Real Lesson On Love

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. – Michael Masser & Linda Creed (Songwriters)  

This is a common saying among our culture. And it’s true that self love is something we as a society/culture struggle to learn. However, I believe the most significant love lessons are those directed towards others.

You see when we love someone, be it a lover, a friend, or a relative, there is an inward pleasure that comes from giving and sharing the love that is inside of us. Humans are made to give, receive and share love. It’s a natural interconnecting and cyclical exchange which gives us purpose beyond ourselves. Love, being an action word, causes movement and pushes us past mere self interest. It involves sacrifice. Love says, “I will give my child the one piece of bread in the house and I will go hungry.” Or, “I will buy my lover an outfit, or his favorite cologne with my spending money instead of buying something for myself.”

You know the funny thing about love? Is that the so called sacrifice actually becomes pleasurable. There is no real suffering when your mind and heart are motivated to give. The satisfaction on the inside from giving to the object of your affection is reward enough. It’s easy!

Love will make you do right. Love will make you do wrong. Make you come home early. Make you stay out all night long. – Al Green

But what happens when the one you love doesn’t love you? What happens when the child you loved, raised and provided for rejects you? What happens when the friend you love betrays you? What happens when your lover cheats and breaks their promises. What happens to your love then?

Love is an investment of the heart. It requires intimacy and vulnerability. Vulnerability carries with it the potential of great pain. Pain causes grief. Anger is one of the 5 stages of grief. (along with denial, bargaining, and depression…) Acceptance is the last of the 5 stages.

If she is amazing, she won’t be easy.  If she is easy, she won’t be amazing. If she is worth it you won’t give up. If you give up you’re not worthy… Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley

When someone you love causes you to experience the 5 stages, this is the ultimate test of whether love is real. It’s easy to love when love is requited. But when it’s not, when the one you love isn’t going to return that love, or for that matter do the opposite of what you desire he/she does, and you achieve acceptance granting them their wish, then you will know that your love is truly love.

And this is the secret of love as well as some of the most important lessons we will learn in life. True enlightenment can’t be learned in a book. Ideas may start in theory but they aren’t anything but philosophies and mental treaties until you walk the walk. In this case, when your loved one puts you through hell and back, is performing at their worst, or is in a position to offer you nothing and yet you continue to love, then the true lessons of love have been achieved.

I always knew this in ‘theory.’ As a matter of fact, I have prided myself on loving the important people in my life when they are at their worst. After all, that’s when love is needed the most. I’ve proclaimed it and desired that same kind of love for myself. We all need that kind of love. I’m glad to say that I have both given and experienced this love beyond theory. Neither side of it was pretty or easy. But they were both real. To me, this is the greatest love of all.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13

 

 

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Baseball, BackStopping and the Power of Unity

As I reflect on my experience during the 60 Hour World Record Baseball Game benefitting BackStoppers, there is so much that come to mind.

Many have asked how I became involved with this group of people.  It started when I donated time as a basketball referee for the World Record Basketball Game benefiting Joplin tornado victims.  I was so impressed with the dedication of the players, I knew I wanted to be a part of the next challenge they embraced.  When Chuck Williams sent me the email asking if I wanted to umpire for the 60 Hour Baseball Game, my answer was an unequivocal ‘no.’  I wanted to extend my commitment past a few hours and complete the entire task with the group.  That decision proved far more rewarding than even I anticipated.

With that said I wanted to offer a few shout outs to some very impressive people.  Please keep in mind that for me name recognition is limited and I am in no way trying to discount anyone’s contributions of whom I am not aware.  I am basically the new kid on the block.

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Team Traube

1) Steve Pona and Chuck Williams are some visionary and giving individuals.  I am  grateful to know them and to have worked with them.  In addition to their regular full time jobs, these charity events require a totally separate full time obligation in order for them to succeed.  These guys make it look very easy.  I saw much of just what they went through during the event let along before it to help make things run smoothly.  It only takes one or a small group to spark a fire for a great cause.  Steve and Chuck are a force to be reckoned with.

