January 2011 - Posts
As I sat down to right this last blog for the month, my mind was
inundated with alliteration. My mind was on the month of February, and
all I could think about was words that begin with the letter ‘F’. Yes,
that includes the ever versatile, never dull to say F-bomb.
in honor of the lovely month of February, here is a list of choice
F-words that will hopefully recap the month that was, as well as set the
tone for the month that will be.
Finish: I mentioned last night I would most likely not be posting blogs as routinely as I did in January. The 30-Day Writing Challenge
was fun, and it was indeed a challenge. It allowed me to explore topics
I had never considered, as well as find some cathartic moments to help
me get over issues that still remained a bit unresolved. However, now
that I’ve proven to myself that I can indeed block out time to write on a
daily basis, I must be fair to myself and finish writing Volume IV of Lives.
The short novel series I began writing in April of 2009 has been living
in limbo for some time now. Part of it has been the deliberate hiatus
of the project. Part of it has been deliberate avoidance on my part.
With Volume III written (albeit unreleased), the story of Cate and Max
needs its finality, and this is the month to do that.
It’s important for me to review what Lee and I were able to accomplish
with our 30-Day Writing Challenge and learn from it. In my case, not
only were my eyes opened to new ideas and styles, I was also able to
strengthen and reinforce some of the lessons I had learned in the six
years I’ve been blogging. Mood has as much to do with writing as muse.
It’s amazing how fickle my attitude can be, and what begins as a great
plan to sit down and write gets tossed out the window because of a small
incident that upsets me. This month reminded me that although it’s
great to have a goal to write, you can’t be a slave to your writing.
When it’s not there, it’s not there. And if you try to force it, you’re
not being true to yourself as a writer or to your audience. Sometimes,
it’s okay to just shrug your shoulders and say “*** it”.
One thing I truly enjoyed about the 30-Day Writing Challenge was having
a list of topic ideas for each day. Mapping out about what it was I
wanted to write resolved half the problems I used to have in terms of
writing daily. Before, I’d sit down and think about what to write and
I’d be stuck with nothing. With our ‘road map’, however, I would be able
to think about the topic as I sat on conference calls. I’d be able to
jot notes as I waited for Natalie’s soccer practice to finish. I’d be
able to use my morning constitutional as productive time. (Over share?).
given the fine fellowship we were able to foster following our first
listing of fascinating topics (I told you I had an alliteration
avalanche), her is a list of topics and ideas for the month of February.
I am not putting any dates to them and I am not listing them in any
particular order. This is about looking at a topic and either being able
to write about it or letting it steer your imagination in a direction
that allows you to write about something else.
Since February is
the month of love, several of the topics have love-themed qualities to
them. Also, Lee received feedback on one of her posts suggesting the
next set of topics be about what ‘we’ can do together. Finally, Lee and I
both explored some dark and painful topics in our writing in January.
We want this to month to be positive, light-hearted, and fun. Given all
that, here’s the list (again, in no particular order).
Happy writing, everyone.
- First Kiss
- First Car
- First Love
- Childhood Crush
- Favorites (Pet, Food, Restaurant, Vacation, TV Show, Actor/Actress, Athlete, Sports Team (Pro), Sports Team (College), Day of the Week, Season of the Year, Shirt, Relative, Book*, Song*, Movie*)
- Describe Yourself as a Sixteen Years Old
- Proudest Professional Moment
- Guilty Pleasures
- Neighbors / Community
- Siblings or Cousin
- Tackling a Home Improvement Projects
- Causes you love/support
- Common Courtesy
- Common Sense
- Misunderstood Song Lyrics
- Your Role Model
- Mission Work (i.e. could you leave it all to go serve/help others?)
- Tolerance/Understanding (i.e. seeing an argument from the perspective of your adversary)
- One Thing in the World You’d Like to Change
If you think of something you’d like to see added to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below of visit Lee’s site and leave a comment there. Thanks!
* I know these were covered in January, but there may be someone coming across this posting for the first time.
I’m back to writing following a brief hiatus. Camping with my son on
Friday night prevented me from writing and publishing a post that
evening. Sharing in dinner, laughter, and community with dear friends
(not to mention a couple of bottles of wine and some Scotch) precluded
my writing routine last night. So now that I had “the weekend off”, I’m
here to write the second to last post of the month, and perhaps the last
routine post for a while (you’ll have to tune in to Monday night’s post
You’ve seen me write about my kids and also about
my wife Lee. My family means so much to me it’s hard to put it into
words sometimes, and it’s definitely a challenge to come up with new
ways to describe the feelings I get when I think about my wife and my
kids. Given all that, I am very remiss in the fact that I don’t write
nearly enough about someone so equally special to me and that is such an
important part in my life.
My mom is my constant. She is, in a
way, the architect of who I am today. Where my dad was more the designer
of my persona, I would say my mom was always focused on the engineering
aspect of who I was. On top of a deep foundation of family and Catholic
fundamentals, my mom placed brick after brick of life lessons, each
reinforced with the mortar that was her love, as well as the unwavering
rebar that was her strict discipline.
My mom was nothing if not
consistent. She never caved to any puppy-dog-eyed please for exception
or mercy. She never faltered in ensuring the rules that applied to
everyone else also applied to me. It’s as if she measured every brick
precisely, none greater than the last, none diminished by any sense of
complacency. What made my mom truly remarkable in her masonry of
motherhood was her ability to be meticulous. Style was not really
important. For my mom, the substance of what she was making would serve
to be the measure of value, respect, and integrity.
