Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twelve years!

Twelve years would seem to be a long time. For me, it feels as if it were just yesterday in many ways. It was twelve years ago on the 24th that I completed my final radiation treatment after several months of battling cancer. My journey started with a lump and then moved on with surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, prayer, tears, fear and hope. (not necessarily in that order) Being a cancer survivor is very much part of who I am as a person.

I will not rehash my story since I wrote extensively about it last year. I simply want to thank the Lord for continuing to bless me with this wonderful life. Quite honestly I still struggle at times to understand why I was chosen to be healed and to beat the statistics.

The life we have is an incredible gift and cancer survivor or not we should all live as if it could be taken away at any moment.

Would you live your life any differently if you knew you were terminal? Fact is we all are but just don’t know the date. Make the most of the gifts you have NOW and don’t live a life of regrets. Too many people wait until they know they are dying before they start living.

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away. My life is no longer than the width of my hand. An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath.” Psalm 39: 4-5

Friday, December 10, 2010

If you really knew me...

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

Henry David Thoreau

If you really knew me…..

This is the most well-known line from the Challenge Day program thanks to the MTV program of the same title. The students do not walk into the room and then suddenly just open up to tell the world their inner fears, hidden dreams and personal battles. The statement only begins after several hours of skillful door opening by the Challenge day team.

I saw these doors open with the students in my “family” group as we moved through the day. They opened their hearts and soon were sharing challenges as well as support for each other. For the sake of the promised confidentiality, I will not write about who I was with or what was said. What I will say is that I know their attitude about teenage life was different by the end of the day. The common theme was. “I did not know so many others had these same issues.” “Now I don’t feel so alone.”

As adults facilitators, we fully participated in the program including crossing the line and completing the “if you really knew me” statement.

What did I share? I told that kids that if you really knew me, they would know that as an adult and parent I often live my life in fear too. Fear of losing my job due to the poor economy. Fear of failing as a parent. Fear of failing as husband. Fear of feeling the lump again as I did that morning 12 years ago. Fear of not fulfilling the positive destiny God intends for my life and on and on.

My point with this openness was to let them know we all have our doubts and sometimes parents let these fears create unhealthy behaviors through overwork, avoidance, harshness, withdrawal, conflict and more.

Seeing that even the 43 year old stranger sitting here was not all that different or in fact perfect seemed to connect with them.

I think the Thoreau quote discribes most of us. The fact that is you too are not alone.

If brave enough to release your song even you may find yourself in the midst of a joyous chorus of love and healing soon thereafter. It all starts with that first note!

If I only knew you what would you say?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking the Challenge

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a volunteer facilitator for the Putnam City North Challenge day which was sponsored by the Putnam City Schools Foundation The Challenge day program has been around for more than 20 years and recently became even more well known thanks to a feature program on MTV of a visit to PC West. The target audience for this amazing day was the freshman class which is one of the largest to attend PC North in several years.

It is hard to be a kid these days. This is something I am well aware of as a person that does a lot of work with youth. Having seen the show and spoken to a previous Challenge Days volunteer, I had a pretty good idea of how the day would go and the questions that would be presented. My initial guess was that most of the kids would have seen the MTV show and as a result would also have known what to expect. It turns out that I was still surprised of the result of the day. My surprise I would say was not near as great as that of the kids that were part of this day.

I was assigned to a group of five and was nervous about how we would connect. Looking into their eyes, I saw the potential of who they could be and at the same time felt deeply the pain of who they were (or at least thought they were). By the end of the day four of the five were in tears and expressed much about the challenges they were facing. I heard stories about broken relationships, broken hearts and broken dreams.

I could go on and on about the courage and first steps of change I saw but will save that for a later post. What I want to express for you today is the incredible opportunity we have to make a difference for these kids. Now is the time to look in the mirror and truly ask yourself what kind of parent and example you are being for your child. Are you doing all you can to support them? Do you love your spouse as you would hope your child would be loved someday? Are you as close to God as you would hope for them? When was the last time you asked your child about his or her dreams and then sat with mind and ears open to just listen?

Changing the world sometimes starts as simply as making changes at home and admitting our own fallacies.

My change starts now with my own son and wife. What about you? Will you join the challenge?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Who am I?

