I’m the good guy!

The other day River and I were playing a game where we both have a team of several matchbox size cars and the two teams do “battle”. Our battles include everything from simple crashing, to lasers, to gathering power and strength from absorbing star and planetary energy from parallel universes that eventually collide in the form of our two hands holding our team leaders.

As one might guess, there is more description of the action going on than actual action, but I like that. It feels good to stretch the imagination muscles and I love hearing his ideas. At one point in our conversation though, he casually referred to my guy as the bad guy. I was like “Wait, my team’s the bad guys? I though your team was the bad guys!” River looked at me like I wasn’t speaking English. Clearly we had gotten lost in our own perspectives.

It was funny in that setting but how often does this happen in real life? We engage our surroundings and assume that we are the “good team”, that our point of view is the solid, time-tested perspective of the smart or moral or informed, and never for one second take a step back to ask the powerful and humble question “What if I’m not right on this one?

I know that I need to do this more. Maybe next time River and I need to figure out if we’re going to battle each other or take on the multiverse as a unified front of unbeatable supercars.

The Lucky Dragon

It was 2001. I lived with my good friend Eric in some shady apartments in Tempe Arizona. Good times for sure. Being a music education major at ASU, I walked by hundreds of talented and driven musicians, singer and actors. In the fall semester of 2000, I’d somehow stumbled into a practice room with a group of dudes that loved blues and jazz as much as I did and we decided to play out a little bit. We did a few gigs and one of them happened at the Lucky Dragon on Sunday, Feb 25th.

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Before the set began I thought of the people that I’d like to have to come see me sing. I knew most of my friends had places to be that night, but I hadn’t checked in one of my friends. Her name; Alissa Schmidt. After knowing her for a couple of years, I knew she was quality and as pretty as anyone I’d ever met or seen. Now, mostly, she’d seen my dorky, “at the Student Rec. Center” self. THAT persona wasn’t that impressive, but she didn’t seem to care. We still went hiking or out to lunch from time to time and she’d tell me about her roommate, or her boyfriend or whatever two friends talk about. But recently I’d gotten a feeling like maybe there was something to be explored with her.

I tried to be casual as I traced her down with my cell phone. She didn’t have one and a few of you might remember what it was like to contact someone before we all had texting machines in our pockets. I remember finally getting Alissa on the phone and asking her to come out to the Lucky Dragon and at her smallest hesitation I politely insisted that she be there.

The Lucky Dragon was a dimly lit little place with its Chinese food somehow always demanding a line. I don’t believe there was a smoking section but still, I remember needing several glasses of water. There was art work on all of the walls and a tiny stage where the four of us could just barely fit our equipment. We usually played two pretty long sets and it didn’t take that many songs because Shon would solo forever, but he knew what was up, so it was all good.

A little bit into the first set I see Alissa and her friend Shane walk through the door. Energized, I sing through the first set and during our break I go sit down across the table from her. She was in the booth next to wall, with her legs propped up on the chair on my side of the table. We talked for a while and I was so glad she was there. At some point I reached over and touched her on the leg. It was only for a second and I wasn’t trying to send a message or anything, but from what she tells me, it came across as such and was apparently well received, because almost 14 years later I still sit across the table from her and I’m really glad she’s there. Thank you Lucky Dragon, I guess in this story, I’m the lucky one.

The last of the 30 somethings.

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One more year to say I’m still in my 30’s. Surprisingly, it’s not as important to me as when I was 31 or 32. By the way, when did this blog basically become my birthday updates peppered with a few morbid thoughts? Bleh. Perhaps Wisconsin winters will do that to you. You pensively write when it’s ice and death outside but when it’s nice out there, you certainly don’t sit around inside writing about it. I don’t know, maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s not.

It’s been an interesting year. We added a dog and 2 cats to the family since we moved into our new place this January. I guess 5 people and a cat under the bed was too much like an empty home? Farley the dog is great. He’s a designer dog named after the great Chris Farley. 2 cats; Louie and Keyser, neither of which have had a solid poo since they came home from the shelter. I guess you could say they can’t seem to get their crap together?

Like the last few years, this one has been filled with redefining. Redefining how I see the world, redefining how I fit into it all. I wish I could say that this has been a freeing or peaceful process, but for me it’s been laborious and pretty constant. This year I witnessed overwhelmingly beautiful moments and unspeakable tragedy. It made for a heart-wrenching balance that tenderized and grounded me.