I love my mom
and I truly enjoy her company. I wish we did not live so far apart with
her in Miami and me in Tampa. I wish we had the opportunity to interact
more and for my kids to be with their grandmother more often. All that
being said, no one sets me off or pushes my buttons quite the way my mom
does. The last several years have been an exercise in me learning to be
more patient with her so as to ensure the limited time we do share is
that of quality time. This is especially true given the very recent
reminders that mortality is an eventuality, and I don’t want to waste
time being upset at or bothered by my mother.
I hate to admit how
little I’ve been able to show my mom the love and appreciation she
deserves. At the very least we speak weekly and every conversation ends
with an exchange of ‘I love you’. Yet, I know that’s not enough. It’s
not enough to bank on a phone call. It’s not enough to really on
Hallmark cards on Mother’s Day and her birthday. All of that doesn’t
even begin to come close to being enough when I consider how my mom has
always been there for me. Unwavering. Unassuming. Unbelievably constant.
don’t know what the solution is in the long run. My life is here in
Tampa, and until my kids graduate from high school (2019), my life will
remain here in Tampa. I’ve talked to my mom about moving up here to be
closer to her grandchildren, and we discussed the many pros and cons to
that idea. Still, we each remain resigned to the fact we’ll see each
other a handful of times per year and maintain the formal and cordial
relationship of mother and son. Until I can figure out a way to change
and improve this, I guess the best I can do is to live a life of value,
respect, and integrity, and always give her a reason to be proud of what
May my actions as a husband, a father, and a human being serve as a monument to her legacy as a mother.
The dictionary defines the word ‘vocation’ as a particular occupation,
business, or profession; calling. It can also be defined as a function
or station in life to which one is called by God. Growing up Catholic, I
heard this word a lot when I was in school. I think it was the Catholic
Church’s not-so-subtle way of trying to recruit boys into becoming
priests. “Normal people have careers, but those true to God know what
their vocation is,” I recall Sister Mary Somethingorother telling me
once. The way I figure it, if God wanted me to become a priest, He
wouldn’t have created boobs.
Still, I believe in the concept of
vocation. I believe we are all placed on Earth for a purpose; to play a
specific role in His creation. I whole-heartedly believe God has blessed
me with a divine task during my time here on Earth, but it has nothing
at all to do with being a man of the cloth. Ironically, however, my
vocation is one that still requires people to call me father. Two people
to be exact.
There is no doubt in my mind my sole purpose in
life is to be an exceptional dad. Not a good dad. Not a great dad. Not
just an a’ite dad. An exceptional dad. A phenomenal dad. The best dad
Granted, I know I can never be that. Like a perfect GPA in
college, once you slip up, you can never get back to 4.0. It’s
mathematically impossible. I believe my life’s journey and the
transgressions I’ve experienced are akin to that, and those decisions
will forever stain my resume as a dad. Nevertheless, I am resolved to
make an effort every day and with everything I do to atone for the sins
of my past. I am very fortunate my children were so young when my first
wife and I split up, and their frame of reference continues to shift
from a memory of mommy and daddy together to that of what our current
All that being said, I strive to be the best
parent to my children I can possibly be. I like to think I don’t spoil
them, yet there is not much which they lack in terms of the ‘things’
they have. By my standard as a kid growing up, my children are very
rich. Still, I make sure they appreciate the value of money. I teach
them to be respectable and honest, kind and unselfish. I do my best to
lead by example; often times forgoing something I want to do in order to
teach them the lesson of what is the right thing to do.
get older, I find I must give up some of the strict disciplinarian role
in order to make room for the more patient and wise consultant. Gone are
the days of very narrow limitations and binary choices that set the
boundaries they knew as infants and toddlers. Now their choices are
quite multiple, all with varying levels and parameters of depth, impact,
and consequence. I find where before I would raise my voice and fall
back on my trusted “because I say so” argument, I now break into
mini-pep talks where the discipline is found in the lesson of the
moment. Put another way, I’ve evolved from Nick Saban into Tony Dungy.
say all this knowing I don’t do it alone. I’ve always said about my
ex-wife that I would not want anyone else to be the mother of my
children. She and I have always been on the same page when it comes to
parenting, and I am so damn lucky that through all that happened, that
aspect of our relationship never changed.
Being a dad is not
always easy, but it is so incredibly rewarding. I feel it whenever I am
complimented about my children. It’s a sense of validation and
justification for the many trials and tribulations that come with being a
parent. From a long term perspective, my vision is of two individuals
who are pillars of their respective communities. Strong and intelligent
leaders who are also humble and reverent human beings. That is what I
want my kids to become, and that is what I feel it is my mission in life
to produce. That is my contribution to my community and this planet.
That is my vocation.
As a quick aside, my dad would have been
seventy-seven years old today. I wish he were still around to see how
beautiful, charming, witty, and fun his grandchildren have become. But I
know he’s in Heaven looking down and smiling, and thankful that I never
ended up becoming a priest.
I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she
But, oh! The things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me
-by Robert Browning Hamilton
Today’s topic is supposed to be about something that was planned that
did not turn out as expected. I don’t think I can do a better job than
the one Lee did with her post
tonight. Also, I’m not feeling that topic because I have something else weighing on my mind.
the past year, I’ve had too many friends grieve the loss of a parent.
I’ve also had another grieve the loss of a sibling. This sad and
unfortunate trend continued this week as someone close to me lost his
mother. It also pains me to say I have friends who are preparing for
their loss as they have a parent who is ill or in hospice care.
