Why not?

Why not? It’s a question, or is it? During the past five or six months, I have adopted “why not?” as somewhat of a new personal motto. “Why not” has become a way of life, an attitude to try new things, to take some risks. It has become my way of life, to be vulnerable, to chase dreams, to live.

Adapting this new “why not” lifestyle isn’t completely new to me, though. I’ve always had a natural desire to try new things, to give it a shot, take on a little risk and to have experiences. Before now, I seemed to come up with more excuses, was too lazy, too tired, or just too cheap to do things that I should have done, or at least tried.

I believe reflecting on my life experiences, life lessons, stumbles and successes, along with getting older every day, has made me realize that I must embrace this why not attitude more fully now.

Now, please don’t think my life has been void of great experiences. I’ve lived an amazing life, with awesome experiences, and tremendous blessings. It’s just at this point in my life, I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wish I would have tried something or given my kids new experiences that I could have with a little more of a “free-bird” attitude.

So, when did this revelation hit me, you may be asking?

There are a few, but one of the first things that comes to mind was on July 18th. I remember sitting on my couch and picked up a recently purchased Triathlon magazine to read. The first page I saw when I opened the magazine was a full-page ad for The Nation’s Triathlon, held in img_20170718_080703.jpgWashington DC in September. Having previously lived in the DC area, I knew about the event, but had never thought of competing in it until I saw that ad. At that moment, it hit me, “why not?” Two days later I had signed up and had everything booked to go to DC to race in The Nation’s Triathlon. Talk about spontaneity.

The race atmosphere in our nation’s capital and the entire experience in Washington DC that weekend was one I will never forget and one that I would not have had if I had not said, “why not.”

As most of you know, I have been committed to my training and exercise regimen over the past year. I have set goals of completing triathlons that seem so difficult and extreme. The decision to set these goals and commitments were made because I asked myself, why not?

I have enjoyed training and pushing myself to be healthier, not just for my own mental and emotional state, but also so I can enjoy being active and doing things with my children and loved ones, long into the future.

Yesterday, I woke up thinking it would be a normal Sunday for the kids and me. We would go to church, come back to my apartment, eat lunch, wrap Christmas presents and just hang out until it was time for the kiddos to pack up and go back to their mom’s house. There would have been absolutely nothing wrong with that being our Sunday together, but I had another thought! Why not?

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“Hey kids, get dressed, I’ve got a surprise for you!” We loaded up and headed off to a new “Multi-tainment Center” that just opened with a fun “family-friendly” bowling experience and arcade at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. The littles, as I call my two youngest, and I had a blast! My oldest chose not to go because she was stressed about getting her math homework completed and finishing To Kill a Mockingbird for English. We missed her being there, but had so much fun doing something spontaneous and different.

Why not? Why not live in the moment and live like there will be no tomorrow?

As Tim Robbins spoke, in my favorite movie, Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

I choose to get busy living. Why not, right?

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Time, please stop.

Dear time, please stop and let me enjoy this moment!

That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was sitting in church on Sunday, halfway through our pastor’s sermon. The church service was great. The pews were full of people, mostly in red, on this first Sunday of Advent. The music was incredible, as always, and the sermon was a good one, titled “Light in the Darkness.”

The service, the music, nor the sermon, all great, but none having anything to do with my desire to ask time to stop.

During the past year, being separated from my wife, I have struggled with many emotions, but none more so than worrying about the kids and how their little minds and hearts are handling it all. I worry about how divorce will impact their future, and selfishly, how it is affecting their relationship with me as their dad.

As their father, I want my children to know that I am always there for them, that I am strong, dependable and that my love for them is unwavering and that they should never, ever, doubt my love for them. I want them to know that while the relationship between their mom and dad has changed, the relationship between them and their parents has not changed one bit.

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Going through separation and divorce, however, has made it difficult for me to remain confident that my children know that I am still their rock, that I am still there for them no matter what is going on in their lives.

I believe it has been difficult for me to remain confident in that because I can’t be with them, physically, all the time, anymore. I can’t always be there for them when they get hurt, or if they just want to hop up in my lap and snuggle like they previously could do.

The separation from my kids, when they aren’t with me, seems to allow doubt to creep into my mind, making me believe that their confidence in me, as their dad, has diminished for some reason. My mind goes into overdrive wondering, do they know that I will always be there for them, that I will always be the rock that they can lean on when they need me.

