Emotional Day

It is still a year away, but it is becoming very real, very quickly.

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Last month, on the last day of school, my oldest called me and proudly announced, “I’m a senior, dad!”  It’s not like I didn’t think this time was coming, I knew it was.  I knew when I held him as a newborn baby that time was going to go quickly.  Life already moves quickly, and they say that when you have children, it moves a whole lot faster!  I would definitely agree!

First steps.  First words.  First day of pre-school.  First day of kindergarten.  First holiday program.  First day riding the bus.  First day of middle school.  First day of high school.  First band concert.  First awards ceremony.  How quickly these firsts fly by.  Next year, we begin to see the Last first day of school, the last final exams, and eventually, the last last day of school.

Today, we took my son, Dante’ out to have some senior pictures taken.  Times have certainly changed from when I had mine done. 31 years ago, they had the photographer set up in one of rooms in the school.  You made an appointment.  You got dressed up in a suit and tie and they put you in some ridiculous poses.  For those in sports, they may have posed with a football or basketball.  I had my trumpet with me in one pose.  They allowed you (for a fee) to pose with a friend.  I know that I have pictures with my friend Steve and Margaret.  You had to pose for one generic head shot (which would ultimately be your yearbook picture).  Most of the other poses were just awkward.  I have this one of me with the suit coat in my hand and over my shoulder – it looks so stupid!!

Our friend Amy came out and shot his pictures.  Prior to the shoot she was clear that the way we would get authentic pictures was to make sure he was dressed comfortably.  In other words, if he was not a suit and tie guy, then don’t force him to wear it.  She wanted to know his interests so we could get some shots of him being natural and relaxed.  We sort of mapped out a tentative plan and did as much as we could (knowing that he would probably get to a point where he’d be burned out).

Dante’ and his friends from school love old cars.  He has always amazed me as we drive around town.  He can point to a classic and give me the year, make and model of the car.  He loves them.  He’d been asking to go to a classic car show this summer and today, they had one in Flushing.  It was going on while I was on the air, so Sam met Amy and they took some shots near some of the cars of his choosing.  They also got some good pictures in the park where the car show was held.

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He also loves video games and arcades.  There was one in the mall near us, so that was the next stop.  Sadly, it was much different from the one that we had been at before.  Perhaps there were new owners, I don’t know, but it was more geared toward younger children.  I met the group at the mall after work and we looked at the rest of the agenda.  It was extremely hot and humid and we could see he was getting tired.

There is a park near us that has a creek, a bridge, and a trail.  We decided to go there and see what kind of pictures we could get there.  Dimitri had been out in the sun all day on Thursday and was still nursing a bad sunburn, so Sam took him home and I continued with Dante’.  We took quite a few shots there and I am excited to see them.

We walked down one of the trails and were looking for more opportunities for pictures.  Dante’ was walking ahead of me and I had a flashback.  One day the entire family was walking the trail by our old house.  He and Dimitri were walking in front of me holding hands (the picture is probably on my Facebook somewhere).  It was autumn, and the leaves were changing.  I told Dante’ that the trail reminded me of that.  Without hesitation, Amy told me and Dante’ to walk ahead of her and just talk.  For 5 minutes, I just walked and talked with my son.  Welling up with emotion, I put my arm around him and he did the same to me.  Amy snapped some pictures of us, and I am pretty excited to see them.  It was a very special moment.

There was talk of going to Crossroads Village and Downtown Flint, but it was obvious that he was getting close to being done.  Crossroads is a very special place for him because of his love for trains, and the fact that when he was 4, my mom spent the day with him at the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine.  Downtown Flint would have been cool because there are so many cool photo opportunities.  Knowing that he was running on empty, we came back to the house.

At the house, Amy wanted to get some shots of him playing video games.  This was important to him.  He loves gaming and his senior pictures should show that.  Amy’s daughter, Skyler, made a very cool sign that was in the shots with his video games that read:  “High School – Game Over!” The sign sat next to a stack of his favorite games.

Dimitri wanted a picture of the two of them back to back playing games, so she made sure to get that one for him.  She then had the boys sit on the side porch in the rocking chairs and just talk to each other.  Nothing forced.  Just casual conversation between two brothers.  I am sure that these pictures will be awesome!

Finally, we had Dante’ standing on the front porch and we hoped to get some shots there.  I think we got one.  In a very bizarre weather change, in a matter of seconds, the wind picked up, there was a clap of thunder, and the clouds opened up and the rain came pouring down.  Dante’ went in the house and Sam and I stood on the porch chatting with Amy.  That was the end of the shoot and it went better than I expected.

Dante’ thanked Sam and gave her a hug thanking her for a fun day.  He had been so worked up about getting the pictures done.  I am guessing he probably thought it would mean him sitting and posing like they did for me.  His photo shoot, however, was a fun day looking at classic cars, going to the park, and gaming on camera.  He thanked me too, and every bit of the emotions hit me.  My voice cracked as I told him that I still couldn’t believe he was a senior.  He looked me in the eye and said, “Are you crying, dad?!”  Yes.  Yes, I was.