Who am I?

I took this picture recently at an OU football game. I don’t know of you have ever had a chance to see the new scoreboard there but the thing is HUGE.

Who am I?

This question struck me as I saw it blazing across the scoreboard. It reminded me of the many times in my life that suddenly I have found myself asking this question.

Who am I?

I have struggled with this most of my life and have actively sought through a variety of methods to answer the question. There have been many hours in prayer asking God and there have been assessments such as Disc and MBTI. (I am an INFP btw)

And yet I find myself asking…

I have finally come to the realization that self-actualization will never happen for me. I am indeed wired to question and to seek. I wish I knew why the Lord wired me this way. Why He chose to give me this driving desire to always question who I am and what His purpose is for me but in the end it does not matter since I am who I am.

Many people experience depression this time of year with the turn to winter, the holidays and of course the sad state of the economy. My prayer this week is that we all will experience a moment of true thankfulness. Don’t worry about who you are, who you were or who you are going to be. For a moment, just pause and be thankful without question.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A fear of flying

A few years ago a friend of mine decided to build a remote control airplane. My buddy is one of those obsessive go all the way type of guys and wanted to build this thing right. He even went so far as to create a little workshop area in his garage with special lighting and a tall table to make the work easier. I joined him a few times at the RC club airfield to watch others flying these little machines of wonder and to talk excitingly about what it would be like when his own balsa marvel was complete.

Weeks went by and after awhile I kind of forgot about the plane and the whole flying project until one day while at his house I noticed the plane on display in the garage. It looked fantastic with the paint gleaming and every graphic placed just right. I of course asked him, “What is it like to fly it?”

He stumbled a bit as he explained that he had yet to fly the plane and after some deep contemplation had decided he most likely never would.

“What!” I exclaimed.

It turns out that while watching others at the RC field my buddy had seen many crashes and planes ruined. Now after having spent countless hours on his own project he did not want to ruin it by actually flying it for fear of the destruction he was convinced would follow.

I know far too many people that are like my friend with his plane. They take time to plan, ponder and talk about the going to’s. Things in life they are going to accomplish. There are plans for jobs going to be succeeded, relationships going to be built, debt going to be reduced, weight going to be lost, marathons going to be run etc. We know we are capable of flying but the fear of our dreams crashing keep us from taking the chance.

Do you fear soaring to the heights of your capabilities? I believe God intended all of us to achieve great things within who we are. We should not fear failure but instead should embrace it, learn from it and try again.

Fear has kept me from many things in life and I am working to take risks. I pray this week that you too will have the courage get off the display rack and take off. You may surprise yourself with the results.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

15 Years Ago Today

And so it begins

15 years ago today Michelle and I began our journey together as Mr. & Mrs. Copeland. It all started as a set up blind date on my birthday for lunch. Her good friend Jennifer was a co-worker of mine and for months had been telling me about this person I just had to meet. I was always a bit of shy guy when it came to asking girls out so a blind date sounded like a good idea to me.

The years since that lunch date have been better than I ever imagined. Together we have built a rich life full of trials, errors, laughs and most importantly love. One of the most amazing things about these many years is that we do still enjoy each other and believe steadfastly in our future.

On this special day, I just want express my thankfulness to God for the wonderful woman He planned for me even before I was born. I am also thankful to have such a great wife that through it all still is there loving and supporting me.  I am indeed a blessed man.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Help yourself to happiness

Have you seen the latest ad slogan from the good folks at Golden Corral? As a guy that has struggled with weight and self-image due to my weight for most I my life I found the slogan striking.

Help yourself to happiness

Help yourself to happiness—by gorging at an all-you-can eat buffet? Thanks but no thanks Golden Corral.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with food like many of you. First it was a bit of ignorant bliss since I grew up in a traditional Oklahoma chicken fry and mash potato house. I did not understand eating healthy because no one around me was doing it. Finally in college I took the big step to be in control of my health and sought some professional help.

Years later I struggle everyday to make the healthy choice.

I fight lifelong bad habits and a connection with food as comfort when bored or stressed. Of course I am not alone in our obese America. The numbers are terrifying and in reality we as a nation are slowly killing ourselves by not respecting our bodies. Think of it as a long and slow version of suicide that impacts us both physically and mentally. Hard to say but true.