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Sitting in the pew at church on Sunday, those doubts disappeared. Halfway through the sermon, Christopher laid his head in my lap and Hannah, my teenage daughter, gently laid her head on my shoulder.

For ten minutes, I could not think about anything else, other than the overwhelming feeling of affirmation that my kids knew their daddy was there for them, that I was their rock to lean on and they knew I would always be there for them!

We can’t stop time, but we can forever hold on to, and cherish, those special moments that make us wish we could.

As a footnote…. I wrote this draft sitting in the Barnes and Noble Sunday afternoon when tears started rolling down my cheek. A guy across the way noticed. At one point in my life I would have “manned up” and held in those tears…”men don’t cry.” But, Im not that man and I didn’t care what he thought may be going on in my life. I’m a dad and dads can cry.

Past Weekend (and then some) Recap

Well, my consistency with the blog has started to wane a little this past week, but I’m back at it, FINALLY!  It has been quite the week since my last post.  I’m down to the final two weeks before my next triathlon.  The early mornings, before the kids awake, are spent at the lake running, biking around the county, or swimming.  Training takes a lot of the little spare time that I have these days.  Speaking of the early mornings, the picture below was from a vantage point at Lake Junaluska that I found after a recent morning run.  What a special place and a special view!

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The last week was also a little crazy because I was wrapping up some things at work so that I could take this week off to spend with the kids.  If you know anything about the mortgage business, the last week of the month is usually the busiest, and last week was no exception.  Preparing to get out of there was difficult.  Nevertheless, I’m on vacation this week and the kids and I are enjoying every moment of it.  So, today’s post is going to recap some of the things the kids and I have seen, done, or experienced since Saturday.

It felt good to sleep in a little on Saturday.  Friday, I had “pulled” my calf a little and decided that Saturday was going to be an “off” day from training.  Wow, sleeping till 7:30 has never felt so good!  I let the “littles” sleep in while I got some much needed housework completed.  You know, laundry, sweeping, bathrooms, dishes, typical stuff that has to be done, but the stuff that’s easy to push aside for more important things, like playing board games with the kiddos.  Hannah was at the lake with some of her friends, so it was just Christopher, Julia and me on Saturday.

Julia came home from camp one day last week talking about a fashion show at Belk on Saturday.  She was so exited to go and be in this fashion show.  After a pretty good job of painting her fingernails for the fashion show, I got them loaded up and off we went.

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The fashion show was, well, a little overwhelming for this dad at first.  There were kids and parents everywhere in the children’s section.  The “stimulus” from the music, food, balloons and the “EVERYTHING is On Sale” signs was just a wee bit much for me, but I hung in there.  Back and forth I went from the girls section with Julia to the boys section with Christopher.  They finally decided on the outfit they would wear in the fashion show, along with a few outfits for the upcoming school year.  After an hour of picking out clothes, it was time to model one of the outfits.  Julia and Christopher had a blast walking the runway showing off their style (Fashion Show Video) .  I embraced the experience and smiled watching them strut their stuff.

Later that afternoon, we decided to go into town for the Folkmoot International Day Festival.  If you live in Western North Carolina, this is a festival that you need to put on your calendar and experience.  It was the highlight of the day for me and the kids.  The kids loved IMG_20170729_153812dancing with a group from India and a group of cloggers from Florida State University.  Julia and Christopher did not hesitate to get in among the dancing action and I had a blast watching!  The festival would not be complete without funnel cake, kettle corn and sodas from Waynesville Soda Jerks, a locally owned artisan beverage company.

Saturday night, the kids wanted “Daddy’s” famous shrimp and grits.  Bacon is the not so secret ingredient.  The kids love bacon. After a LONG day, this old boy was whooped.

Sunday morning we got up and went to church.  I have been the “head” usher for the past few weeks, but had some help from Christopher and Julia this time.  They love assisting in any way they can, whether its getting the attendance count, handing out the bulletins or passing the plate!  I love that they enjoy serving!

After church, we grabbed some sandwiches, got our canned goods and headed off to watch the Asheville Tourist play.  It was “Kid’s Day” and also “free” general admission with the canned goods we brought being donated to the Manna Food Bank.  The kids love watching live baseball.  They stayed engaged and really attuned to what’s going on. IMG_20170730_163303Christopher’s goal is always to get a ball and today was a success in many ways.  A foul ball made it’s way to us, but since he got a ball the last time, he handed it to a little boy sitting close to us.  Such a good gesture.  He was rewarded later when, during the last inning, a batter broke his bat and as the teammate carried the bat back to the dugout the coach nodded for him to hand it to Christopher.  Talk about making a kid smile!  Getting a ball is quite the treat, but walking out of the stadium with a bat, will be a memory Christopher and Julia will never forget!