In almost all of the instances mentioned above, cancer has been the common denominator in the passing of those individuals.
loss we experience is tragic. Infant or elder, expected or all of the
sudden, death brands our soul with the lasting reminder of its
eventuality. We mourn. We grieve. We try to make sense of it all. And in
its own way, death unites us in the commonness of sorrow and pain.
an extra layer added when the ones we love are lost due to that
universal foe we call cancer. It’s hard enough to learn to accept death,
but losing someone to cancer makes us feel cheated. We’re left feeling
they were taken from us prematurely, and if not for cancer, they’d still
be with us creating memories and sharing moments.
But as with
all deaths, we, those who survive the ones who have passed, can carry
their legacy and lives forward in how we choose to honor and remember
I never had the honor of meeting Jeffrey Block. He died at
the age of 18 following a four year long battle with cancer. Still, he’s
been the inspiration for a movement and a cause that has positively
impacted the lives of thousands of people. His older brother chose to
turn his grief and sorrow into a lasting tribute to his little brother,
and formed a charity organization dedicated to the fight against
pediatric cancer. The culmination of this tribute is found in the song
Jeffrey’s brother wrote for him. To this day, I cannot listen to that
song without my eyes welling with tears and my thoughts drifting to the
memory of my father.
Grieving is a natural process. Feeling hurt,
pain, and sometimes despair following the passing of a loved one is
normal. Still, I like to think they’d want us to instead celebrate the
life we shared with them and keep their memory alive by channeling that
sense of loss into something positive.
You don’t have to go out and
found a charity or write a beautiful song to honor a loved one. Instead,
find solace in taking actions you know would make them proud. Find
direction in the lessons you learned from them while they were still
with us. Keep their spirit alive by enriching the spirit of others.
It’s when we turn grief into grace that we allow our loved ones to live forever.
“Running Through the Fields” by Ken Block
Well we shared a season
Running through the fields
We never had a reason
To be scared of things
That were so unreal
Making our own stories
Playing our own games
We never had no worries
Never thought things
Would ever change
But I’m missin’ you today -
Don’t know why you went away
Times I sat and wondered
Nights we sat and cried
I’m proud to be your brother
No one knows how hard we tried
To make it to tomorrow
For just another day
There’s never time to borrow
For things I’ll never get to say ...
So many days I’m searchin’
So many nights I’m left alone
Sometimes the song of the wind
Well it’s -- only the warning for the storm
Moments turn to hours
Months they turn to years
It’s different now without you
With your image crystal clear
The child was the teacher
A brother and a friend
A fragile little creature
Who’d do it all again and again
Well we shared a season
Running through the fields
Remember that song my Naughty by Nature called “You down with OCD”.
Wait, what? That’s not what it’s called? That’s not what they were down
with? Well, in my version it’s definitely OCD.
I don’t suffer
from OCD, I relish in it. I embrace it. Being married to someone who
lives - how shall I say this? - on the other end of the spectrum in
terms of my comfort zone for order and tidiness can be a challenge. I
guess that’s part of being in a relationship; being able to meet
But if it were strictly up to me, my house would
probably look like a museum. I love perfectly arranged items. I love
sorting and organizing. I get off on ninety degree angles. I like
start-to-finish planning. If I could, I’d get a tattoo of a timeline on
my arm. When it comes to law and order, the law is you must keep things
Okay ….. I’m done with the euphemisms.
imagine what my gut instinct was when Lee suggested, as we were planning
a road trip to visit family in Miami, that we leave a day early and
stop in Ft. Myers on the way. “It’ll give us the chance to do something
different,” she said. “We’ve never really been, we can break up the
drive down, and it’ll be fun.”
It was a really good idea and I
agreed to it without much hesitation. I headed over to my laptop and
pulled up a travel website. “What are you doing?” she asked me. I
explained I was going to look up a hotel at which to stay in Ft. Myers
and make a reservation. “We don’t need a reservation,” she quipped.
“Let’s just get in the car and go. We’ll find a place to stay once we
I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I must have
stared at her for about a minute and a half. It was just a blank stare,
my brain unable to comprehend the words that came out of her mouth. I
heard the faint voice of Gary Coleman in my head ask, “Whatchu talk’n
“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked.
I explained to her that it sounded as if she said we didn’t need a
reservation, and that we’d simply find a hotel when we got there.
“That’s exactly what I said,” she retorted. It was then that the twitch
that began in my eye escalated to full-on convulsions over my body.
could this woman possibly suggest we just get in a car, drive to a
different city, and stay the night without a reservation? Why would
anyone do that? That’s the beauty of a reservation. You don’t have to
worry about not having a place to stay. You don’t have to play out in
your head the worst case scenario of sleeping in the car. What if
there’s a convention and the only place available is $300 per night? My
wife obviously hadn’t thought this through very well.
short of *** slapping me back to her reality, Lee convinced me to
“just have faith” and go with it. “You can’t plan everything,” she
lectured me. I quietly disagreed.
We got in the car, drove off,
and made it to Ft. Myers without incident. More importantly, we found a
place to stay without incident. Well, there was that one little detail
about our bathroom not being exactly clean which lead to the room being
comp’d. That was cool.
In the end, we had a great time. Lee’s
spontaneous idea and her coaxing me into giving randomness a try turned
out to be quite the fun adventure. It also turned out to be a good
learning experience for me as well. I learned to expand my comfort zone.
