Happy 9th Birthday Buddy


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This is my annual birthday post for Levi; if you’re interested, the prior birthday posts are here:  Happy 8th Birthday BuddyHappy 7th Birthday BuddyHappy 6th Birthday BuddyHappy 5th Birthday Buddy, and Happy 4th Birthday Buddy.

Dear Levi,

As I’m writing to you every year I never have anything planned to say. I used to give a lot of talks to audiences and often had a mental archive of anecdotes or stories lined up that I’d pull from, either coordinated in advance or ready to use spontaneously. With something like your annual birthday, I always think to myself “This year I’ll totally have something lined up to share with Levi for his birthday!”

But it never happens, and today is no exception.

I’m never ready for this day, and when it finally arrives I always want something magical to happen. I’m not sure what, but it never quite plays out like I envision or hope. The only real message that I really want to get to you is that I love you. And we miss you. There’s probably a lot in my life that I hope you don’t see, but this is one of those moments where I hope you get to look down and read my annual birthday letter to you. So, here’s a quick update, followed by a story.

Mom did homeschooling for Royce and Zoe all the way up to this year, then we decided to put the kids into school–for a variety of reasons–and they both seem to be doing well. I’m super appreciative of her hard work over many years to teach RoZo. She thinks about you all the time, and I remember just how heartbroken she was–we both were–ten years ago today.

Royce is doing great, she made the middle school soccer team as a 6th grader which was a really big deal! Few kids made it at all, and even fewer 6th graders. She’s such a sweet kid, and is the one who always prays before every meal (even when I sometimes skip it), always organized and on time, never misses a homework assignment (her grades are awesome!) and always less then thrilled when things don’t go according to plan–she likes structure and predictability, and might–MIGHT–have a slight tendency to worry at times. 🙂 Which would make her the big sister that would always be watching out for your every move, and would keep you from ever getting in trouble. She’s beautiful, so responsible and trustworthy, and so incredibly passionate–you would be so proud to have her as a big sister.

Zoe is doing fantastic and is equally beautiful. She’s going to a different school than Royce and has made so much progress–we’re really thrilled. She loves creative stuff, entrepreneurial passions, and cooking shows as her go-to activities. She could watch cooking shows on a Saturday for hours on end without pause–and sometimes does. And is the only ten year old kid I’ve ever met who would look at me after tasting a dish I made and would say “Dad, I think this needs a little bit of caper juice, a dash of garlic salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon” only to be followed minutes later while preparing some vegetables with an off the cuff statement and say to me “You know Dad, Jimmy Fallon is definitely one of my favorite comedians–next to Ellen Degeneris.”

Zoe’s pretty hysterical, and would be the bigger sister saying “Go for it!” while Royce would be saying “Levi, I really don’t think this is a good idea…” You’d have one sister with expertise on how to get you into trouble, and the other with expertise on how to keep you–or get you–out of it.

So here’s my one and only story for you this year: IMG_0999

A few months ago all of us went away for a weekend to try to get a retreat from the chaos of work and everyday life. One night whilst sitting outside around a fire pit we were talking about a particular issue which escalated and ended in an argument amongst the four of us, though mostly it was just me, Royce, and mom. The argument got pretty intense, and while I don’t think it was altogether different than some arguments and issues that most families deal with, it was one of the more intense and frustrating moments we’ve had in the last year.

Zoe was walking around the outdoor fire pit, and along the edge of the pool, somewhat aimlessly. I didn’t even think she was listening. She was kicking the soccer ball on her knee, dropping it, running off to get it, seemingly completely disengaged and disinterested during this 20-minutes. Finally, when no progress was being made, and the intensity of the argument kept escalating, she decided to jump in.

Zoe turned around to all of us and opened her arms and interjected with a quiet, and gentle voice saying “Okay everyone? Please stop. For a minute. Just stop. Can I say something?”

Surprised, we all turned to her and didn’t say a word. We were all kind of shocked she interjected. Zoe’s fiercely independent, wildly creative, witty as all get out–but rarely interjects and generally doesn’t editorialize. So as we all looked at her she decided to deal with me first and walked over, placed her little hands on top of my big hands, and looked in my eyes and continued.

“Dad, I know you’re stressed out. I know it, and I can feel it.” As she’s talking involuntary tears start streaming down her face, but she didn’t let her emotions phase her for a second and she barely paused for half a second.

So she kept going. “Dad, sometimes when you get home from work and you’re stressed out and you still have tons more work to do, don’t put the stress on other people. And Dad, I know why you do this…Because I do it too. I go to school, and then I have a bad day. I come home, and I’m upset and tense and I get frustrated with people. Or I want to blame someone, or I point the finger and I get angry at people. And then it creates tension. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you. Or me. Everybody does it. It’s part of being a human. We all do it.”