Monday, during the day, was fairly low-key!  I had some yard work to do and I was thankful my dad came up to help.  Hannah was back from the lake and Christopher was in AIG camp, so it was an afternoon with the girls that we spent at the pool for a few hours after lunch.

Tuesday, the girls and I had a fun day, out and about, in downtown Waynesville.  We had lunch and walked Main Street browsing some of the girls’ favorite local stores.  We had such a good time just hanging out in town.  We even treated ourselves to ice cream from The Strand at 38 Main.  Julia had Mocha Oreo, Hannah had Death By Chocolate and I tried the Espresso Crunch.  Yum, Yum Yum!

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Last night we went to Canton’s National Night Out event.  My employer was a sponsor for the event that brought together the community with all of our first responders in the county.  It was a very nice event and the kids had a good time.  I volunteered to work at our booth, where we handed out Popsicle with “Popsicle” Koozies!  How creative!

We have quite a bit planned over the next few days, but I’m using the day today to catch up on a few things that have taken a back seat to hanging with the kids, like the laundry and the dishes!  We’ve enjoyed our “stay-cation” so far.  Let’s just see what we can get into the rest of the week.

It’s “Hump Day.”  I hope your week is going well!  Thanks for stopping by!  We’ll chat soon!

10 Minute Brain Dump

Some call this a Stream of Consciousness, but I’m going to call it a 10 minute brain dump. I’m new at this blogging but have really enjoyed getting my thoughts out, whether it is as a post or on paper for a future post.  I have had some help from a friend that has been very helpful with ideas and insights into this new journey I’m on with my blog.  This exercise is one of her suggestions.  So, the goal of this “Brain Dump” is to just write for 10 minutes.  Let’s see how it goes:

It’s Saturday afternoon and the kids and I are having a “veg” day.  They have their feet up, all on one bed, watching one of their favorite YouTube Channels.  I doubt they will take a nap, but it’s been a very busy week for us with a 5 night visit to Lake Norman and then to Chimney Rock.  We are all spent and need this day to chill.  Hannah does want to go to Goodwill to get some “Large” shirts to lounge in.  We may just do that since I have basically had to buy all new clothes from dropping 25 lbs since Christmas.  I have an entire closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore and can be of good use in someone else’s closet.  With the kids having their feet up, I am spending my time this afternoon just resting and relaxing myself; a perfect time for writing.

chimney rockSo I’m starting to get a little anxious about this upcoming week.  This past week has been amazing and we have had such a good time.  I took off work and have enjoyed every single minute with the kids at the lake, but I know that Tuesday looms when they are going out west with Amanda and won’t be back for two weeks.  The anxiety of knowing I won’t see them for that long is so tough on me.  Since Amanda and I have been separated, the anxiousness of having to tell the kids goodbye for any length of time has been hard on both of us, but two weeks seems unbearable.  Skype and Facetime just aren’t the same as having them here with me and seeing them daily.  I will say though, it has gotten a little easier for the weekly visits, but I have had to learn to get busy and stay busy when they leave.  The silence without them here is deafening and can really get me down if I don’t find something to do.  I have found myself going to the lake to run, going to the gym, or even going to browse the grocery store aisles just to buy my protein mix.  I’ve also found some consistency with my guitar and something that I’ve gotten really addicted to is writing.  Getting my thoughts out on paper can be so refreshing and healthy for me.

Going through this separation, and the immense changes that come along with it, has motivated me to spend time reflecting on my past and how I’ve lived my life till now.  I give immense thought to who I am, my values and how I can ensure that I’m doing all that I can to be a better dad, a better man, a better friend, and a better husband, when and if that opportunity presents itself again.

My timer is not up.  I’m at 9:19 but I’ve got to call it wrap because there is a knock down drag out happening upstairs between Julia and Christopher…. Dad hat on!

