Monday, December 31, 2012

Epidemic

New post!  I know that you, my two faithful readers, are so excited that you can't stand it.  Try to contain your enthusiasm so you can focus on the next few paragraphs of my rambling. 

Today, boys and girls, I'm going to start with two definitions.  Why?  So I can wow you with my vocabulary skills and show off how smart I am.  (Yeah, right!).  But seriously, onto the definitions.

Definition #1: Pornography - the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.

Definition #B (just seeing if you're paying attention): Epidemic - affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time. 

Pornography is an epidemic.  It's ruining lives, tearing apart marriages and destroying families.  More people than we want to admit are suffering from some sort of an addiction to it.  Some don't even realize it.  Some want to stop and can't.  We talk about other addictions without flinching; alcoholism, drug abuse, hoarding and gambling just to name a few.  We even have television shows that deal with some of them - Hoarders; Doctor Drew's Celebrity Rehab.  But not pornography.  It's uncomfortable and awkward to talk about.  We prefer to just sweep it under the rug and act like it isn't a problem.  But it is.  I am willing to bet you that many of the people that you know are struggling with pornography right now.  They are hiding in the dark, logging onto the internet in a dark room somewhere to get their fix.  They are your son, your Dad, your friend, your neighbor, your teacher, your pastor, your favorite athlete, your husband, your wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend.  It's an epidemic people!  It needs to be dealt with.  But until we are willing to have a conversation about it, it's not going to go away.  Just like any other addiction, it can and does control your life. 

Some people will disagree with me strongly on this topic.  And that's okay.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Some think 'it's okay - you're just looking' or 'pornography is normal - everyone looks at it sometimes'.  Those are the things we tell each other and ourselves to keep this topic at bay.  Sexual images are everywhere we look.  You can't watch television or go to a movie without some sexual innuendo or image being thrown in your face.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm no prude.  But by the same token, I recognize the damage pornography can do and does.  It's tearing lives to shreds. 

Have you been there?  Sitting alone in your house surfing the internet, wrestling away the thoughts, telling yourself you aren't going to do it again?  Or after you do, that this is the absolute last time?  Guys, it's time to face this head on.  If you are struggling with porn, I sincerely doubt that you can deal with it and stop on your own.  I suppose it's possible, but I doubt it. You need to tell someone - someone close to you who will hold you accountable.  It's going to be one of the toughest conversations you've ever had to have.  But it has to happen - you have to step out of the darkness and into the light.  Once you do, an enormous weight will be lifted from your shoulders.  Find a person you can trust and talk to about it, someone you can call if you need to.  Get some software that reports every questionable web page you go to, and have it email your accountability partner that list of websites every time you are on the computer.  XXX Church is an excellent website and they have many tools that you can use, some free, to help in the fight.  We should be meeting in our churches to talk about ways to step up the fight.  We should be talking to our children, our families, our friends about this.  There is strength in numbers. 

If you are reading this, and you are struggling, please please please talk to someone about it.  That is the first step.  Talk to me about it if you need to.  Just do it. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just For A Laugh

It's been a rough few days.  So who needs a laugh?!?!  I did, so I went out and found a video of one of my favorite comedians, Brian Regan.  If you haven't heard of him, check this out.  I hope it provides a much needed laugh.  Click the link below.

Brian Regan - Emergency Room

Happy 8 day! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Focus

Right now, the news and our thoughts and prayers continue for Newtown, Connecticut.  There are many discussions right now, from gun control, mental health issues, security in schools, trying to figure out why the shooter did what he did, etc.  I think those are all important discussions to be had, I really do.  But right now, I really don't want to hear any of it.  I respect those that do, and if they want to, that is fine.  But I just don't.

The first thing I thought of when I heard about this tragedy was the little children in that school on that day.  It didn't seem real, even from all the way across the country here in the Midwest.  My son is nearly 3, and will be heading to pre-school before we know it.  I really wanted to leave work, drive to my in-laws and just hold him in my arms, tell him that I love him, and not let go.  I cannot imagine, nor do I want to try, what these past few days have been like for the parents, families and friends of the young children who died.  Or for the children from Sandy Hook who survived it.  Who knows what awful things they saw, heard, and will remember for the rest of their lives.  The teachers and staff who were at the school, all heroic in a moment when there was no time to think.  Some of them died as well.