“So Dad, I want you to be happy. I want you to come home happy. I want you to leave home happy. And I know it’s hard, because you work so hard. I worry that you are always working, and I am afraid someday all the work will beat you down. But then, I know you usually love it and do a good job. So they give you more responsibilities. You get bigger jobs and you run more companies. But then it keeps getting harder and harder, and more stressful.”

“Now you’re working so long and gone so much. And I know it’s going to get better. I know you have done lots of start-ups, and that they always get better and things work out. And when it gets better I know you’ll make more money, you’ll have more people to help out, you won’t have to work so much, and things will be easier. But Dad, even though I know it’s going to get better…I really just worry if it’s going to get better fast enough.”

At this point tears are pouring down her face, not just one or two, but a constant stream. She kept going, without flinching or pausing to even recognize her emotions, and with a steady voice while looking in my eyes continued. “Dad, I believe everything starts in the home. If we can make everything good in the home, then everything else will be great. Work will be great. Your workouts and running will be great. Our time off will be great. Dad, I really mean it. I believe everything starts in the home.”

Then she paused for the first time, and took a breath and raised her expressive eyebrows and said emphatically “And Dad, I KNOW they say that on all the cooking shows. But I really believe it’s true.”

Levi feetOf all my moments with our kids, this one will be among the most memorable. Partly because there was a level of gravitas to the conversation that exceeded anything which I’d ever experienced with her. And partly because it was such an obvious testament to what kids can teach you.

Which pretty much is a metaphor for how I feel about you. I don’t fully recognize, and in exactly what ways, but I know you’ve had this amazing impact on all of us in manners that I can’t fully express or even begin to understand.

Am I bummed you’re not here? Yeah, beyond words. If I could, I’d change it in a heartbeat. But also in my heart, I’d know that wouldn’t be the right thing. I’m certain and trusting that the right thing happened. And that as part of this, I’m still learning something throughout it.

Even if I don’t understand it. Even if I don’t like it.

Levi, my friend…I love you. We all do. No matter what.

Happy 9th Birthday.

Love,

~Dad

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Happy 4th Birthday Buddy

img_34831The reason I write in my blog is to connect with people. Not just from one segment of life, but from many.

And as part of the thread of stories I try to share experiences and observations in leadership, volunteerism, wellness, as well as some stories that are simply personal experiences that fall in none of those particular categories and, might, at times, be more personal.

Today’s entry is one of those. So if the personal aspect is too much, please skip this one today.

I write tonight sitting 3,000 miles away from Erica and my girls, celebrating in spirit the birthday of our son Levi. Who, five years ago today, was born and also died several hours later due to prematurity and a systemic infection that could not be avoided or treated.

Levi, my little friend, I’m not sure if Heaven is wired with Web 2.0, social networking, and blogs along with 802.11N Wifi. Maybe up there you’re on Web 10.0 and we’re just catching up. I’m not sure if you’re yet able to read, if you’re learning to read, perhaps someone is reading to you, or whether you’re even still a youth or not. Somehow, though, I think you will get this message in some way.

Raz Fam celebrating Levi's 2nd Birthday
Raz Fam celebrating Levi's 2nd Birth.

Today I just wanted to acknowledge my appreciation and love for you–especially because I’m on business travel and away from the rest of your family on this special day. I wish you were here so we could celebrate, even if remotely. And if you were here tonight I would call you on a Skype video, sing Happy Birthday to you, tell you how proud I am of you…I’d tell you how I’d take you out for cake and ice cream when I got back home, and we would do the things that dads and sons do–things like wrestle and horseplay on my return visit. We’d probably even break something valuable in the living room. 🙂 But it would be okay, because you would be with me–and I would be with you. And mom would look at us and smile with a look of “You boys…” and Royce and Zoe would be cackling and laughing in the background, all while trying to wrestle with us as well. Levi, we would have had a lot of fun–and I miss you.

Yet, as strange as this may sound, I am certain that God’s got all of those fun activities figured out for you–and more–right where you are.

It is rare that I can look at our family and see only four people; it generally feels like you are missing, and while some of the days that pass make missing you–and what I never got to know of you–easier, never will it be forgotten or a substitute for what a life with you in our family every day could have been like.

So, today’s posting is a simple one.

It’s just an open letter to you wishing you a Happy Fourth Birthday. To let you know that we all miss you so much, and I know we would be so proud of you on this day, yet we also have a sincere contentment that everything works out according to a plan.

It’s just that today, and at this very moment, I really don’t like the way this plan has worked out–even though I know it is for the best.

Happy Birthday my little friend, we miss you so much and I will see you someday soon.

-Dad

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No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your physician. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all period. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless significant for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.