2) Michelle Bommarito Pona, and Cari Atkinson are warriors above and beyond the call of duty.  I can’t even count the amount of things they had their hands into from breakfast, lunch & dinner; to ice, managing logistical snafus, and last but not least dirty stinking laundry in the wee hours of the night after working all damn day!  Cari scared us a bit when she suffered some effects from the heat.  But she wasn’t going home until the deal was done.  I witnessed her arguing with EMS and Jeff Lange as she lay on the floor with ice bags all over her.  Even the Sargent (Jeff) couldn’t ‘detain’ her to house arrest.   I don’t think I recognized Lynn Coats by face, but she was so instrumental with helping me finalize my silent auction item.  Of course there were many more whose name I never learned.  But their faces were familiar throughout the process and we all leaned on one another.

3) My teammates (Liebe) were just awesome.  Great guys to hang out with who kept it light, fun and competitive.  Most of us proved extremely unselfish in being on time for shifts and picking one another up.  Some of us needed extra time for rest or to nurse an injury. The support was plentiful as it should have been.  The point was to finish strong together and we did just that.  Kevin Wheeler was a hitting machine who was really fun to watch.  Matt Savoi caught about 100 innings.  And lord knows how many innings Todd Hinderliter threw.  Through the heat, the midnight/sunrise hours, and the sore muscles, boy was it fun!  I had some of the best laughs ever, most of it laughing at ourselves.

4) Speaking of sore muscles, none of us would have made it without the help of our friends from SSM Health Care!  They became familiar with me rather quickly.  Many of us sought them for Biofreeze as if they were street dealers. “Give me just one more package!  I promise not to ask again!”  Seriously they took great care of us and were just awesome!

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Baseball during 4th of July Fireworks

5) What I will remember about the opposition (Traube) most is that boy did they want to win.  After shooting out to a 30-4 lead, the few times we almost caught up they made their minds up to put it out of reach.  Sure we had a lot of light and care free innings.  But when I got picked off at first at 5 something in the morning I knew what time it was.  (LOL) Charity be dammed they wanted to win!  That was cool though as they are a great bunch of guys.  I don’t recall the catcher’s name but he actually helped me get out of my slump by giving me some suggestions about my approach.

6) Sponsorship was vital.  Liebe Lettering and Traube Tents provided great jerseys for both teams.  Great tents!  We truly thank all of the sponsors who donated time, food, balls, (Markwort) bats, (Area 51) clothing, and so on for lending their name and products.  Being pregnant with a vision doesn’t cost a thing birthing it out cost big $$$$$$$!

SSM Healthcare

7) I am so proud of my umpire brethren.   Before the basketball game for Joplin, I sent request to every basketball official I knew.  Unfortunately, though we had some support, there were plenty of times the guys had to call their own fouls and independently run their games.  The umpires commitment was so significant that I don’t recall seeing anything less than a 4 man crew for the entire 60 hours.  Even one of my crew chiefs who shall remain unnamed (Greg Willem) paid one of the other umps $5 to ring me up on a bogus strike three call. (100% true story) If that ain’t love I don’t know what is.

8) The BackStoppers family which was the motivation behind this entire event is something special.  Chief Ron Battelle is such a gracious and honorable man.  He’s one of my favorite kind of guys.  He walks softly and carries the proverbial big stick.  Not because he flaunts it, but just the opposite.  His leadership is founded upon and revealed within his heart to serve.  This is why people follow him.  Needless to say meeting Officer Matt Crosby, and Julie Weinhold and family brought the issue right at home.  It is for them and the 60 other current families being served by BackStoppers that made this all worth doing.  For these families whose loved one have given the ultimate sacrifice WE are grateful!

To all I say thank you for everything. I look forward to the next cause…the next act of love!

And lastly, don’t get it twisted.  The game is over but we are still taking donations!

The Group

Of Parenting, Fatherhood and Grace

It was June 5, 2010.  My son Christian had just graduated from East Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia.  The ceremony, held outdoors at the athletic field was hot, crowded and awesome.  It seemed like more than a thousand graduates.  Caps and gowns covered nearly the entire field.

