Thirty-six years….and counting

November 15, 2016

To my wife and partner of thirty-six years

Life is an interesting journey.  So many little things brought us together all those years ago.  Some of those things were good ones and some, unfortunately, were not but never the less they were the steps that brought our paths to the intersection where we met.  Not that you were ready for the likes of me.  You put up a fair share of resistance.  Fortunately, one of my traits was persistence and your resistance quickly wore down.

We started out small, dinner at the Checkerboard, Dutch treat as I had so little to offer you other than my wit and charm.  Nice to know we have outlasted the Checkerboard, long since gone.  We advanced to our first date, a movie left unnamed and attended by accident.  To eventually deciding that our feelings were mutual and it was time to stop being apart, if even for a day or even a few hours at a time.

We made it to Thanksgiving, our first holiday together.  There would be thirty-six more to come, many with distinct memories, apple cobbler served warm on a bed of concrete comes to mind, but none so remarkable as that first Thanksgiving.  I will forever refer to it as the Shepherd Inquisition.  How I survived is beyond me.  If I had been your father, I would have sent me packing.  But this is where your character trait came into play.  You are a strong person who when she knows she is right takes a stand that no one can move.  And so you fought for me.  This would be the first in multiple times that you would fight for me.  I am glad you have won every time.

I remember our first truly “big” date.  You know, the one where he surprises you with his willingness to spend way more than he can afford on a destination that is meant to impress.  Do you remember….the Top of the 95th in Chicago?  By the time we left dinner, the one with the lovely view of the kitchen, I barely had enough money to get us out of the parking garage.  But somehow you were impressed.  A trick I have managed to pull off countless times since and something I will continue to attempt far into our future.

Oh we have had our fights along the way.  Some trivial and others worth fighting for, but through it all we learned more about each other every time and we learned to fight nice, love more and laugh at life together.  When our careers distracted us, one of us always took on the role of supporter.  We soothed our frazzled nerves and reached out and pulled each other through.

And then there were children.  First Bailey and then all those years later, Kathryn.  We created them out of love and rededicated our lives to theirs.  We faced the challenge of raising two bright and beautiful, independent young women and we championed our efforts.  We learned the art of divide and conquer, the skill of compromise without losing sight of the goal and the pleasure only two lively intelligent girls could bring to our family.  By the looks of it, aka the last reality check, we have succeeded.

There are so many tales to tell, so little room to write them all down.  But at least a mention.  Our Christmas traditions, starting with that first movie, Pauley, and eventually growing into our dinners on the town and The Christmas Carol presentation.  Thirty-six Christmas mornings, thirty-two with children, one with a dog if I remember correctly.  The family trips; Italy, the Caribbean, Mexico, Yellowstone and Yosemite to name just a few.  So many wonderful memories and so many years together.

What has kept us together all these years?  Love and respect.  Sometimes just enough and other times more than enough to store for the years ahead.  Thank you for always fighting for me and for standing up alongside of me when I needed that support.  We are a partnership, forged in tenacity and built on a foundation of love.  I look forward to the future and if it is in the stars, another thirty-six years to build our continuing book of memories.

All my love on this our anniversary.

Ken

“Jackson Wants a Plane”

My two year old grandson is spending the week with us while his parents are enjoying  a well deserved vacation.  So that means I get to start doing what grandpas do best.  Yes, I will begin the spoiling routine.  For today’s effort, we will go to one of my favorite eating spots for breakfast.  The restaurant is The Jet Room.  For those of you whom have never experienced it, The Jet Room serves an incredible breakfast with a direct view of the airport and its runways.  Jackson is in for a treat.

Before we can even begin breakfast, we are treated to multiple small and medium sized private planes landing and taking off right before his saucer sized eyes.  Jackson, you see, has been enthralled with planes ever since the first time he was able to understand that a contrail was the evidence of an plane.  Now, surrounded by planes, he is pretty much distracted, and even his chocolate milk goes untouched.  It only takes a few more minutes and Jackson declares “Jackson wants a plane”.