I learned to place trust in the un-planned. I learned to let go of
some of the obsessive and give into more of the compulsive in my life.
is rarely neat and tidy. Life almost never goes according to plan. I
guess it is life’s tendency to exist in disorder that I need to embrace.
In the wake of posting some pretty deep and dark entries about specific
events in my life, it’s with open arms that I embrace tonight’s writing
The subject of tonight’s entry is a truly spiritual moment
in my life. I thought long and hard about this. I tried to recall a
‘eureka’ moment with God, one that set me on a new path of growth and
spiritual happiness. However, the more I searched for that moment, the
more I realized there wasn’t one. Well, not just one.
what I found was a series of moments in my life, specifically in the
last several years, that have brought me closer to God and have allowed
me to look at life with a completely different perspective. It’s very
much a domino effect, where the first moment leads the way to the
second, and so on. The following is a very brief recap of my journey
with Christ that helped get me to where I am today.
It was an
ordinary weekend in 2005 and I just happened to be awake early on a
Sunday morning. Usually I would sleep in late following some drunken
stupor the night before. 2005 was my ‘being single’ year, and I tried to
cram my twenties, as well as everything I felt I had missed by being in
a relationship at such a young age, into that year. That particular
Sunday, however, I was up at around 7:00 AM.
As I lay in bed, I
had a feeling in my chest. It was a calling from Him telling me I needed
to get up and go to Mass. I was raised Catholic, but I had not been to
Mass in a long time. I tried to ignore it. I tried to shake off the
feeling inside me. But the more I did, the louder the voice was and the
deeper the feeling that I needed to get up and just go.
turns out, that particular Sunday was the ministry fair at my church. At
the end of Mass, the newly hired director of Youth Ministry made an
appeal to all in the audience to donate their time and help out the
fledgling program. I looked up towards God and told him, “Okay. I get
the message,” and I registered to volunteer. It was that experience as a
volunteer youth minister that allowed me to participate in a leadership
retreat the following year. It was at that retreat where I had a second
spiritual moment with God.
I had been struggling mightily with
forgiveness. I was still bitter about what had happened to me in my
pursuit of ‘true love’, and I was also very much still mad and ashamed
at myself for what I did to my family and ex-wife. It was there,
following a discussion about reconciliation with God, where I felt the
strength to let it all go and release that burden I’d been carrying. Not
only was I able to extend forgiveness to the person I felt had wronged
me, I also learned at that moment, through God’s amazing grace and
kindness, how to forgive myself.
This experience has come around full circle for me as I sat in the audience at Relevant Church
in Tampa this morning. Our pastor, Paul Wirth
was talking about the snapshots in life that lead to regret. It was
then that I realized exactly how powerful that moment at the retreat
really was. You see, although there are many actions in my life which I
regret having done, I don’t at all feel the heavy burden of regret. I
know the reason for this is because God showed me how to forgive and,
more importantly, how to accept His divine forgiveness.
forgiveness is like a bolt cutter. This specific bolt cutter, however,
requires two cuts in order to work properly. We use this tool to release
ourselves from our sins, which are attached to us at the ankle like a
dead weight. We use it again to let go of the times we’ve been wronged,
which are shackled to us at the other ankle. This weight pulls us under
and drowns us. We can’t cut just one and be released from what is
weighing us down. Instead, Jesus makes the first cut to forgive us of
our sins. He teaches us through example, and we must then take the bolt
cutters and forgive those who have hurt us. Only then can we rise to the
surface and truly take in God’s love like a deep breath of fresh air.
like to think I have spontaneous moments of spirituality every day.
Some are subtle and may take some time to reveal themselves to me.
Others, however, hit my like a ton of bricks. Either way, I feel I am so
lucky and so blessed to have the relationship I do with God.
He truly does work in mysterious ways. All we have to do is be willing to listen ….. and learn.
I guess one of the problems with undertaking a writing challenge like
ours is the inadvertent covering of future topics. Tonight’s subject is
“A dark or turbulent moment in your life.” Well, it goes without saying
I’ve already written about that. So instead, I am going to write about a
dark moment in someone else’s life.
Actually, I jest. This is more like an enlightening moment in someone else’s life.
friend Matt has lived most of his adult life in fear. He was afraid of
the unknown. He was terrified to take on this undertaking, even at the
suggestion of his wife. We, his male peers, offered up words of
encouragement and support, but still he stood frozen in place, his fear
and dislike not allowing him to take that step forward. You see, my
friend Matt had never had a pedicure.
All that changed on Friday
afternoon. Truth be told, we did not have to kidnap him and take him by
force to the spa. There were no tranquilizers, duct tape, and rope
involved, although it would have been cool if we had to throw a sack
over his head and dump him in the trunk to do so. THAT would have made
for a much better story.
Nevertheless, there we were Friday
afternoon, Jeff in one seat, Matt in the other, both of them with their
feet in bubbling water, all the while enjoying the tranquility of the
view and ambient music playing in the day spa. I was there to provide
moral support and to equally mock Matt’s virgin pedi experience. “Can I
get you some water with a slice of cucumber?” I’d ask him. I grabbed a
book from the waiting area for him to pass the time as his wax covered
feet ‘baked’. It was called ‘Girl Talk’. He was not amused. And, of
course, there were also the prerequisite photos of him to be posted on Twitter
through it all, Matt took it, well, like a man. He enjoyed the
experience, made polite conversation with the lovely ladies tending to
his and Jeff’s feet, and I think he walked away with a greater sense of
enlightenment. Not to mention silky smooth feet.