 Soon after the festivities, I told my son Alex (one year younger than the older graduate), “Just think, this will be you next year.  And you will be wearing the white robe and sitting in the front where the honor students sit.”  Alex said, “Well dad I don’t know about that.”  I assured him that there would be no doubt. 

 Alex is my fourth of 5th biological children.  And it seemed as each one began to grow up, I became a better father and a better teacher.  I don’t know if I helped my two elder daughters at school much at all, other than to offer encouragement and help with a homework assignment or three.  Not that I wasn’t interested.  I went to parent teacher conferences, showed up at whatever activity they were doing, and followed up on all of their progress.  They were motivated young women in regards to their primary education. 

 Charelle

 Charelle, for instance, was always a “Five-Tool” type of player. (To borrow a sports analogy)  She was excellent in math, science, english, reading, art; you name it.  I recall checking on her progress with her teachers in high school.  One teacher in particular looked at me and said, “You’re Charelle’s father right?  Don’t bother wasting your time.  Nothing I can tell you about this girl.  She’s got it!”  In addition, she was tremendously popular too; something I never was in any level of schooling.

Chrystal, talented in her own right, I recall being especially great at art.  My biggest challenge with her was fighting over what items she created that I could keep for myself after the art exhibits.  I wanted them all.  She was also popular and was able to hang with literally any crowd and thrive.  Something I also could not do at her age.

Back to Christian, he was always a decent student.  But he seemed to thrive more on the creative.  He could get an A in any given class if he wanted to; if he was interested enough.  What was really impressive about the time of his graduation is that his journey was featured in a local newspaper detailing what it took for him to graduate overcoming many obstacles.  Oh and did I mention, he too was very popular among peers.

 Chrystal

By the time I had any clue of what I was doing to help with my kid’s education; since Charelle and Chrystal were already accomplished, my focus was on Alex and Christian during their latter school years.  While I wasn’t sharpest knife in the drawer and half of the work they did was way past my expertise, I focused on what I was good at.  Simplifying the process and helping them to see the big picture of life lessons and personal accountability.  These are what I would offer them: 

  • By the end of the first week of school, you should know exactly what it takes to get an A out of each class you take.  If you don’t know by the end of the first week, ask.

  • I honestly could give a damn about whether you make an A or a D.  The issue is to never ever cheat yourself.  Never be lazy or content.  If you got an A only because of your ability but did not maximize your efforts in the class, it doesn’t do anything for you in the long run.  But if you got a D and worked your ass off, you can be proud of it.  Only YOU know the difference.  And that’s the person who counts.  Just be excellent and let the results speak for themselves.  This is what being a leader and not a follower is all about.  Be a leader!

  • Some teachers are great, and some suck.  Those that suck still have the pen that you will be graded with.  That grade will follow you.  So you must learn to make the best of those classes as well, if for no other reason than to get your grade and get the hell out.  Teachers are like bosses and co-workers.  Even with the ones that suck, you still have to learn to work with them to be successful in life.

Christian

Thus were the abiding principals I would hammer home regardless of the situation or circumstance.  Every year we would have long conversations revolving around these somehow. I tried to capture their imaginations.  I wanted my sons to envision themselves as adult men in life, not just boys in school.  Most times I couldn’t tell what they thought of it.  And I didn’t spend too much time wondering.  I felt I did my job and gave them what I had.  Ultimately they had to decide for themselves.

Then it happened on May 30th 2011.  I’m back at East Paulding for Alex’s graduation.  The ceremony had just wrapped up. There were several hundred students, parents and family members walking on the field taking pictures and celebrating.  Alex seemed as pleased as I was to soak up this moment.  Then he pulled me to the side and offered this to old dad. 

“Hey!  Remember what you told me last year?  You said that I was going to wear the white robe, sit in the front and be an honors graduate.” 

“Yes I do remember,” I told him.

“You also said no matter what you do, always be excellent. I can’t believe I graduated with honors.  It was hard work man.  But I did.  I always listened to you, though I know most years I didn’t act like it.” 