I know what you are thinking but no, I didn’t go buy a plane or even a ride.  Even my spoiling vent would ever go that far, let alone my bank account. But his request stirred a different thought.  How far does one go in the effort to influence a child’s dream.

I raised two daughters and throughout their youthful exuberance, I watched them switch from one dream to another.  It seemed that every time they got to experience an “adventure”, they developed a new dream of what their future might hold.  I learned then to be supportive.  This often meant getting the necessary equipment or even perhaps enrolling them in a class or camp.  But I soon figured out that the danger lie in trying to create my dream rather than letting them evolve their own.  We can miss the point so easily.  The beauty of the exposure to different opportunities is that the child learns to dream.  If we become the “pushy” parent, we try to influence the dream.  There is no independence and as a result no ownership.  Without either of these two key ingredients, the child will never develop what is needed to possibly make their dream come true; a goal and the determination to reach for it.  We should be supportive but they need to be independent.  This is a difficult balance.

If you were thinking I was about to tell you how to find that balance, sorry.  The truth is that balance is something one finds on their own.  It is trial and error that must be experienced.  I will put it this way.  Today I could have bought Jackson a plane ride and spent the entire time telling him he could become a pilot one day, but that would be my dream.  I will admit that I had the “future pilot” t-shirt in my hand, but balance told me to put it away.  I had done my job.  I had given Jackson an adventure.  I must leave it to him to dream and maybe one day pursue some course that involves planes.  The truth of the matter is that he may just have had a day of fascination and nothing more will come of it.  But I am sure of one thing, Jackson will evolve his own dreams and one day, who knows, maybe the sky will be the limit.

 

Courage

I want to make it clear that there is a difference between bravery and courage.  When a firefighter rushes back into a burning building or a soldier steps in harm’s way to face down the enemy, these are acts of bravery.  They are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others and generally people they do not know.  Courage is the day to day acts that we perform.  They can be as small as telling your two year old “no” in the middle of the candy store or even just lying with your arm in that awkward position that only cuddling can create.  You know, the one where your arm and hand is slowly falling asleep but you are committed to the caring act.  At the other end of the spectrum lies true courage.  That point, where faced with the unknown or even the end of life, one carries on for the people they love and those same people surrounding them.

I was going to title this “Fearless Courage” but I believe that the true meaning of courage involves a certain degree of fear.  Without fear it would not be courage bur rather irrational behavior.  It takes courage to act in the face of fear.  It is in that unknown that we muster the strength to act even when our rational brain would tell us otherwise.  It is in that arena that true courage rises to the top.

As I sit here writing this piece, I have a dear friend demonstrating this courage.  Diagnosed with cancer and the inbred logic of a surgical nurse, Carol knew that the ultimate outcome of her battle was sealed in her fate.  Do not doubt for one minute that she did not put up the most valiant of fights but even as she spoke of the battle she was clear on its outcome.

In this setting, it would be so easy to be angry, be angry Carol, to give in, let us take care of you Carol, or just plain whine about your fate.  I need to tell you that from the moment we learned of the diagnosis there was never a moment when we thought that she would allow any of this.  She is sassy and full of life.  She is mine and my wife’s role model in strength of character, parenting and grand parenting and how to be your spouse’s soul mate while still keeping him in line.  Carol is courageous.

Through this all she has prepared her family and encouraged them throughout her ordeal.  And let’s not forget them in this battle.  They too are courageous.  I can see the concern, even fear in their eyes, but they carry on.  They love each other.  They are there for each other and they demonstrate in every imaginable way that they are all in this together.  As Carol reminds them of what she needs them to do, they give each other strength to be courageous.

Bravery is a lack of concern but courage is just the opposite.  Courage uses concern as its weapon against fear.  My dear friend has found her courage and she inspires me.  Not just to write this piece, but to live my life better and deeper.  I thank you Carol for the battle you have waged, for your courage you have displayed and for the road you have paved for all of us.  It is on that road that your family will live out their lives as a testament to yours.