“After My Time Is Up” Note:

I know most of you may ask, “Matt, you only had a little time left and you cut it short?”  I have to say that the floor above me sounded as if Christopher and Julia were body slamming each other to go along with the yelling.  Once I got them seated on the couch, I learned that their argument was over Julia breathing on Christopher and her “twitching.”  Christopher decided it was bothering him so much that he wasn’t going to let her watch his IPad anymore…. Julia did’t take that very well.  “Christopher, wouldn’t it have been easier to say, Julia, you’re breathing on me.  Could you please stop.”  When I asked him if he thought of that, he said, “Yes, I told her a year ago that I don’t want her breathing on me.”  SMH….  There was an admitted hit and a shove to go along with the yelling.  “IPad is mine for the rest of the day! Read, draw, take a nap or play together with the hot wheels.”

 

“The Greatest Show on Dirt”

Late Monday afternoon, I returned from an amazing 2,200 mile road trip with my dad and my sister to The College World Series, “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” in Omaha, Nebraska.  The trip was not only a bucket list “check” for me, but most importantly for my dad, Andy.  Dad, or “deddy” as I called him when I was little, coached and cheered me and Sally through years of baseball and softball.  Long drives in his 1981 Datsun truck, after getting off early from work, to make sure we got to our all-star games or travel ball tournaments on time, always having time to make a stop for a Gatorade, sunflower seeds and Big League Chew.  This trip was for Dad, who I called after my first semester at Wofford when I realized I probably didn’t study or take my education seriously enough, putting even my baseball scholarship at risk due to that first semester GPA, “Dad, what are we going to do?”  His response, “Son, it’s not what we’re going to do, it’s what are you going to do?”  This trip was for him, our Dad, but became a trip for all three of us!

 

The journey started when Sally called me last November and said, “Hey brother, what do you think about me and you taking dad out to the College World Series next year and we can give it to him for Christmas?”  Sally still calls me “brother” to this day; I guess it goes back to me being 12 when she was born and I was always brother when she learned to talk….kind of like “daddy” or “mommy”, I was “brother.”  Okay, I digressed a little, but for a lot of you that know me, I’m not always the most spontaneous person that just says “hey, let’s drive 1,100 miles and go watch the College World Series.”  I have to think about those things…but I said, “uh, yes, of course,” fairly quickly when Sally asked me.  In the back of my head, though, I was thinking, “what about the kids, time off at work, how much is this gonna cost……?” Within a few weeks, Sally had a 3 bedroom house rented through Airbnb….we were booked and we were going to the College World Series in June 2017!

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Start of our road trip!  11:00PM Wednesday Night

We set out on our road trip last week when Sally and Dad got to my place around 10:00 Wednesday night.  The plan was for us to sleep for a few hours and get up and go super early.  Sally said, “He Bro, why don’t we just leave now and drive through the night?”  We left at 11:00 PM on Wednesday on our 17 hour drive to Omaha, Nebraska….while it wasn’t as I had planned, driving all night made more sense once we got on our way and especially once the sun came up; Sally got a full night sleep through the night, finally waking at our breakfast stop at Cracker Barrel in Mt. Vernon, Illinois!  Getting there at 4 o’clock in the afternoon versus 8 o’clock was nice.  We capped off the evening with three great Omaha steaks, a salad and a beer; at 8:30 all three of us were conked out on the couch, of course, watching that night’s game on TV.

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Friday and Saturday were all about being at the park watching baseball and experiencing the College World Series in person.  As a baseball player for almost half of my life, into my early 20s, there was hardly a year that I didn’t watch the series on TV and dream of playing there one day.  Here I was, early Friday afternoon, with my Dad, sister and the largest smile on my face walking into TD Ameritrade Park to watch the final four teams play at the College World Series.  While I never got to play there, my dream came true because I was there in person to see, smell and hear what the Greatest Show on Dirt is all about!

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It was a long, whirlwind of a trip, but one that I am glad we did and one that I want to do again with my children one day.

Memories of this trip will be with me for the rest of my life.  Yes, we were at the College World Series and yes, we checked off a bucket list item that many sports lovers have, but this trip was more than the bucket list check of going to the “Greatest Show on Dirt.”  This trip was about giving back to our dad; his two children putting him first for a change, giving him the opportunity to check off one of his bucket list items, to thank him for the many sacrifices he made for us.  The trip was about Sally and I spending quality time together with our dad, experiencing new things, watching baseball, drinking beer, laughing, singing; just being us, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister and our dad, together; something we’d never done before!

I don’t know where this blog is going to take me, but I am glad you stopped by and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this road trip.

Goodnight!