But there is hope!

There is joy to be found in balance and moderation. Don’t diet! Instead choose to make small changes in your lifestyle through healthy eating habits and exercise. You truly will be amazed at the results. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, and do it for your future!

What do you think about the impact of obesity on our country?

What advice do you have for others that are struggling?

Need more inspiration? Read this great blog post from Anna Light. She will get you going for sure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on 13

Conner turns 13 this week and this birthday is weighing heavily on my heart.

Last weekend on the Scout campout he was put in charge by the Scoutmaster as Senior Patrol Leader (SPL). As he organized and instructed 30 + adults and Scouts I was amazing and wondered “is this really my son” (Scouting is a youth run program and the boys plan and are in charge of everything) I so enjoyed standing afar just watching him as he interacted with everyone.

It is amazing to think that just 12 years ago at this time I was battling cancer with treatments and planning for the worse. At the time my only prayer was to live long enough that he would remember me. My father died when I was very young and I have no memories of him.

Now as he enters the teen years he is becoming more and more his own person and I can see glimpses of the man he will be very soon.

Sitting here today, I am so thankful the Lord chose to give me this time. I want to treasure every moment and be the best father that I am capable of being. I fail so often with this goal and to be honest I wonder why the God chose to heal me when there are so many more worthy people out there that were not so blessed.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for this time, your love for me, my wonderful wife, terrific son and this life.

I hope as you are reading this you will take some time today to reflect on the blessings in your own life. Most of us only get one chance. I happen to be on my second. Take it from me and do not waste a moment of it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ten minutes and change

The weather guy last night said we are losing about 10 minutes of daylight a week now. “A sure sign that fall is coming”. Wow it certainly does not feel like fall outside with the sun blazing and temperatures in the 100’s. He was right though, fall is marching towards us and there is no holding back the inevitability of the new season.

Changes in life and work are a lot like those ten minutes a week. Sure, we have the big wham bam changes but in reality the movement comes in small subtle increments over a long period of time. Pounds lost come in small choices like a salad vs. a cheeseburger at lunch. A broken relationship comes in random negative comments and missed opportunities to uplift one another. We have all heard about not sweating the small stuff but in so many ways it is the small stuff in life that makes the biggest difference over time.

I think for this week I am not going to worry about big things and instead will just focus on the 10.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The best advice this year

“Take it from a guy with 5 kids. You hope they grow up and move away someday but you want the wife to stay”

This was some great advice a few weeks back from a twitter friend as I was having a bit of an internal debate about taking a trip with just the wife while our son is gone on a trip of his own with Scouts. The son was a little mad that we would consider going on a cool mini-vacation without him. This was not something in his 12 years of life that we have ever done.

The trip idea is to celebrate our 15th year of married. Truly the advice was a wake up reminder to me that yes the time invested with son is of paramount importance. At the same time, the investment in our husband/wife relationship deserves the same attention. After all, it is our intent to spend the rest of our days on earth together.

How many couples focus so much on the kids that when they grow up and leave they are left with no common interests and goals? How many couples after years of kids no longer know how to woo each other and to enjoy time alone?

So as you may have guessed I booked the trip!

What about you?

Do you take time to woo your wife?

Are you seeking opportunities to spend time together and share common interests?
I suggest we do these things now before there is any chance of growing separate and being left to re-learn each other once the children are gone.

Personally, I know great adventures are in store for Michelle and I. The best is yet to come!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Living with the brake on

I have been working hard this summer to improve my fitness and loose a few pounds. My routine is to alternate between running and cycling. Saturday is my long ride day and I hit the street as soon as there is enough light to ride.

For several weeks the riding did not go so well. My frustrations about this difficulty became so great that I was growing concerned about my health. Was something wrong with me? Why so hard? I thought that my fitness was improving! I bonked so hard on one Saturday ride that I had to give up early and head back to the house with a completion of only 35 miles for the day.

Then one day while passing by my bike in the garage I suddenly for some strange reason gave the back wheel a little spin.

It moved maybe an inch. OOPS!

Turns out that for who knows how long the back brake had been pressed against the wheel. I had been in essence riding with the brake on for weeks.