In the middle of all of this, watching news report after news report, reading facebook post after facebook post, combing website after website for information on this absolute tragedy - the thought that keeps coming into my head is simple.  This is a time for us to come together.  As families, as communities, as a nation, as people.  We need to lift up the town of Newtown in our prayers - they need them now more than ever.  We need to hug our kids and tell them we love them.  We need to stop taking each other for granted and remember that life is so short.  Life is finite.  It ends.  Sometimes we live our lives like it doesn't.  This sounds so cliche', but there is so much truth to it - the world needs love, and more of it.  Hug your kids and tell them you love them.  Tell the people in your life that you care about how you feel about them.  Do things to let them know they matter to you.

Also, pray for teachers, educators, parents, schools and anyone working with children.  There are some tough questions that are going to be asked, and some difficult discussions to be had.  Pray that God gives those folks the right words to say to help them through this dark time in our country.

I had the privilege of leading worship at my church this past Sunday, along with a wonderful group of people.  As I looked out into the seats at the faces of people who were there, there was just this heaviness and sadness.  This tragedy has had an impact on everyone.  It's hard to wrap our minds around what happened.  But, it was there that, as we worshipped and praised God, the air became maybe just a little bit lighter, and hope started to creep in.  I could see it in people's faces, some singing, some raising their arms, some crying, some closing their eyes, some standing in silence.  There is a hope greater than any we can possibly imagine.  For those that died in Newtown, I believe they are already experiencing it.

There Will Be A Day

Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Where's The Elevator?!?

32 floors.  532 steps. Why would anyone want to walk, run, crawl or climb 32 floors?

Yes, folks, I've lost my marbles.  I decided to register for the 2013 Fight For Air Climb at the Springfield Hilton.  A few friends I know have done this in the past, and I've always wanted to try it.  Plus, a good portion of the donations go toward the American Lung Associations fight for air.  (If you want to donate, check out my personal page at http://action.lung.org/site/TR/Climb/ALAUM_Upper_Midwest?px=5076562&pg=personal&fr_id=6440).

Some of the people I've talked to about this assume it will be easy for me.  Those people are remembering that I have been an avid runner and have run 5 marathons.  But it's apples and oranges.  Running a road race and stair climbing are two completely different animals.  Even when I was in peak condition during training for a marathon, climbing stairs was still difficult.  Not to mention the fact that my running days have been all but over for the past couple of years, with the exception of an occasional 2-3 mile run.  I miss it.  So when I saw this race pop up on someone's Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, I got the itch.  Yesterday I signed up.  So there's no turning back now.

I have no idea what to expect, or what I'm about to put my body through.  But I look forward to learning more about this form of exercise.  I walk up the stairs at work (6 floors) every day, so I guess I'm about 1/5 of the way into shape.  Seems like I have a LONG way to go.

Wish me luck!



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Patience

Patience: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.

On the outside I'm tall, bald, have facial hair, and maybe even seem a little menacing at times.  But I if this blog teaches you one thing about me, it's that deep down, I'm a big sap.  I love being a Daddy!  If you know me at all, are ever on my Facebook page, or read this blog, you need to know that about me.  Heck, if you never read my blog and only see the title, you know this about me.  It is another layer to who I am.  I post a ton of pictures of my son on my Facebook page.  Talking about my son is something you'll find me doing on a regular basis.  Some may think I do it too often.  But, to be frank, I don't care.  I waited a long time to be a Daddy, and the excitement that comes with finally getting to be one cannot be contained.  In fact, I do not want to contain it.  I honestly wasn't sure that it would ever happen.

Patience.

My wife, Leigh, and I were married in the Fall of 1999.  It didn't take too long for us to start exploring the topic of having children.  We had conversations about it.  Did we want to have children?  How many?  Were we financially stable enough to start trying?  We got pretty excited about the idea of being parents, and so we decided we would stop 'not trying'.  We were going to start a family, and the idea of that both scared and excited me.  But I was ready.