From a guy’s
perspective, it was fun. From a grander perspective, it was cool to
remove from Matt’s mind the negative stereotype of pedicures for men. It
was a learning experience and it was, I think, a growing experience.
And in its own weird way, it brought the three of us guys a little bit
For the record, my one and only pedi experience was with
my wife while we were on vacation in Mexico in 2008. We had a spa day
for two, and it was fantastic. Still, I am the first to admit that
calling up the fellas and saying, “Hey, how about we get together at
1:00 and all go get our feet done?” is never going to happen. I
appreciate the pampering and comfort a pedicure provides, but my first
experience was special because I shared it with Lee, and I want to keep
it as something she and I can do together.
So back to the moral
of the story. Guys, don't knock it ‘till you try it. You never know just
how bright a perceived dark moment can be. Matt, kudos to you for
swallowing some of that male pride and, quite literally, dipping your
feet in the water. Jeff, you continue to display just how cool you are
for making this whole thing happen. And, Michelle, on behalf of Jeff,
myself, and your husband …. you're welcome.
Sometimes things in life can be both easy and hard. There are challenges we
face, people we know, or situations to resolve that have aspects that are both
worrisome and trouble free. This entry is an example of that.
As part of
my wife and I’s 30 Day Blog Challenge
, the blog assignment for this evening is
to write about your best friend (that is not a spouse or significant other).
This is where the easy and hard part comes in.
As I’ve said before, I’ve
been blessed to have an incredible circle of friends that have supported me and
guided me through the years. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, and
it’s a wonderful feeling knowing I am surrounded by such wonderful and amazing
people. The hardest part of this entry, however, is selecting one individual to
highlight as my ‘best friend’. The idea harkens thoughts of third grade and of
raising one individual person over all others, but that’s not what I want to do
at all. Every one of my friends possesses unique characteristics and traits
without which I feel I would be lost. I honestly feel all my friends - my true
friends, those that make up my inner circle of support and those I consider
family - are great.
So as my way of dealing with this dilemma, I am going
to fall back on my marketing background.
In marketing and advertising,
there is a concept of top of mind awareness (TOMA). TOMA, simply put, is the
brand you think of first regarding a particular type of product or service. For
example, someone asks you what soda you like, the list of brands you rattle
through are those that have top of mind awareness for you.
In trying to
determine the subject of this post, I did something similar. I asked myself, “If
I were impacted by a sudden tragedy in my life, who would be the first of my
friends I would call?” Dark, I know. But this question serves as a good litmus
test to help determine who in your life you consider a friend and who gets
relegated to the category of casual acquaintance.
The first person that
came to my mind is my friend Jeff Wilson. I don’t know where to begin with Jeff
except to say I’m the little brother he never had. As far as guy stuff goes, he
and I are cut from the same cloth. We’re both sports geeks. We’re both music
geeks. We’re both big kids raising kids of our own. And since he and I have both
travelled down the road of divorce with young children, we share a bond that
allows us to get each other that much more.
Jeff is one of the most fun
guys I know. He can be the life of the party when he wants to be. He also knows,
however, when it’s time to be cool and casual. He seems to know just about
everybody, too. If you need help with finding tickets to a show, he has a guy he
can call. Going to that new restaurant that’s opening? Chances are he knows the
owner. He’s well connected and influential, but in the most unassuming and
non-egotistical way. He’s just all around cool.
But what makes me look at
Jeff with eyes of admiration is his sense of selflessness and generosity. Jeff
has been a role model to me, leading by example when it comes to giving of
oneself for other people. In 2005, before I had the opportunity of meeting him,
he organized in Tampa the first of what would become an annual event for Lyrics for Life
charity organization founded by Sister Hazel that is dedicated to supporting
research and programs for pediatric cancer. He did this out of pure inspiration
for the cause. He was driven by his desire to make a difference and help out in
any way he could. I attended that event and it was spectacular.
following year, his son was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor, a type of kidney
cancer that occurs in children. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like
for a parent to hear the prognosis of their child being diagnosed with cancer,
but I can tell you Jeff handled the situation with grace and determined resolve.
He rallied around the love of his family and friends to provide both the best
treatment and support environment for his son Tanner. He shaved his head in
solidarity as Tanner began to lose his hair because of the chemo. He never laid
blame on anyone or anything. He took his son by the hand, and they faced the
Tanner is doing well and is symptom free. He is a
healthy and active middle-schooler and the apple of his father’s
Jeff’s been my drinking buddy, my road trip companion, my sounding
board, my confidant, and everything in between. Most importantly, he’s been my
inspiration in terms of charitable work and selfless giving. He’s the type of
friend everyone wants to have and very few people can be. It’s so easy to be
around him and hard not to like him. I am thankful to have him, as I am all my
friends, in my life, and I know my life would be a lot less interesting without
I am a huge sports fan. Even more so, I am a huge Miami Dolphins fan. I
grew up on the Dolphins. The golden era of Shula, Griese, and the Orange
Bowl. The arrival of Dan Marino and the Marks Brothers. The
heartbreaking losses in Super Bowls XVII and XIX. Those are all part of
my childhood and the bedrock that makes me the fan I am today.
to say dealing with heartbreak is part of being a Dolphins fan. Their
last Super Bowl victory came a month before my first birthday. They
haven’t been to the big game since the 1984 season. Their last trip to
the AFC Championship? 1993. Along the way there have been memorable
games, breathtaking wins, and, of course, heartbreaking losses.