You can imagine how that next ride went for me after fixing the break. Suddenly I was blazing down the road (well not exactly Lance Armstrong blazing but certainly faster than I had been previously).

It seems like my life is like those rides more often than I would like to admit. I get so frustrated about going slow, not figuring things out or feeling beaten down. Then it turns out more often than not the fix is actually something simple.

A day off
A conversation with an old friend
A change in priorities
An unexpected thank you
Some time alone
A hug from the wife
Time with God

My hope is that during this summer season you can also find that simple solution the release the brake and get your mojo back. See you out there!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Person praise vs. Process praise

The other day I ran across an interesting study about the effectiveness of person praise vs process praise. Here is a link to the study if you are interested in reading.

In a nutshell, the hypothesis was that children would perform better and would be willing to take on harder tasks if the feedback focused more on strategies and effort (process) vs trait (Person) related feedback.

Think, “Wow Sally! You did great on the exercise! I can tell that you are great person” vs. “Wow Sally! You did great on that exercise. The extra effort you did to study the process involved made a real difference in making you successful”

I have taught this for years at the Situation/Action/Result (SAR) model. Following this simple model while giving feedback is very effective.

Sally you knew the test was going to be a hard one didn't you?
I really appreciate the way you took extra time to study
You got and A thanks to the extra effort!

An even better technique would be for Sally to tell you the SAR rather then providing it yourself.

This was a good reminder that not only should we praise our children but we should also give specific and detailed reasons behind the praise. How will they repeat the behavior if we do not make sure they know what it was?

This is also good advice for coaching employees BTW.

Friday, June 18, 2010

You are important

If you have read my blog any at all you might guess that I would have a lot to say about the importance of fathers.

I would like to challenge all the current and future dads out there to take a moment and reflect deeply on your role. You have a generational impact on your family. How will you choose to make use of this responsibility? Will you run away seeking the shinny object in your life? This object could be your career, your hobby, your neighbor’s wife and any of the thousands of other distractions that get men off track.

Chasing the object will never match the importance or the joy you will get from a loving child that is looking to you for leadership and teaching.

The bottom line is that you are important!

Don't believe me? Check out the research

Still don’t believe me? Ask your wife or child’s mother

Still don’t believe me? Look into the eyes of your child and ask him/her

Our children and boys especially are experiencing a crises caused by a lack of positive father leadership.

You don’t have to be a superstar or a perfect person to be a great father!

Just step out and do your best. I think the results might just surprise you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A father's day perspective

This is a pretty good video a kid made about growing up without a father in the home and the great work mom has done. It seems appropriate for the week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Teaching integrity

The message at church last week was about integrity and it got me thinking about the topic…

On a cold and rainy Saturday a couple of years ago my son and I decided to take in a movie. This is not an unusual thing for us since Saturday’s have traditionally been father/son-days for us. There were few people in the theater and as we walked out of the show I noticed the movie next door to us was about the start.

Suddenly the idea of popping right into another movie sounded like a lot of fun. I quickly made the suggestion and the look of excitement on his face was priceless. When we got in the theater we noticed another dad and his kids had done the same thing.

I don’t remember the movie being particularly good. The enjoyment from my son had to be that we were getting away with seeing two movies for the price of one.


Suddenly I realized what I was doing. In a way I was teaching my son that it was ok to steal. Sure it was only movie but the reality was we were there and had not paid for it.

On the way out we stopped at the kiosk outside. Conner of course asked, “What are you doing dad?” I responded by telling him that I was paying for the extra movie we saw because it was the right thing to do. “But no one saw us and we are even out of the theater” Dad—“True son but that is an even a better reason to pay since it is what we do when no one is looking that defines who we really are”

He simply responded by saying “oh” and I did nothing more to drill in the point or make a big deal about paying. In fact, I pretty much forgot about the whole thing.

Now comes the cool part that I will especially not forget. Several weeks later I heard Conner tell a buddy about the day we saw two movies back to back. There was a little bit about the movies of course and then he also made a point to brag about the fact that we had paid for the second movie. Bragging about integrity? I will take that any day.