I went in the house and stood in the window looking at my senior with tears in my eyes.  There was the little boy who I sang to sleep each night with Dean Martin songs.  There was the boy who waved to me from the bus window on one of many first days of school.  There was the boy who was nonverbal and pointed at pictures to tell us what he wanted to eat.  There was the boy who stood close to the TV mesmerized by the “Blue Shadows” scene in The Three Amigos.  There was the boy who sang “Elmo’s World” with grandma as they watched Sesame Street.  There was the boy I coached with his baseball team.  There was the boy who played my trumpet in his first band concert.  There was the boy who I rushed to the hospital after his tonsillectomy because his stitches broke.  There was the boy who I cheered for when he learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  Each of those things brought dad to tears.  Now here is dad, crying again.  Where that boy stood – now stands a young man who towers over his dad.  That young man is about to experience the fastest school year of his life.

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I am sure that there are many more tears that will flow in the coming months.  I can’t help it. I will cry when I see the pictures that were taken today. I will cry at awards ceremonies.  I will cry at his commencement ceremony.  I will cry at his graduation party.  Those tears are mixed with sadness, joy, and pride.  This is a transition for him.  It signifies the end of school and childhood, and the beginning of adulthood.  After graduation, he plans to go to college and maybe do something with logistics, although he still occasionally talks about working with trains.  His future is bright and I will be cheering him on until I breathe my last breath.

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I will do the same for his brother.  He’s got 6 more years before he is a senior, but rest assured, I will shed tears of joy for him in the coming years, too!  I can only imagine the wonderful things he will be doing in the years ahead, and I look forward to praising him for all of his accomplishments!  He will continue to grow up quickly, just like his brother.  In 6 years, I am guessing I will be looking out a window through tears at him, too, recounting his milestones and memories.  It’s what dad’s do.

Pass the Kleenex – it’s gonna be a long year!

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Four Things You Can’t Recover …

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My last blog was 7 days ago.  I had hoped to write for Tune Tuesday, I wanted to write a birthday blog for my wife, do a Top 10 song list for Dean Martin’s birthday and post a couple blogs as well, but I am a procrastinator.  I was asked to speak at the annual sleep conference at the Greektown Casino last week.  I had known my topic and the basic points I wanted to make since April.  I compiled the list of goals and gave an overview of the talk and sent it to the folks who asked me to speak, but I procrastinated until the week of the talk to put it together.  So, the past week has been spent outlining, planning, and editing my speech as well as creating the PowerPoint that was to accompany it.

During my radio career, I have stood in front of audiences of hundreds and thousands of people and introduced performers.  It was nothing to do this.  For this talk, which was to be in front of about 100-150 people, I was really nervous.  I know why – I was speaking to a group of peers.  I was going to get up and present a talk to people who have been doing what I do for many more years than me.  I kept asking myself, “Who am I to be the one up here talking?!  There are people in this audience who are WAY smarter than me!”  Every one kept telling me I’d be fine, yet, I still worried – until I got there.

Once I walked in, I ran into friends from college, friends who I worked with at another sleep lab, co-workers and friends from my current sleep lab, vendors who I have known for some time, and many familiar faces.  With each interaction with these people, the anxiety and nervousness faded quickly.  Once I was introduced, and I had the microphone, it was easy as pie!  It went very well, and many people who I had never met even came up to compliment me.  It was a very cool day.

There was one thing that happened after the conference that is really the point of this blog.  I’ll explain in a second.  Something came up in my Facebook “memory” feed that I could apply to what happened, and also makes for a good blog post.  So, here it is:

Four Things That Can Never Be Recovered

I won’t lie, I stole this from a friend who had posted it originally.  I find this to be very powerful and thought provoking.  So what are the four things?  “The stone after the throw, the word after it’s spoken, the occasion after it’s missed, and the time after it’s gone.”  I found myself reading this more than once, and thinking about each of these things.  I wasn’t going to blog about it, but the more I thought about it, the more it kept telling me to write on it.

The Stone After The Throw / The Word After It’s Spoken

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These two things go kind of hand in hand.  When you hit someone with a stone it hurts (physically).  When you say something out of anger, or without thinking how it might be taken by the person you are talking to it also hurts (emotionally).

Now, most of us are not out throwing stones at each other.  However, we frequently act without thinking.  We are prone to act or speak based on emotions. In many of those instances, we act or speak without really thinking about it.  Words or actions happen before the possible consequences are even considered.  All too often, we regret having said or done something knowing (after the fact) that it was hurtful.

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This relates to the instance that happened to me after the conference.  It didn’t involve anyone at the conference.  I won’t go into much detail, but it was after an interaction I had with someone.  I had texted that person prior to my arrival, so this may have been how the “stone” wound up being thrown at me.  As I left that person, my phone “dinged”.  It was a text message, from the person I had just left not 60 seconds earlier.  I will spare you the profanity that was in it, and let you fill in the blanks.  It read, “Keith is such a M___ F____ P___ A___ D____ B___!”

So, me being the guy I am, I responded with “Yes, but how do you really feel?”  For just a minute, put yourself in their shoes.  I don’t know what they felt, perhaps panic at first, knowing that they totally meant it for someone else to read?  Maybe they felt stupid?  Maybe they felt regret?  Maybe they didn’t feel anything.  I don’t know.  It took a few minutes for them to respond back.