We both laughed.

That moment for me was one of significance because it dawned on me not only how important it is for fathers to be in their children’s lives, but how important I was to my children.  That through all of the struggles, mistakes, and second guessing I’ve done as a man and a father, my presence and support in my children’s lives makes a difference.  Then I wondered what would have happened if I had not been there.  What if I never taught my sons to be leaders and not followers?  Wow, my job has been important.

I have four adult children from ages 18-24 and they are all in college.  I give them way more credit for making their own breaks and striving for their own goals than anything I’ve done for them.  I give credit to their mothers who were there day in and day out.  I’m very proud of them all.  With each of them as well as the ones still coming up, my focus is always to train them to be adults on their own making their own contributions.  I consider myself very blessed to be a part of their lives and being able to witness their transformations.

Alex

Legacy and Love for Children

I admit it.  Sometimes I worry about what my legacy will be on the Earth after I leave it.  I wonder will I reach my potential.  Will I touch the lives I am supposed to touch.  Have I wasted too much time already?  Do I make the right decisions by in large?  Am I making the impact I am supposed to make?  I battle with these thoughts all the time.  It’s not as if I can’t enjoy the moment either.  (though I am sure I don’t live in the moment enough.)  It’s just that I am mindful that life as we know it here doesn’t go on forever. 

One thing I do know for sure though is that when I look at my children I have no questions about the outstanding people they are and that they already are making a difference.  Each of them like all people have unique gifts and talents.  But they also are thoughtful, caring and considerate people.  Though two of them are grown I found out that a parent’s job is never really over.  A great man said he learned that when his children became adults that is when the parenting really began.  Imagine that?     

There have been many ups and a few downs.  And I’ve enjoyed most of the stages and adventures that my young people have experienced.  I look forward to helping them in every way I can as long as I can.

As a gift to them, next week I will share some fatherly thoughts about each of them starting with the eldest. 

It’s just something I feel I need to do.

Say Hello To My Little Friend!

Well actually it’s my grandson – the latest addition to the family.  Xavier William Curry arrived on Wednesday at 5:27pm St. Louis time.  (Just a day before mom’s birthday!)

Mother, baby and father are doing just fine.  And of course “Paw Paw” is looking forward to bouncing the kid off his knee and teaching him everything I know.

Congratulations to Justin and Chrystal Curry, the blessed and proud parents!

Pics from Top – L-R Xavier William – Chrystal the night before giving birth, and Justin and Chrystal on their wedding day.

A Treat for Grandad! ~ Or A Country for Old Men

This was a really cool weekend cause I received the blessing of having to keep my grand-kids.  Its been quite a while since I’ve had them other than visiting their home.  The extra blessing was that it was my grandaughter’s 3rd  birthday too!  So grandpa (or Paw Paw as she affectionately calls me) go to spoil his baby and watch her enjoy herself eating pizza, a birthday brownie (she refused to blow it out, just stared at it) and ice cream while laughing at Tom and Jerry videos as if it were the funniest thing on earth.

Yes the old pro was at it again, changing diapers and trying to calm her little brother who was teething like nobodies business.  It was definitely an adventure!

I look forward to having them more and more as they grow up.  Its always been a dream of mine to be the elder for the younger generation.   I love the thought of being able to nurture them as well as show them the ropes – not from the perspective of a parent, (we all know how we do our parents sometime) but from that cool pimp granddaddy style.  You know where you know that old person knows what he is talking about, but he’s so smooth with it he doesn’t make you feel like he’s parenting you.

Grandchildren: truly God’s gift to the “chronologically gifted!”

Pics from L to R

1. Playing with the balloons. 2 & 3 – playing with Aunt Gab 4. Hangin with “Paw Paw” 5. Big Daddy the Brown Cannonball was teething so bad…poor guy couldn’t stop fussing! 6. Badk to the balloons. 7-10 In full photo shoot mode, 11&12 – Big Daddy was back and having a better day, and baby girl just likes taking pictures!