Coincidentally, the two that stand out in my mind both came in the
playoffs and both were against the San Diego Chargers.
The first game was the classic Epic in Miami
It was January of 1982 and both teams played a slugfest that went into
overtime. You remember that game: the sloppy field, the hook and lateral
play, Kellen Winslow being carried off the field by his teammates. I
was nine years old. I remember clutching my fists as I knelt in front of
the TV. Following a legendary Miami comeback, I was absolutely sure
they were going to win. They didn’t, losing in overtime. I was a wreck.
second playoff game against the Bolts was in 1995. Miami lead San Diego
21-6 at the half. The Chargers roared back to take the lead. The game
came down to a 48-yard field goal attempt by Pete Stoyanovich. I
remember watching the game at a bar on Bourbon Street. I was so
confident. Pete never misses from inside 50 yards. “We got this!” I said
rather confidently to a patron standing next to me. I was 100% certain
the Dolphins were going to win the game. When Stoyo’s kick sailed wide
right - and it wasn’t even close - my heart sank in complete disbelief.
rare to hear me say, “I’m absolutely positive” about anything in life.
I’ve learned to withhold the final 1% of certainty and allow room, no
matter how miniscule, for the improbable. Still, there I was in 2005
telling everyone I knew about how certain I was things were going to
work out in the end. I was in a relationship I shouldn’t have been in. I
was married. She was married. We were in love. And through it all, I
was 1000% certain it was meant to be. We were perfect together. We were
made for each other. We were soul mates.
Then the improbable - or from my perspective at the time, impossible - happened.
Long story short; after years of promising to choose me for our happily ever after, I was instead cast aside
for the safety of the status quo. It was one of those, “The devil that
you know is better than the devil that you don’t know” situations. To
say I was devastated would be an understatement. That moment was for me
the event that shook me to my core.
*takes a deep breath*
didn’t know where I was going to go with this entry when I started
writing. I didn’t know what the ‘moral of the story’ would be. But, as I
look at those events, now five years removed from my emotional ground
zero, there is one thing that stands out. Time truly does heal all wounds
and life does actually go on.
just so happens I was sharing some parenting advice with a friend this
evening. Her kid is having a tough time with peers at school, and I
reminded her that getting through the tough times is what needs to
happen in order to arrive at the great times. It’s just that all too
often we can’t see the destination from where we stand today, especially
when all we believed to be true is proven to be wrong. Still, as with
those Dolphins teams in which I so passionately believed, there was
always a next season. The promise of a brighter and better tomorrow is
not a theory, it’s an eventuality. The trick is having the faith,
patience, and courage to see it come to fruition.
I don’t believe in random. I mean I do, but I don’t.
balls are random. The way a snowflake falls from the sky is random. The
things that come out of my nine year-old’s mouth are random. But life
and our interactions with others are never random. That being said, I met
Cate Colgan through the most random of circumstances.
the time, I had no idea what a Tweetup was. Nevertheless, Lee and I
trekked down to the Performing Arts Center in downtown Tampa for a Tampa
Bloggers Tweetup. I blogged and I lived in Tampa, but I hardly
considered myself a ‘Tampa Blogger’. Lee and I were both still relative
novices in the whole arena of social media, but it was something to do
so off we went.
Near the end of the event, we met Cate. We
chatted with her a bit and exchanged information. I didn’t think much of
it at the time. It was just another business card to add to the pile I
had collected that evening. We had met a good amount of people at the
event and I spent the better part of the drive home trying to mentally
sort all the names and faces to which we’d been introduced.
time passed and Lee forwarded me information about a Social Media class.
Again, given we were both eager to learn more, we registered for the
class. It turned out Cate Calgon was part of the group that put together
and organized the class. In fact, Lee came across the information for
the class as a result of following Cate on Twitter and keeping tabs on
This second meeting with Cate led to her inviting Lee, and by extension me, to join the Epic Thanks Tampa Bay
planning organization. I was at first reluctant to commit to the
planning and execution of such an event, but I am really glad I got
involved, and it turned out to be quite a successful project. In
addition to the networking opportunities that were created as a result
of being a part of that organization, Epic Thanks also introduced me to a
world of new people that are still a part of my daily life. I’ve made
new and dear friends, and I would not have met all these people if not
Cate has also been a role model for me in that she
leads through example, is incredibly giving and selfless, and carries no
ego with her. Given all she’s done and all she’s donated, both in time
and money, Cate makes it all seem like it’s no big deal. She doesn’t
walk around with a sense of superiority. Quite the contrary. Cate is
always looking to deflect attention away from her and provide praise and
cheer to someone else.
No, there was nothing random about what
brought Cate Calgon into my life. I truly believe God allowed our paths
to cross so I could:
- Be an active part of a wonderful, non-profit organization and event
- Be introduced to breathtakingly inspiring people who make giving of themselves their life’s work
- Expand my knowledge, understanding and skill sets regarding social media, event planning, and event marketing
- Create new opportunities, both personally and professionally, through the many people with whom Cate has connected me
I could easily add twenty more bullet points, but I am sure you get the idea.
To say Cate Calgon has made an impact on my life is an understatement. I’ve written before
how thankful I am to her and for having her come into my life the way
she did. I will say it again, however, because there are not enough
words for me to properly describe how much of a ray of sunshine Cate has
Thanks again, Cate, for turning on the ‘giving’ switch
inside of me, and for showing me how rewarding life can be when you make
it about others.