Patience.

To describe our journey from that point on would make for one mighty long blog post.  In fact, it might be long enough for a novel.   But this is not the time or the place to get into all of the details of that.  To summarize what happened in those ten years doesn't seem to do it justice.  But I will attempt to.  We tried for a few years, both on our own and with the help of some great medical professionals.  These were some of the most trying years of our lives, especially for Leigh.  We experienced the dreaded 'Two Week Wait', only to find out over and over that it didn't work.  We (mostly Leigh) were tested, poked, prodded, stuck with needles, etc all in the name of trying to have a baby.  Pride is something that kind of has to go out the window in the middle of this process.  You just put your heads down and decide that you are going to do everything in your power to have a child.  At one point, we got the wonderful news that Leigh was pregnant, only to find that we'd lost the baby 6 weeks later, before even knowing if it was a boy or a girl.  After some time went by, we tried a few more times, with no success.  Leigh was tired - physically and emotionally exhausted.  I began to worry about the toll this was all taking on her.  At one point, due to medical complications, some issues came up and it was possible if we continued that she could be in a bad way.  I was not willing to let that happen.  So we began to talk about whether or not we should stop trying.  In the end, the physical and emotional demands of this 'process' became too much, and we made the very difficult, painful decision to stop trying.

Patience.

Throughout this time in our lives, people would broach the subject of adoption with me.  I would tell them time and time again that I wasn't interested in going that route.  That I wanted a child of 'my own'. Obviously, that was my lack of knowledge about adoption talking.  I had tunnel vision at that time.  At one point, though, a wonderful woman by the name of Michelle McGowan (inhishandsorphans.org) told us about an Adoption Conference that was going to be held at our church.  We decided that it wouldn't hurt to just do some research on it and see what we might learn about it.  Eventually, that led to us deciding to pursue international adoption from Vietnam.  At that time, Vietnam was a country with many orphanages, and adoptions were taking about a year on average from start to finish.  We were very close, near the front of the 'line' to receive our referral/match, when we received the terrible news that the government in Vietnam had made the decision to no longer allow international adoptions from their country.

Patience.

At that point we started to really wonder whether or not it was meant to be for us to be parents.  People were suggesting different things to us to try, but we just weren't sure if we were prepared to dig in again and go through another 'process', more paperwork, more waiting, only to experience more heartbreak.  We were looking at different programs, different websites, trying to decide if we were really done.  One day, I stumbled upon the website for Catholic Charities infant adoption program.  We met with a woman there, got the application, and really drug our feet in completing it.  Around the end of the year (2009), we finally decided to complete it.  Again, all we could do was wait.

Patience.

In March 2010, we got a call.  A birth family wanted to meet us.  They liked our biography/profile.  We weren't really sure what this would look like, but we were all in.  So we set up a day to meet with the birth family.  The birth Mom was due in March!  So time was of the essence.  The rest is, as they say, history. Will was born on March 22 of that year.  We got to meet him the very next day.  He has been an answer to more prayers than you can imagine, a HUGE blessing in our lives and the lives of those around us.  His smile lights up the room.  His laughter warms our hearts every day.  Watching him learn and grow is exciting.  I treasure every moment I have with him.

Patience.

My favorite times are when I am with my family.    We spend most of our evenings at home, playing, building forts, reading books, playing with Hot Wheels (I love Hot Wheels!), and watching lots and lots of childrens' television.  Some might call our lives boring.  To them I would say, this is the life we've been waiting for, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  Will was absolutely worth the wait.  So if I post too many pictures of him or talk about him too much, I believe I'm entitled to.  *GRIN*  Being a Daddy has made me realize that I'm capable of a love that I didn't even know I had in me.  I am so grateful to God for bringing Will into our lives.  He was and is in control.

Patience.

I'll end with a poem I found awhile back that I have posted in my office at work.

'Walk alongside me, Daddy
and hold my little hand.
I have so many things to learn
that I don't yet understand.

Teach me things to keep me safe
from dangers every day.
Show me how to do my best
at home, at school, at play.