I guess the 2nd most important thing that I’m taking into this next year is to slow down and find the joy that abides in every moment, even it’s crowded with screaming and obstinate kids. I really want to realize that their voices won’t be this little for long. Before I know it they’ll be yelling with low man-type voices.

The most important thing I’m taking into this last hurrah of thirty-something-ness is how huge it is that I’m understood and loved the way that I am. Alissa has been an amazing friend to me since a little bit before my 26th birthday. The last few years have been tougher to connect with that friendship, what with all the little beings that urgently call upon her special mother-y skills, but the last few months we’ve had a lot more of those moments where real connection happens. I know I’m lucky and lately when I look at her I see a woman who has met all the challenges that the kids and I have thrown her way and she weathers them all and loves us even more on the other side. With that kind of resilience, life doesn’t beat a woman down, it refines her beauty. She shines even brighter, stands taller, walks stronger and smiles in a way that if I slow down just a bit, knocks me to my knees.

Moral of the story: Sometimes it’s the lessons that you learn that make you grow and other times it’s who you learn them with.

my funeral

Last night I had a dream and the entire dream was looping footage. The footage was in the genre of those old 60’s family videos; grainy, square and silent. It was of me, Alissa and River. I was in my early 3o’s and wearing a slightly wrinkled white t-shirt, khakis that were rolled up but still wet at the bottom, and bare feet standing at the edge of a lake. Alissa was just a few feet to my left and I was grabbing up a 2 year old River and swinging him around playfully.

As I watched this repeat over and over I was keenly aware that people were watching this at my funeral. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there. I could sense that they were thinking what I always thought when I would attend funerals and look at pictures of the deceased and their family; “These are those few seconds of visual media that sums up this person’s entire life”. I could almost hear their thoughts as they saw little River in the film and then looked over at this tall grown man and wondered whether or not he could remember that day when his dad was strong and quick and had most of his hair. They felt sad for him because who remembers things from when they were 2 years old?

But then I could feel that they were also sad for themselves, because my aging and death had made them realize that if they did a quick scan of their lives, only a few major events could be conjured up in complete clarity. And I felt that loss in my own heart because I remembered skipping through SO. MUCH. TIME. without really holding on to it as something precious.

And I wept.

I wept for the unfortunate state of being only a certain amount of “aware”. I wept that my default setting had been “just get through it”.

Staring at that home movie of myself play again and again, I wept myself awake. It was two minutes before my alarm was to go off and I lay there under the weight of what I’d just felt. A few breaths later soft radio static came out from behind the red numbers on my clock. It was time to start this day, this opportunity to notice what it feels like to be alive.

Later in the morning, I looked at my kids who are changing and growing so quickly and took mental footage of them as they sat there eating breakfast together, with a world of possibilities in front of them. I recognized that none of us are guaranteed another day, so this breakfast matters. This laugh with my family really matters as the coffee sits patiently in the corner of the counter, the sunlight reaches through the kitchen window, my boys exchange knowing glances as dad pontificates about living life with gratefulness, my baby girl tugs at my pants for me to pick her up, and my beautiful wife rushes around the house no doubt thinking about how handsome I look today in my slightly wrinkled white T-shirt. 994055_10153520960745313_175561804_n

Today I won’t live outside of my body looking out in the distance for another day. I will constantly inspect this one for its beauty, its joy, its sadness, its turmoil and let it happen under the peace of letting “now” matter.

Turning 38

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A few weeks ago I turned 38. There’s certainly nothing magical about this age. It’s basically an age that asks “Are you ready for your 40’s?” I don’t know what my answer is. I guess, some days I am and other days I nearly hyperventilate at the thought. I do know that I’m emerging out of this idea that I have a bunch of wisdom or enlightening thoughts to share. I suppose that’s why I haven’t blogged very much this past year. Inspired thoughts in paragraph form are few and far between. Though, I have read more this year than I have since I was a kid. I used to read all the time, because what else did kids do that didn’t have a TV in the house, let alone all the crap that kids have to stare into these days (my kids included)?

I do know that I’ve been “in the moment” a lot more this year. By that I mean; noticing and embracing the little-ness of my kids. Sure they can be completely annoying and unreasonable and well, I could go on but let’s keep it fun shall we? Last night, after the boys’ swimming lessons the three of us jumped into the hot showers with our swimming suits on. As they were standing with the water dripping down their faces, just… two little boys that are short and loud and funny, I sensed the temporalness and beauty of the moment. I constantly remind myself that when Briar sits in my lap while I sit on the couch that it’s a precious short time that she’ll be so little and cuddly.