This blog post is a day late. The Day 17 topic of our 30 Day Writing Challenge
is ‘Someone with whom you shared a friendship/relationship that simply
drifted out of your life.’ As you’ll soon see, there is a reason I was
not able to get this posted on Monday night.
The person that fits
the subject of this post, let’s call her Mirabelle, is someone I met
back in 2004. She was one of the first new people I met after my first
marriage ended, and we quickly hit it off. I maintained a relationship
with her through about the end of 2005 until, as the subject of this
post suggests, we both just drifted away in separate directions. No
rhyme or reason, just the final extinguishing of an ember that was once a
It’s funny how that happens. Relationships that were once
rock solid reduced, over time, to afterthoughts. It’s understandable
when there’s an evident reason. I’ve been a part of a bromance that
ended up in a dudevorce resulting from a misunderstanding and the
subsequent battle of stubborn wills. I’ve dumped women and have also
been dumped by them. With those, there was always a tangible cause and
effect that makes clear why the relationship is no more. With Mirabelle,
however, our friendship just faded.
It’s quite sad, too, when
you think about it. We had the type of friendship where we’d call each
other daily. She’d tell me about her issues at work and guys she was
seeing. She’d lend me her ear as I continuously harped about my
situation and the problems I was facing. We’d go out to dinner,
sometimes with my kids, sometimes just the two of us. She once let me
use her car to drive my kids down to Miami as it was much safer than
taking them down in the little, one bench-seat Ford Ranger I had at the
time. I introduced her to Sister Hazel. She introduced me to the TV show
Firefly. We were, one might say, a good fit for each other.
Mirabelle was faced with a big decision that impacted her career, I was
the person she called to talk about it. We weighed the pros and cons of
the decision, and with that she made her choice. She chose option A
which meant leaving her current employer but staying in the Tampa area.
Option B would have meant staying with her employer but moving back to
I like to think my life intersected Mirabelle’s for a
reason, and vice versa. Last I heard from Mirabelle, she had met
someone new and was about to get married. Perhaps it was my role in her
life to advise her in her career choice, the one that kept her in the
area and subsequently allowed her to meet her husband. Perhaps it was
something else; a purpose I’ll never realize but one I believe was
I also like to think, mostly based on past experiences,
not all new friendships are meant to last a lifetime. We meet, we
interact, we impact (or get impacted upon), and we move on. It’s like
the lyric from the Billy Joel song ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood’: “So many
faces in and out of my life, some will last, some will just be now and
then. Life is a series of hello’s and goodbye’s, I’m afraid it’s time
for goodbye again.”
This gets me to why I was not able to post this entry Monday night.
Monday night, I was out meeting with a good friend of mine I hadn’t
seen in quite some time. We don’t really live all that far from each
other, but as with all things, she’s got her life and things going on
and I have mine. We keep in touch via Facebook and the occasional text
message, but for the most part it’s been a series of “we’ve got to get
together” conversations. Well, Monday night we did just that. We set
aside some time and made the effort to see each other. I am really glad
we did because it was really wonderful seeing her. And if there was one
thing my get-together with my friend provided, it was the opportunity to
close the gap of ‘friendship drift’ between us.
There are some
people in our lives that are just too special to allow them to aimlessly
drift away, and sometimes all it takes is a tiny bit of resolve to say,
“Let’s get together on this date at this time, period!” It’s funny how a
little bit of forethought can help keep a relationship from becoming an
On September 3, 2004, following a two-year battle, my father, John Robert Gonzalez, succumbed to cancer.
man that lay in that hospice bed those final days was, physically, just
a shell of the man I grew up admiring. He would drift in and out of
consciousness, unable to speak, until he finally laid his head back and
took his last breath. With that he was gone.
With that, I was devastated.
been to funerals before. I’d had close friends lose their parents. I’d
lost very close friends myself at such an early age. Still, there is
something surreal about having a parent pass away. It was a ton of
bricks falling on me. It was having to face the reality this man, a man
who was a constant in my life, would never again be there for me.
Whenever I couldn’t figure out how to do something around the house, I’d
give him a call. Whenever there was a big play in the Dolphins’ game,
I’d give him a call. Every Sunday afternoon, I’d give him a call. Now
there was no one for me to call ever again. Sad and surreal and so hard
for me to come to terms with.
There was one aspect of my father’s passing, however, that did bring me peace.
In the final weeks of August 2004, I read Mitch Albom’s book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven
It changed my life. I say that because it changed my ideas and
perceptions about the afterlife and what happens in heaven. The book
allowed me to think of a place we visit once we die, a place that
summarizes and makes complete the life we lived on earth. It opened my
eyes to the idea that dying is something we can look forward to because
of the wonderful experience that follows our passing.
and the manner in which it is so beautifully told, allowed me to more
quickly find acceptance of the fact my father was dead. Rather than
consume my thoughts with things I’d never be able to do with him again, I
thought instead of who his five people are and what interactions he was
having with them in the great beyond. It was almost a joyous feeling to
think he was reunited with his mother, a spectacular woman whom he
loved so very much, and the conversations they would share. It was
fascinating in a sad but beautiful way. It was, for me, a source of
strength at a time of loss.
Writing is a powerful medium, and the
art of storytelling can be a very influential vehicle. It’s still
amazing to me, as well as inspiring, that someone can put words to paper
and, as a result, positively impact the lives of millions of strangers.
That is what Mitch Albom has done with his books. He is a role model
for me as an author, as a sports writer, and as a person; and I aspire
so much to model my craft after his.
