatles or some other classic act, The Monkees were the first “album” I ever bought. 

I’m a believer.

Doesn’t it feel good to say that?

Doesn’t it feel good to acknowledge that giddy feeling of joy that wells up within you when you hear a terrific, transcendent pop song on the radio?

How many times did I sing along with, “Daydream Believer”?

I couldn’t even begin to guess. 

Isn’t it great to let the music fill you with that grand, unspoken sensation of freedom, to turn the volume up as loud as you can, and just sing along, even if you don’t really know all the words?

Your troubles don’t vanish; your cares won’t slip away; woImage result for The MOnkeesrk still has to be done, your heart still requires mending, and your body and soul still shudder from the unnamed ache that never quite surrenders its grip. But for approximately two minutes and fifty-nine seconds, you are able to disappear from what’s wrong in the world.

What a gift that Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith were to my childhood.

Vivid memories as a child still remain. I was five years old when The Monkees debuted on the charts and TV screens in 1966, with a # 1 hit single called “Last Train To Clarksville” and a vibrant weekly show.

I didn’t know they weren’t cool. Because, obviously, they were cool: they were like a magic, irresistible combination of Batman and The Beatles—and really, in the ’60s, what could be cooler than that?

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wasn’t created to validate the tastes of clueless five-year-old kids from Oak Harbor, Ohio.

That’s fair.

The Hall of Fame is a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll music, an embrace of its history and the people who made it happen. It’s a tribute to the power of that music, to rock’s ability to express and embody rebellion, to break down barriers, to inspire, https://i2.wp.com/andrew-wittman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Daydream-believer.jpgto transcend, to elevate, to unite. It’s about more than catchy pop songs, more than a manufactured image, more than photogenic faces on the cover of a teen magazine. It means something. It matters.

But you wanna know something? It turns out The Monkees somehow did all of that. The Monkees rebelled. The Monkees broke down barriers. The Monkees inspired, transcended, elevated, united. The Monkees meant something. The Monkees mattered.

The Monkees were also influential. More than any other act—even more than The Beatles—The Monkees brought the burgeoning ’60s counter-culture into everyday American living rooms, via their weekly TV showcase. They had long hair. They brandished peace symbols.

The Monkees’ popularity is indisputable fact: # 1 singles, # 1 albums, the best-selling musical act of 1967, believe it or not, outselling The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Don’t believe?  Look it up.

I’m a believer.

This shouldn’t be true—this was supposed to be soundtrack music for a TV sitcom, for God’s sake—but the evidence is there, and it’s been there from the start.

The evidence will make a believer out of you, too.

The Monkees’ recordings have remained radio staples for five decades and show no sign of ever fading away. Reruns of the TV series have continually renewed the group’s fan base, as new generations of fans have discovered the enduring appeal of four guys walking down the street, getting the funniest looks from everyone they meet.

But popularity alone does not make an act worthy of induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; there are dozens and dozens of mega-selling pop entities that will never be considered Hall of Fame material, and rightly so.

But I’m a believer.

Belief sustains us, even when everyone says we’re wrong. Music comforts us, when much of life may seems uncertain and perilous. Love, hope, and friendship encourage us, when our senses and surroundings insist there’s little of substance left to grasp and hold fast. We are encouraged by our friends, our hope, our love, our music; we are encouraged by our belief.

Micky. Davy. Peter. Michael.

Weren’t they good?  They made me happy.

I’m a believer, even if it is in Daydreams.