How often do we as parents miss real opportunities to teach our kids? The fact is we teach everyday with all of our actions. Even the little things we do can send a big message even if we do not realize it at the time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to prepare your son for marriage

As a dad, I have many responsibilities when raising my son. One I take very seriously is preparing him to be a Godly and supportive husband in the future. The fact is: The way I treat my wife today is the way my son most likely will treat his wife in the future. I desire my son to grow up and someday marry an incredible woman that will love support him.

My wife gets this fact too and together we have a somewhat deliberate strategy that luckily comes pretty naturally to us.

Here are a few tips:

1.Love each other in public: Tell her you love her in ear shot of your child. Let him see that you mean it!

2.Compliment when alone: I love complimenting Michelle when she is not around. I tell my son what a wonderful (and beautiful) wife she is and give examples why.

3.Never EVER put down your spouse: Your child is not the person to have a “Your mom is so___” conversation with. Don’t forget there is a difference between being a friend and a parent.

4.Respect her beauty: I just hate to see guys that gawk at other women. This is even worse when done in front of your child. What kind of example is that? Teach him now to appreciate the wonder if what he has and maybe he will not wander in the future.

5.Pray together: When we pray as a family I often thank God for my wife. I give Him specifics as to what makes her so great.

6.Pray for the future: Kind of amazing to think that my son’s future wife is out there somewhere growing up and preparing. I have begun to pray for her already and figure God will help lead the right person his way. (After he graduates college, has a great job, and buys his dad a new Triathlon bike) Okay that was a bit of stretch but I know you understand : )

In the end, only God knows what the future holds for our children. Succeed or fail, I want to know we did everything we could as parents to provide our son the opportunity. The rest is up to Him and him.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Like father—like son

My son is in the 7th grade this year and more and more is becoming his own person. Glimpses of him as the child he was have become harder to find and as a view of the man he is becoming takes center stage.

There are things about my son’s behavior that irritate me at times and as his parent it is my duty to point out these fallacies much to his chagrin. Such has been the way of the father-son relationship for as long as there have been fathers and sons.

Some fathers unfortunately take this role too far and the relationship eventually falls into a pattern of conflict that can be very hard to break. The pattern of conflict works to create the “Father wound“ and can impact a boy well into manhood.(more on the wound on a later post)

The other day I came to the realization that many of the things I lash out the hardest to Conner about are really inner anger points at me. Sure, part of parenting is to help our children not to repeat our own mistakes and to grow into a better life than we experienced. At the same time, it is just as important we don’t let our personal fallacies get in the way of our children growing into who God intended them to be. Perhaps my weaknesses can grow to be his strengths.

There are many things about myself that I hope Conner will never become. The mirror I see myself in is often filled with doubt, selfishness, fear and pain. Basically it is a mirror filled with a human living in a fallen world just like you and everyone else.

My commitment is to not stop correcting the boundaries since that is a critical part of parenting. I will however make sure to focus on strengths more than weakness and check those three fingers to ensure the finger I am pointing is not just three at me.

As a parent, do you find yourself lashing out really towards your own faults rather than your child’s actual issue? Let me challenge you this next time to really consider the source of your irritation before correction.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My next door neighbor passed away last week. He was 88 and had lived a long and meaningful life. He was only next to us for a few years but I learned much from this great man.

Fred's bride of 68 years is the sweetest woman you would every meet. A delightful smile, quick to hug, and always cheerful. I can see why a man would love her so much and for so long. Francis also has dementia and most every time we met it was at if we had never met before. The cool part is this meeting with her was always with the joy of meeting a new friend.

Francis "Now remind me who you are again?"

Fred--"Why honey, this is David. He is the young man that lives next door to us"

Not long after this a hug and a hello would follow from Francis.

Throughout any conversation with Francis there were many repeated questions. Each time Fred would lovingly and patiently answer the question as if it were the first time in his life he had been asked. I am sure that when alone most of their conversations were very much like my little time with them. Imagine how many times Fred had to answer the same inquiry. I have no doubt every response was just as full of love as I saw in person.

In this simple gesture, I learned what it really means to love someone not just during the boundless start of life's journey but all the way to the joyful end.

Love is not just about the firsts. It is about the in-betweens and the ends as well.

Thank you Fred for this lesson and thank you for being my neighbor. I will never forget the lesson you taught me through the example you lived.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"We can take it"

My family recently spent several days at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas for some spring break fun. I love taking time off with the family and the planning for our vacation time has always been something I do. It is my thing.