Every child needs a gentle hand
to guide them as they grow.
So walk alongside me, Daddy.
We have a long way to go."

I love you more than you will ever know, Little Man.

#lovebeingadaddy 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gravity

Another layer of who I am and what I am about, relates to a story that started in May of 1990.  I was in attendance at a little soiree at a friend's house.  The occasion?  The class ahead of me in junior college was graduating, and many of them were friends of mine.  There was a pretty good turnout, and a great deal of fun was had by all who attended.  As I arrived, I surveyed the scene and saw many friendly faces, and I was excited to see what the night would bring. 

I still remember the events of that night vividly. I was having a great time, talking with friends, meeting some people I had not really had a chance to talk to at school.  At one point in the evening, fairly early on I believe, I headed out to my car for a minute to grab something. As I was walking back up the driveway, I had a beverage in a large cup in my right hand, and my left hand was empty.  For some reason, my palm was out and facing straight ahead of me  I was talking to someone off in the distance, looking away from the direction I was walking in. 

BOOM!  It was right then that I felt it.  I had run right into someone........................

Who was it??!?  What happened next?!?!?  Well, I'll get to that.  But, before I go on with more details of this story, you need to know some background.  While I was in junior college, I spent a good deal of time in either the game room with the pool table and the foosball table, or the tv room directly across the hall where there were tables, some chairs, a tv and some couches.  When standing in the game room, you could see out into the hallway and across into the tv room.  I remember the first time I saw her sitting at a table, eating a snickers I believe and drinking a pepsi.  This girl had to be an angel!!  Long brown hair, beautiful blue eyes, a smile that absolutely lit up the room - she was absolutely beautiful.  Was this what love felt like?  Maybe to a young 18 year old boy it did.  At any rate, throughout that school year, I would see this girl in the tv room and sneak looks at her across the hall whenever I could.  But I was shy then, and couldn't get myself to summon the courage to talk to her.  I didn't even know what her name was.  That entire school year I noticed her and would see her coming and going, wishing I could think of a way to talk to her and get to know her.  But the courage never came, and I never did meet her or talk to her. 

Now, back to the party.  Where was I?  If you'll remember, I was walking one way, and looking another, and had just run into someone.  When I turned around and looked up, I noticed several things.  First, of all the people in all the places that I had to run into in such an embarrassing way, it had to be her.  The girl from the tv room at SCI.  Right there in front of me.  Why me?!?!?  How could this happen?  The second thing I noticed was the look in her eyes.  In a nutshell, loathing and the potential to deck me right then and there were what I saw, along with flames I'm pretty sure.  Oh wait!  It gets better (or much worse, depending on your perspective).   How, you ask?  Well, the third thing I noticed was that my empty left hand had unintentionally landed directly on her chest.  You could say that gravity simply brought us together.  This was, needless to say, not how I'd envisioned our first meeting.  In fact, given that she was going away to school in the Fall, this might have been my one and only chance to meet her.  I had to think of something clever to say to bail me out of this horrible predicament!!  Part of me wanted to turn tail and leave the party and never come back (after removing my hand, of course).  But instead, something just sort of popped out of my mouth.  Without thinking, and with a look of complete astonishment and feigned annoyance on my face, I turned to her and said, 'How dare you put your chest in my hand!!!' (or something to that effect).  I swear those few seconds seemed like hours to me.  I waited.  I was sure she was going to either knock me out, or walk away and tell everyone about the goofy chest-grabbing pervert at the party.  But, by some miracle, I guess she thought it was funny, because a grin broke across her face and we both stood there, laughing.  As the night went on, we talked and laughed and got to know each other better.  Heck, I even remember a group of us ate at Hardees right after the party.  As we were getting ready to leave Hardees, I asked if she had anything to write on.  Neither of us did.  So she told me to give her my number and she would memorize it and call me.  I did, but wasn't feeling too optimistic about the possibility of receiving that phone call.  Until the very next day, when the phone rang, and I heard her voice on the other end.  