Their response basically said “Sorry” and that it “was meant for someone else.”  It went on to say not to “take it seriously” and to have a good rest of the weekend.  I did not respond to this.  After a while later, another text came to me saying how wrong it was to text me that or “anyone for that matter.”  The person said that they “were trying to be funny” and admitted that it was “a mean thing to do.”  They said it was “weighing on” their conscience and that they were “really embarrassed and sorry.”  They also said how it was not very “Christian-like.”

I chose not to respond to this either.  I certainly could have, but I didn’t.  I was reminded of a Bible verse that I heard a pastor teach on at church one Sunday.  The verse is James 1:19 which reads, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”

The point of the entire message that week was basically this:  when we listen to one another,  when we stop and think about what we are going to say, when we are slow to respond, and slow to anger – less “stones are thrown” and less hurtful “words are spoken”.  Imagine how much easier things would be if we not only thought about the words we want to say, but how those words will be taken by the other person!

My best friend, sent me this today.  It fits:

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The Occasion After It’s Missed / The Time After It’s Gone

I had a friend who was a big Prince fan.  He loved his music, but never seemed to find the time to see him in concert.  He talked about it all the time and would often say, “I’ll get tickets the next time he is in town.” When Prince died in 2016, he was shocked and to this day says he regrets not buying tickets to his show.  “I never thought he’d not be around!  He was so young.  I should have had more chances to see him!”  The occasion came and went (a few times) and he missed it.

I have many regrets about occasions I have missed.  Not just concerts, but other things.  I regret not seeing my grandmother more because I was afraid to see her with cancer.  I regret not calling my friend, only to find out he had passed away.  I regret things that I may have said to friends while loaded up with medications. I regret many occasions that came, and I missed them.

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There are hundreds of songs about time.  I could probably fill an entire blog about songs that reflect on the fact that “time flies”.  This is an easy thing to see – in hind sight.  It’s never so easy to see in real time.  It seems like yesterday that my oldest son was born, yet next year he is a Senior in high school!  “Where did the time go?” we ask ourselves.  Kenny Chesney’s song says, “Don’t Blink.”  Isn’t that the truth?!  One minute your child is  a baby and the next thing you know, they’re graduating.  It’s eye opening – and emotional!

In life, and I have certainly been guilty of this, we often fail to prioritize what really is important.  Finding a balance between your work and home life is a huge challenge for many, but it is extremely important.  As I look back, I can think of many times work took priority over other things.  Because of that, I missed out on some pretty big things.

Employers are to blame as well, as many of them claim to be an environment where an employee’s family life is important, but their actions say otherwise.  I am always overjoyed to read of a place of employment that allows a new father to have some time off with their new baby and spouse.  It’s a rare thing, though.  I have seen people be denied vacation requests, despite the fact that they have the time to take.  They are told that too many other have that time off, or some other form of office politics.  Some people don’t even get to take their vacations, and if they do, they are working during it.  How sad is this?!

Time waits for no one!   It continues second by second.  Hour by hour.  Year by year.  Sometimes it seems to drag, but most of the time, it seems to fly by.  Use it wisely.

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Time management should be something that encompasses the balance of your life daily.  “I don’t have time to exercise,” “I can’t find a way to fit that in to my schedule,” or “I should have made time for that” are all things that we hear people say daily.  Guess what?  YOU have control over your time and what you do with it.  Manage it and make time for the important things.

Yes, you still have to work, but you can chose to work only when working.  Give your all when you are at work.  Do your job.  Do it well.  Manage your time so you get everything done when it needs to be done.  Don’t bring your work home with you.  You aren’t on the clock at home.  One of the best things I did was to disconnect my work e-mail from my phone.  I check it when I am at work.  Why would I want to think about work, when I am home with my wife?  Why would I sit on my e-mail when I could listen to my youngest tell me about how much fun he had on a field trip?  No, I leave my work at work. (By doing this, I am actually more productive at work, and less stressed at home!)

Outside of work, make time for family and friends.  Do what you enjoy doing.  De-stress.  Live life.  Do things that make you happy.  “Life was meant to be lived” someone once told me.  It’s true.  Up until recently, I often found myself wishing I had done things.  I found myself regretting not doing something.  I also regret doing some things that took away from the important things.  This has to stop.

With all the things that have changed over the past few years, it is time to make sure I do not look back with regrets.  I want to be able to look back and smile at all the things I accomplished.  I want to remember all the good things and people in my life.  I want to say that I lived life where I am not ashamed of wasting time on things that were unimportant.  I want to “waste” time doing things I love.  John Lennon once said, “Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted.”

Make time for the moments in life that you don’t want to miss!  Time cannot be recovered once it is gone.

If you get anything out of this blog today, I hope it is this:  Life has many moments to offer us, no matter how old we are.  So, moving forward consider your actions, think before you speak, enjoy life’s occasions, and utilize your time to the fullest.

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Oh, and here is an occasion NOT missed – a great shot of the sunset at the fair I took my sons to this weekend.  Beautiful!!!

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