My goal is always low cost, high adventure, and high opportunity for long lasting family memories. This year we chose caving, bouldering and a backpacking hike overnight. This was going to be the second time for my son and the first time for my wife.

The hike was especially a challenge. We backpacked with all gear on our backs including our food, water, tents, and more. I knew it would be long but had not anticipated the hills of western AR. I have done a lot of hard physical things and carrying a 35+ pound pack 9+ miles to our day one campsite was indeed one of the my more difficult experiences. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for my family, the more difficult things get the more enthusiastic I tend to become no matter what I might be feeling inside. My mantra was: “We are building memories!”—“Anyone can do easy stuff!”—“Don’t worry! This is the last hill” (Yes, I am sure there were brief considerations to leave me in the woods)

At the end of the trail we were greeted by this great statue of a CCC worker and the slogan, “We can take it”. That as much as anything could have been our slogan. Yes the hike was hard and yes we could have done something a little more leisurely for our holiday. Instead we decided to take on a real challenge just the three of us.

The moment sitting by the campfire in the glory of the wilderness sharing as a family and then the moment when we stepped off the trail the final day will live on in our family lore for years. To me, the bonding experience of enduring on the trail was simple training for future endurance of other challenges our family will face together. I am sure there are challenges to come beyond just a little hike. Together though, and with a faith in God I know “We can take it”

What about you? Are you being deliberate to prepare your family for adversity? What is your strategy for family bonding and lasting memories?

Can you take it?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What do you do?

This is a common question that I am sure each of you has been asked many times over the years. Chances are you proudly respond, “I am a _____ for _____” In my case I am a Training Manager for Sprint.

Indeed you are a _____ for _____ and you are oh so much more.

You see there is a big difference between where you work and what you do. We all know where we work but very few people have taken time to deeply consider what they really do.

When people ask me what I do, I surprise many by saying, “I enable the success of others”.

I learned this many years ago in college when I was paying my way through as a janitor. My boss one day posed the question to me and I of course responded, “I am a janitor, I sweep floors, scrub toilets, clean up after babies are born in OB and when accidents happen in the ER” (Go ahead—soak on that image for a bit)

He said all of this was true but in reality my job was to save lives. “Huh?” From there he explained the importance of cleanliness to prevent staph infections and many other horrible things that could be found in the hospital. Next he had me write a little intro statement to explain my role. Oh and yes, those really are pictures of me from back in 1989.

Suddenly, for the first time at work I felt important and needed. I have carried this lesson through to all my jobs and volunteer passion.

As a hospital janitor—“I help save lives”

As a call center agent—“I solve problems and make people happy”

As a wireless sales person—“I help families stay connected, business people make more money, and people find help in times of emergency”

As a trainer and training manager—well you know that one.

The great Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

So let me ask—What do you do?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Crossover

During the month of February thousands of 5th grade boys will experience the crossover. This is a traditional Scouting ceremony where a Webelos Scout crosses from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.

I had the opportunity to see my first crossover of the year on Monday this week. The symbolism of this event is striking and brings me chills each time I witness it. Yes it is nice ceremony full of tradition. It is also and wonderful rite of passage that symbolizes a passing from childhood and elementary school to adolescence and middle school.

During the ceremony, the boys are led dramatically into the room by older Boy Scouts in Native American regalia from the Order of the Arrow. They are bound together with a rope that has loosely been tied to their wrists. Next they are then presented to the “Chief” who is there to determine their worthiness to leave Cub Scouts and join the brotherhood of Boy Scouts. Before long, the ropes are cut as the speaker says they are no longer bound to their past. In the final step of the ceremony, the boys pass one by one over a bridge and are greeted on the other side by Boy Scouts representing the Troop they have chosen to join.

For thousands of years and in cultures around the world, boys (and girls) have participated in symbolic passages into new stages of life. These rites are missing in most of our American culture and as a father I am working consciously to provide “crossover” opportunities for my son.

The Cub Scout crossover a couple of years back, a father son backpacking trip for “the talk” last spring break and next a week long adventure the summer after his eighth grade year. Each in my mind with a clear and planned objective so he will know things have changed. Something is behind him and now something different is ahead of him.