There is much more to the story, but if you hadn't guessed it yet, the girl in the tv room - the one whose first impression of me must have been something like " And just WHY is your hand THERE?!?!?" - that girl was my Leigh.  My bride.  My other half.  My rock.  To know her is to love her.  She has a way about her that is just pure, almost childlike.  In the 22, nearly 23 years since the day I met her, she has opened my eyes to a whole new world of things and a way of looking at the world that wouldn't have been possible without her by my side.  She has seen  me at my absolute best, and loved me and stuck by me through my very worst, and at my lowest.  She takes me as I am, and I can guarantee you that is not always easy to do (hard to believe, right?!?!!?).  She is more beautiful to me today than she was the day I met her.  Is our marriage perfect?  Absolutely not.  We struggle, we disagree, we have our moments.  But in those moments, we both know that neither of us is giving up on the other.  Even when I doubt myself, she refuses to. 

Perhaps gravity brought us together.  More likely is that God did.  I thank God for Leigh every day, and I pray that He will put it on my heart to let her know every day how much I love her. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

Layers

Depression is defined as : a state of feeling sad : dejection : a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Generally speaking, depression is a taboo subject.  It's not something people generally want others to know about.  When someone asks how you are doing, you don't generally answer with 'Well, I'm dealing with some pretty severe depression.'  I'm not sure why that is, but it's my experience that this is how it is. 

Over the past few years, I've had to come to the realization that depression is a part of who I am.  It does not define me, and it doesn't bother me to talk about it.  But there have been times when it was a struggle for me to even get out of bed each day.  It was during those times that it not only impacted me severely, but it also was a big challenge for those around me, especially my wife.  I am not sure if I'd have made it through this without her unconditional love and support.   

So what was it like for me?   Happily married to a beautiful bride, finally a Dad to a wonderful little boy, just moved into a new house, liked my job fairly well - by all accounts, life was good.  From the outside looking in, people probably thought I would be the last person in the world to be struggling with something like depression.  But I was.  I was waking up each morning, wanting to stay in bed.  I wasn't doing the things I loved doing anymore.  It took all of my strength to do even the simplest of tasks.  But there was no reason for me to feel this way.  So I went about my daily life and hoped that the feeling would pass.   It didn't.  I never had thoughts of suicide.  But, I did think at the time that some people's lives would be better if I weren't in them, or that no one would miss me if I were gone.  Which I know isn't true, but that's how my mind was working at the time.   

I decided I would go see a counselor for awhile.  I talked to her to try to figure out what might be bogging me down.  It helped some, but I didn't feel any differently.  The counselor referred me to a psychiatrist.  I hesitated at first.  My initial reaction was, 'Me, go to a psychiatrist?  Surely not.  Only people with serious issues go see psychiatrists.'  Well, this was a serious issue, and it was overtaking my life.  It was beginning to impact my family, my job, and anyone who came into contact with me, even if they didn't know it.  So I broke down and decided I would go.  The psychiatrist did some bloodwork to make sure it wasn't something medical, which it wasn't, and then ended up offering to prescribe an antidepressant.  I still couldn't believe this was happening to me, but  it was time to try whatever it took to deal with it head on.  I was ready.  This was chemical, and I had no control over it without getting help.  If the help was there, I needed to stop being stubborn and prideful and take the help. 

As I sit here and type this, I am still dealing with depression.  But mostly through my rear-view mirror.  The prescription has helped a great deal.  But I've also made some other changes in my life that needed to be made to steer me towards better mental health.  God also reminded me time and time again through friends, family and church family that I have worth.  I am loved.  People care.  I'm not crazy.  No one has to treat me any differently because of this.  This is just a part of who I am and what I've been through.  I'm not ashamed of it.  I feel like this is one of those things that happened to maybe help someone else, or to remind me that God is God and I am not.  Or maybe for some purpose that I don't even know about.  Whatever He can use this for, use me for, my mind and my heart are open to. 

Have you been there?  If so, I urge you to talk to someone about it.  Talk to me about it.  Just don't let it fester.  It's nothing to be ashamed of.  More people than you realize are probably dealing with something similar.  There's a voice that will tell you that you are the only one in the world dealing with it.  Do......not.......listen......to......that......voice!  You are not alone.  Talk to someone.  Get on your knees and talk to God.  See a counselor.  Talk to a friend.  DO SOMETHING.  Because you matter.  You are loved. 