I’ve also been trying harder to notice all that Alissa does as a mom and writer. My selfishness about “me time” still gets the best of me. But I know (and Alissa knows and reminds me) that I could never do what she does day in and day out.

Bottom line: I know a blog can be anything you want it to be: a journal, an outlet, a way to teach or reach. And I haven’t had the time or the energy to do any of those things. And maybe that’s what being a 38 year old dad to little kids is; getting through the day so you can sit on the couch with your wife for a bit before you quietly crawl into your tiny spot in the bed because your wife and little daughter take up more space than they need.

fog (if I’d had a blog when I was 9 and could write like an adult)

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Matthew 18:3 And he (Jesus) said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

MYSTERY IN THE FAMILIAR:

I’m standing in our yard and it’s covered in fog and everything feels so different. I’ve stood right here thousands of times but surrounded by these grounded clouds I can no longer see what is just beyond the tree line or the driveway. What is usually my house and yard is now an exciting dream world with endless possibilities, and welcomed enemies of my imagination, as I’ve crowned myself the undisputed champion king of my immediate domain. Today I will certainly be awarded badges of victory as I bravely sprint into the unknown depths of my gray misty challenger and friend. Here I come Fog! I know your time here is short and so we must play together now, like it’s our last meeting. Quick! Before you leave me for the sky.

SKY AND GROUND UNITED:

So, why did this fog come here today? Mom and Dad says that it’s basically a cloud. A cloud? Come here? Was there something about the ground last night that compelled the rulers of the sky to come and share their majestic fluffiness with us? OR was the ground suddenly fed up with craning its neck upward to watch the clouds go by and then rushed up to join them? So is everything flying now? Or are we being visited by the heavens? A little of both? Also, why does the fog always happen in the morning? Why is it that it’s always dark right before the this magical collision? Enough questions for now, I don’t have time for all the answers. I just want to play.

10 years.

Ten years ago today my life changed and took on a course that I never could’ve imagined. I married Alissa Schmidt.

You think you know who you’re getting when you get married. You think “I can walk through life with this person.” Here’s the thing though: a good life isn’t a walk, a good life is an adventure. It has great days and bad days. There’s being a parent with no prior experience, bills, intense personal growth, cross-country moves, flared tempers without filters, being brought to tears together by something sweet your son says, and having all you stand for brought into question and finding that God and each other is all you really need.4987_114762400406_1410289_n

You can’t see all that in one afternoon where you’re young and dressed to the nines.

What I could see? I could see enduring integrity and character, inner beauty that radiated through outer beauty, honesty that whether it felt good or not, if you listened, it could make you better. And loyalty and love that were intertwined in a way that made me feel safer than I’d ever felt before. I’d say a pretty good base from which to jump off wouldn’t you?

What I couldn’t see? Where worry usually wins out, when push comes to shove she has a fearlessness that is inspiring. She will sacrifice her own needs for her family in a way I could never dream of doing. She mixes in just the right amount of common sense and heart into big decisions. She makes friends (like good friends with good people) because she knows it feeds for her soul. She can see the sacred in most anything. She is physically tough. I watched her recover from 3 births. She elevated the word “tough” to a whole other level. She loves to be right- wait, I actually did know that 10 years ago. She’s an amazing cook- took a gamble on this one. It wasn’t looking good there for a bit. These are just a few of the things that I’ve discovered about her.

My point is that 10 years brings so much out of a person and I’ve been happily bewildered and amazed how time consistently reveals that on March 22, 2003 I had only a faint clue of what Alissa Schmidt could do and be. Our life together has been marked by love, laughter, tears, forgiveness, honesty, kid-craziness, money-managing, negative people-navigating and faith-defining. You don’t go through these things as a static person, you grow and change and morph. And if a few of the basics are in place you bless the ones you love just by sheer virtue of living life with them. I am blessed. I am blessed to be married to Alissa Edwards for these past ten years. I am blessed to have fallen in love with someone that I keep falling in love with over and again.

Babe, happy 10 yr anniversary, I love you. I love that our “banter” has a ten year history and I’m excited to continue that conversation for the rest of my time on the globe. I’ve been thinking about it though… in Heaven- it’s me or the dog.😉