I wonder how different our world would be if more parents were working to be deliberate in raising their boys to be men. I have no idea what the future will hold for my son. I do know at least that words like honor, integrity, passion and respect will never be strangers to him. Nor will they be strangers to those Cub Scouts who in one brief moment joined together and spoke worlds that if truly lived by all would change the would forever. “On my honor…”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

“You have bigger boobs than me”

“You have bigger boobs than me”

Ouch! This was said to me in jest by a girlfriend of mine back in the spring of 1989 as we were eating a big tray of nachos. I was 21 years old at the time and in my fourth year of college.

I am person that has struggled with my weight as long as I can remember and it seemed no matter what I tried it would just not come off. As a youth, I remember the teasing from the other kids very clearly. I also remember the feeling as I stood there at gym or recess knowing I was going to be the last person to get picked for whatever sport we were being forced to play.

My fear of athletic failure kept me from doing any sports. Exercise was a truly was a stranger to me. Really, up until that moment in 1989 I don’t think my heart had ever risen above 100 BPM unless I was running to grab the last ding dong from the box.

The boob comment for some reason though lit a spark in me. I decided at that moment that I was going to change my life. I was going to learn to eat right and I was going to exercise.

Learning to eat right came from joining a diet program. The company is no longer around but was a lot like weight watchers. I learned through this education that chicken fried steak, fried potatoes, and rolls were not the best choices for meals. (go figure) The greatest lesson was that my previous failures were due to trying to diet vs. just eating right. Once I was no longer on a diet, all the pressure went away and so did the pounds.

Exercising began with a mountain bike from Wal-Mart. I had bike as a kid but other than neighborhood tootling around I had never given it much thought. This mountain bike though over the summer became my primary transportation. I soon realized that I loved the feel of the road under me and I especially loved the feeling of physical strength I was gaining. It was not long before I started hanging out in the local bike shop dreaming of a “real” bike that I could use to join some of the other local riders that I had met.

Over that following summer, I lost over 40 pounds and for the first time in my life gained a physical confidence that I had not experienced before. Since then I have ridden thousands of miles, run 5Ks, 10ks, marathons, duathlons, and even a few triathlons.

I come from a long line of overweight people and it is still a struggle. However, I hate to think of what my health and my weight would be today had I not been struck so hard by the comment and had I not purchased that first cheap bike from Wal-Mart.

What about you? Does the thought of exercise and fitness scare you? Do you think because of your past that you have no future of feeling well, losing weight and getting fit?

Here we are just a few weeks into 2010. Are you ready to change your health for the better? I know with a little work and some well thought out goal setting that you can do it!

Good luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Running in Place

Do you think our grandparents would have imagined we would someday live in a world where we would need to run in place on a motorized belt to get our exercise?

For me, I actually kind of like the treadmill. My feet pounding out a rhythmic THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! Sweat dripping like warm salty rain to the floor from my face and arms creating pools of exasperation underneath my temporary kingdom of running content.

However, there was a time when running was for a reason. We ran into battle, we ran away from danger, we ran to the arms of a loved one, we ran to win a grand race. Now we often run just for the sake of running.

The reality of treadmill running is that we can spend hours in the artificial light of that artificial environment running in place. In the end we will still be right where we started.

Of course life can be like this too. We create artificial substitutes for things that once meant much to us. Who needs the sweet sound of a friends’ voice when we can just talk via e-mail, text or twitter? Who needs to deal with the problems of their life when we can just go to the self-help section of the book store and spend $12.00 to find all the answers?

And many of us wonder why our lives seem to stay rutted in today and not moving on to a promising tomorrow. It reminds me of Alice’s experience with the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Alice asks the cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way should I walk from here?”
The cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.”
Alice responds, “I don’t much care where.”
To which the cat replies, “In that case, it doesn’t matter which way you walk”

Alice would have been a great treadmill person. She could have just stayed right there, ran in place and saved herself a lot of trouble.

What about you? Are you living the treadmill life? Do you leave work every day and feel as if you have done nothing but run in place? Are you moving forward in your faith relationship? What about your family?

The start of a new year and indeed a new decade is as good of an opportunity as any to jump off, run out, and get moving in a new direction. This indeed is my hope and my prayer for all of us in 2010.

Press on!