  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Masks

Sometimes life leaves me bumfuzzled.  Yes, bumfuzzled is a word, and I did just use it in a sentence.  Quite honestly, I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable.  But back to the point.  There have been many points in my life where I've been left feeling confused, dumbfounded, or just flat out bumfuzzled. Life is hard, and sometimes doesn't make sense. 

I have found that in my daily life, I spend a great deal of time trying to convince everyone around me that life is good, I don't have problems, and the last thing I want to do is to tell anyone about them.  I build walls around me that I think will protect me.  If I convince everyone I'm okay, then maybe I really am okay.  But I don't have to tell you that the mindset I've just described to you is as far from the truth as it could be.  Have you been there?

A mask is something that serves to conceal or disguise.  I am confessing to all of you today that I often wear one.  (No, I don't mean a Halloween mask, smarty pants!).  But why do I put on this mask every day?  I can't say I have a good reason.  Maybe I've convinced myself that it's just easier that way.  Or maybe I'm afraid what people would think if all of the skeletons in my closet were revealed.  Whatever the reason, it's time to take off the mask.  I truly believe that if we can just retrain ourselves to do that, and to open up to each other, we can truly connect with others and build relationships. 

It's time to take this mask off!  Let's do this.  Are you ready?  I hope you are sitting down.  Because what I am about to tell you will come as a shock.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen...................................................


I AM BALD! 

I told you to sit down!!!! 

Once you've recovered from the shock, please read on.


But seriously, in a world where so many are struggling and hurting every day, why can't we break down the walls, tear off the masks, and let others see the real us?  So many times I have had that opportunity, and so many times I have chosen the mask.  But those times that I've been real?  Those are some of the most rewarding conversations and moments in my life.  Some of my biggest struggles in life were made a little more bearable simply by talking about them, and realizing that I'm not the only one who has gone through them.  When we're in the midst of struggle, our tendency is to think we're the only ones going through it.  But once we open up, we find that we're more like everyone else than we realized. 

What mask are you wearing that needs to be taken off and thrown away?
 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bloggers Angst

I have been trying to decide whether or not to blog for quite awhile now.  Do I really want to put myself out there?  Will anyone read it?  What should I call it?  Do I have anything to say?  What if people DO read it and get disappointed because I don't post enough?  Finally, as I sit here today, I decided to go for it.  It will be fun, maybe even therapeutic.  I will talk about me, thoughts that I have, issues I have dealt with or am dealing with, and hopefully something I have to say will connect with those that chose to read it.  Maybe we'll find out we have something in common that draws us together.  Maybe we'll have a good laugh over some of the things I post.  Or a good cry.  Or maybe you won't care, and will just read it once and move onto another blog. 

The real reason I decided to do this is pretty simple.  We go through our lives every day, walking by people having conversations that go something like this. 

"Hi!  How are you?"
"Fine/Good/Okay - how are you?"
"Good."
"Good!"

Does this sound familiar to you?  We all wear masks, trying to convince those around us that we are fine, good, okay (insert other adjective here) and that nothing is wrong.  When the truth is, behind the mask, we are all struggling with something.  We are all hurting.  We have all dealt or continue to deal with some serious issues in our lives.  But we keep it bottled up.  We don't share it.  That would be contradictory to our trying to convince everyone that we are okay. 

So what's the point of all of this rambling, you ask?  By blogging, I am attempting to take off the mask and show you the real me.  Is this self serving?  Maybe a little, but at the same time I am hoping to encourage readers to do the same.  I believe that when we connect with people, that is the key to our lives.  Relationship.  Too often during my day, I take these opportunities for granted, even when they are right there staring me in the face.  So I am hoping that, through this blog, I can connect with some of you.  Or maybe I won't even know you are reading it, but it will be something that adds a little to your day.  Regardless, I hope you enjoy it.  I'm ready to take the leap.  And it starts.........................NOW!