Hug a Tree

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Where am I going with this thought?  I heard the phrase on TV the other night and it triggered a fond memory.  When my oldest child was about five years old, we were very close friends with a family we had met through the day care.  We spent many weekends together with our children in tow.  Trips to the Milwaukee zoo, fireworks, and hikes every where and anywhere there was a trail to be found.  On one of these trips, the “hug a tree crusade” began.  Bailey, my daughter, and Bre, our friends daughter, decided to hug a tree.  It was nothing in particular but it seemed somehow the tree hugged them back.  From that point forward, every tree deemed worthy of a hug received one from this duo.  It became a routine and to this day their trademark.

So where am I going with this thought?  I believe that something as simple as a hug, becomes an exchange.  In their situation it was an exchange of energy.  Their youthful antic energy was in part transferred to the tree while the resilience and strength of the tree was transferred to their ultimate character.  A hug is just that, a transfer of the energy from one person to another.  When I give or receive a hug from another person, part of me is transferred to the receiver and part of the receiver is exchanged with me.  The end result is that we can both leave with more than we came with.  It is a simple act, but it recharges us, comforts us, strengthens us and for a moment brings us peace.

Don’t waste the opportunity.  If you get the chance, hug another person, and if you don’t get that chance, at least hug a tree.  It just might hug you back.

How do I love you…..Let me count the ways

To my wife of 35 years

The word love has so many connotations.  I can love my job, I can love my children.  I can love the view or love that dessert.  Even when one loves someone, there are still the different emotions that they could be describing.  But when one marries, the love that they profess for their spouse is so much different and so much deeper.  It is a combination of that surface love, but it is mixed with the emotional love that is so much deeper, for if it is true love, it becomes soulful.  One becomes entwined in the fabric that defines their spouse.  They become one soul dedicated to the needs of each other.  When one partner hurts, the other feels that hurt as well.  When one celebrates they celebrate each other.  True love is the hardest emotion to maintain and yet the most fulfilling.

We have been married now for 35 years and I felt it only right that I should describe for you all the ways that I love you.  I trust that there are at least thirty five for me to name and yet more than enough for us to last the many years to come.

  1. I love the fact that you listen when I need to be heard.
  2. I love that you are my cheerleader even when it wasn’t perfect.
  3. I love the way you cuddle on cold nights.
  4. I love the little wiggle you do in the hall mirror each morning.
  5. I love how you plan our trips, even down to last detail.
  6. I love how you always make sure we have the tickets.
  7. I love that you take care of yourself.
  8. I love that you cook me my favorite meals when I tell you about them.
  9. I love that you loved my family almost more than I did.
  10. I love that you convinced me to marry you.
  11. I love that you gave me two incredible and beautiful daughters.
  12. I love that you are willing to fight for me.
  13. I love the way you look when you sleep.
  14. I love that you watch movies with me, and sometimes that’s when I see you sleep.
  15. I love that you learned to love listening to music.
  16. I love that you don’t judge me, at least not too much.
  17. I love how you love our children.
  18. I love how you impact the lives of others with your kindness.
  19. I love that you are not a republican, I love that a lot.
  20. I love that you spent your days working but always found time for us.
  21. I love that you iron my clothes, and really well.
  22. I love that you take pride in our home.
  23. I love that you let me be impulsive, at least now and then.
  24. I love that you will take a risk, at least somewhat and if I hold your hand.
  25. I love when you hug me and tell me I smell good.
  26. I love how you love me, especially at night, alone, but together.
  27. I love that through it all you carried on your career.
  28. I love the role model you are for our daughters.
  29. I love your body, because you are beautiful inside and out.
  30. I love that you will laugh at my jokes, even the corny ones.
  31. I love how you pamper me when I hurt.
  32. I love how you forgive me when I mess up.
  33. I love how you make me feel important even when it’s not all about me.
  34. I love how you encourage me to follow my dreams.

Thirty Five:  I made it and it wasn’t even hard.  But I saved the most important one for last…..

              I LOVE YOU….. THAT’S IT……I JUST LOVE YOU

Happy Anniversary !!!!