I hope and pray that I will
one day write something that will be a positive influence on someone
else’s life. I do this not for any sense of fame, gratitude, or
acknowledgement, but rather because of my belief that doing so would
make my father proud. After all, it will give us something to talk about
when it’s our time to reunite in heaven.To read the eulogy I wrote for my father, please click here.
If ever there was such a thing as an obvious choice, the subject of this
entry is it. The writer in me so desperately wanted to go with a twist
or misdirection, but anyone who knows me would easily guess or tell you
the band or musical artist that has impacted my life is Sister Hazel. I
mean, it’s not even close.
This entry actually serves as a good follow-up to my post from yesterday
I went through some tough and dark times at the end of 2004, and it was
the music of Sister Hazel that played a part in getting me through it.
There were days when I felt like my life had come to a screeching halt
while everyone else’s was going by me at 100 miles per hour. It was my
ability to relate to the lyrics; to read, study, and understand those
words set to music that helped get me through those dark days.Diggin' in for another day
Carrying on in my own way
But you know me
I live and die nearly every day
Insanity, it's havin' its way with me
2005 I was able to introduce Lee to the music of Sister Hazel, and it
became something we were able to share together. It allowed her to
understand and get me a little bit better. It became for her, albeit
after some initial reluctance, a place for her to find strength and
comfort as well.And when you're weak of holding on
Release your wayward soul
And spend your days not falling down
Before your empty idols
In 2006, Lee and I chased daylight
on the way to the first annual Hazelnut Hang
in South Carolina. We watched the sun set on the west coast of Florida,
jumped in my truck, drove all night, and watched the sun rise over the
beach on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. It was the first of what
would become many Sister Hazel related adventures and experiences Lee
and I would share together.Sky fell down and pulled us in
Stole away my oxygen
And left me standin' breathless there with you
The ocean wrapped around the sun
The smell of June - the taste of your tongue
Was all I'd ever need
music of Sister Hazel has not only been an inspirational vehicle for
the two of us, it’s also introduced us to a circle of friends that
cannot be adequately described with words. When I think about the people
with whom Lee and I interact on a regular basis, for the vast majority
of them, the common link is Sister Hazel. We either met them through or
because of events that in some shape, way, or form tie back to that band
that hales from Gainesville, Florida.
I’ve jumped out of a plane
because of Sister Hazel. I’ve helped friends load a moving truck
because of Sister Hazel. I’ve helped friends unload a moving truck
because of Sister Hazel. I’ve seen friends meet, fall in love, and get
married because of Sister Hazel. I’ve attended weddings of friends
because of Sister Hazel. I’ve seen friends bring babies into this world
because of Sister Hazel. I’ve shared tears at the passing of friends
I’ve met because of Sister Hazel. I know it may sound weird from the
outside looking in, but I can tell you it’s quite a spectacular feeling
knowing I have this large, extended family on which I can rely and in
which I can trust, all because of this one band that continues to put
out great music and bring people together.
I honestly don’t know
where I’d be without my Hazel family. I honestly cannot imagine my life
without the myriad of people who fill my life and make it so wonderful
and blessed. I think about how different my life would be if not for the
music of Ken Block, Drew Copeland, Ryan Newell, Mark Trojanowski, and
Jett Beres. When you stop and think about it, it really is a beautiful
I remember how I felt that night back in late 2004. It was sheer and
utter despair. Actually, it was several exits past despair. I felt
depleted. I felt alone. I felt beyond lost. In my eyes, there was
nothing left except the final bit of tequila that sat at the bottom of
the bottle I held in my hand. I couldn’t cry anymore. All of my tears
had already been shed. I couldn’t feel anymore, both physically and
emotionally. It was my rock bottom and I had emptied out.
remember picking up the phone, my hand trembling, not knowing what the
right thing to do was. I didn’t care to know either. I dialed and left
the following message. “Hey. In the event I don’t wake up tomorrow,
please tell the kids I am really, really sorry.” With that, I plopped a
handful of sleeping pills in my mouth and finished off what was left of
I am embarrassed and ashamed of that moment in my
life. It’s the one moment in my life I gave up complete hope in
anything, and it’s the furthest away from God I’d ever been.
look back at that night and thank God He spared me during my moment of
insanity. I believe He did so as a reminder that life is a struggle, and
that when it appears everyone else has abandoned you, He is always
I look back at that night with disgust for myself because I
was blind to the one gift He gave me that serves as a reminder of His
love for me; my kids. How could I have possibly thought it was okay to
check out on them, the only two human beings in the world that have ever
displayed true, unconditional love to me? It’s shameful that I even
I have a great job, a beautiful house, good
health, a nice truck and so much more. I have a circle of friends that
makes my life so amazingly awesome and helps me create wonderful
memories. And I have a wife that is my best friend, my biggest fan, and
my north, always helping me find my way when I think I can’t. Still,
given all that, the one thing I truly live for is my kids.
trade it all in for them. No hesitation, no questions asked. I’d be fine
living as a homeless person if it meant my kids had food and shelter
for themselves. I’d lie in a hospital bed the rest of my days if that
were the only way to ensure my kids were healthy. I’d live alone and
broken-hearted if it meant that was the only way my kids would find
someone to love for the rest of their lives.
Now, before you go
freaking out on me, please know I’ve had this conversation before with
my wife and she knows how I feel. She supports how I feel. And I am
pretty sure she loves me more because of the father I strive to be to my
My children have made my life worth living for. I am
reminded of that every time I look in their eyes, and I am so thankful
God allowed me the chance to remember that.
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