Interception of a dream

I understand that at the mere mention of football, many of you may navigate away from this page, but I should tell you, this is not about football. This is about life. Let me start by saying I have loved the Oakland Raiders since I was a young child. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you why I love them or how that love was inspired. I can only say, It is a love that has always been. After watching the team share a horrible display during the last ten years, that love has not changed. This year, for whatever reason, has been a year I hoped to see some change. The team has been very strong and has had a great ability to score and stay in games until Sunday’s game. The Raiders lost their quarterback to an injury in the previous game against the Browns and was forced to make some changes at the position. With only one week to properly prepare, none of the quarterbacks on the roster were prepared for what was to come against their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The team played two quarterbacks in the game, each of them finishing the game with three interceptions and no touchdowns. The Raiders could not get into the end-zone at all in the game and lost 28-0.

I’m not sure what kind of a setback the team will face after Sunday’s loss or how they will come back when they play again, but this game had to hurt. After a decade of not being able to win, they finally seemed to be on track, only to be humiliated against a division foe who came into the game with a worse record than them. It didn’t matter that the Raiders actually played pretty good on the defensive side of the ball and that it was the interceptions that made the difference in the game. They lost. You come out with a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’ That is how it works in football. It is also how it works in life.

I can say, in my personal life, I feel very much the way the Raiders probably do. After many years of feeling like a failure  in various aspects of my life, I feel like in the last couple of years I have really started to grow up. I felt like I could put a few ‘W’s’ on the board and move away from the past that has haunted me. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. I was holding a winning record for once, but then I recently ran into my division foe. Interception after interception has kept me from reaching a score. I feel like I did when I was watching the Raiders play Sunday. I know that I may lose this game, but I would like to see a touchdown, a field goal, a saftey, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to put something on the board to maintain some respectability. That did not happen for the Raiders Sunday, it may not happen for me.

I’m sure many of my readers are aware that I recently lost a job I loved having. I was proud of that job but in the end, that job wasn’t proud of me. Interception. Just when you think you are on track and you are ready to score, someone steals the ball. I have been working to give my kids a better future. They deserve the very best. I want to provide them with a good home a healthy family life, and the best that can be offered. I feel like I have been intercepted. The older they get, the more I realize they may never know what it is to be a part of a real family…  In school, I have maintained straight A’s in all of my classes. It was my goal to continue that, but I was intercepted. I was doing so good, but when I scored 88 points in one of my classes at the end of my last term, that goal was ripped away from me like the Chiefs ripped it out of mid air from the Raiders… I finally found someone in my life who I cared about deeply and was given the same in return. I had finally grown up. Everything else was immature. Now I was ready to love real. I was ready to be loved. It’s time to put some points on the board, but wait, just when I throw a pass into the air, Interception. It wasn’t meant to be. Doesn’t matter how bad you want something, if that dream is intercepted, you lose possession. It’s just not my turn anymore. I’ve thrown plenty of interceptions recently, that I wish I could have back, but we can’t turn back time. We can only wait for our next chance. I’ve done that consistently. I have held on for another set of downs. I’ve waited to have another chance, only to throw another interception. Suddenly, I know why I like the Raiders so much, They are who I am. After so many turnovers and no score on the board, I feel like I have lost this game.

It’s a good thing life isn’t played in a single game. This week the Raiders have a bye week and will have some time to prepare for their next game. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a bye week, but I could sure use some rest. My heart hurts, both literally and figuratively and rest may be needed to prepare for future games. Why still play? Because I know that while I’m here, I can always suit up again and keep taking the field with the intent to win. I don’t just want to score. I want to win – not just one game. I want it all. I want the championship. Maybe my interceptions have displaced me temporarily from the dreams and goals I have in life, but I can’t give up. There is a championship on the line. I want to win it. I need to win it. I deserve it. I’ve played hard. I’ve been focused. Maybe I’ve been a little unprepared at times, but I’ve been focused. Please, please, please.. let me win. I don’t want to lose anymore.

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Building Others…

These kids built bears for children in a hospital. The story seems simple enough, but I learned a great deal from them and the service they provided to society that day.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the mall in Charleston when I ran into a group who were working together at the Build-A-Bear store. The group was mostly middle school age children and there were several adults with them. They were making stuffed animals and dressing them. I originally assumed the group was having a birthday party or something. I went into the store and began talking to one of the guys working with the group and he told me he belonged to a church group. He said the group he was with was a Sunday School class that had recently learned a lesson about giving without receiving a reward. He said the group had put together a plan to do that with the help of the Build-A-Bear store. The plan was for the group to make stuffed animals to send to kids at the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. That in itself was touching enough, but the man went on to explain that he has a young family member who regularly makes visits to the hospital because he was badly burned in a house fire when he was younger. These kids were wanting to help people like this. What a wonderful plan.

I immediately fell in love with the group and called the local newspaper in Charleston to ask them to provide a reporter for the story. The story was no good for me because, even though I was a reporter, the story was not related to my area in any way. Still, I thought these kids deserved to be recognized for what they were doing. I was told that the newspaper’s reporter was on assignment already and they didn’t have anyone else to send on a Sunday so I enthusiastically asked if I could write the story for them. I told them I am not interested in money for writing the story, all I wanted is the satisfaction of bringing recognition to the kids who were building these stuffed animals. I was given an okay and I began to write the story. It would later be the most wide spread story I would ever write. The newspaper’s circulation well exceeded any of the newspapers I had written for before. I felt kind of special. More importantly, I felt like I had made these kids feel special. If my name had not have been on the story, I would have still been happy that it ran. They deserved to be recognized.

Why was I so intrigued by the story of these kids? I’ll tell you why. These kids were not only building bears that day. They were building others. They were creating something that was going to place a smile on the face of a kid in the hospital. They may not ever get the chance to meet the children they are helping, but they are doing it. It’s not about a reward for them. It is about sharing love with someone who is in an undesirable situation. It makes me feel good to know that there are people who would go out of their way to make the day of another. I’m glad to know that there are those who want to build someone up even when they are down. We should all learn a lesson from these kids. We should all learn to work for the people who need it most. It isn’t only about ourselves. This life is also about serving others. I’m glad I ran into these kids at the Build-A-Bear store in Charleston. I’m glad I was able to write a story about them. They deserve to be recognized. We could all learn a lesson from these kids. I learned a valuable one that hasn’t stopped teaching me yet.

Dream vs. Fantasy

Today I attended a local event that began only a few short years ago, but has quickly drawn a great number of visitors. The event focuses on a mythological world of fairies, trolls and pirates and many other characters we don’t see in the every day world that we live in. Many different age groups participated in the event as it drew similar crowds with a wide range of personalities showing up for the very same cause – to bring their fantasy world to life. I wasn’t sure when the event first began how well it would be received among the community, but it has been a huge hit and I don’t believe it will slow down anytime soon. As long as this event continues to attract people, I’mI sure the community I live in will see more and more about it as time carries on.

I am not much of a person to get into character for events such as the festival I attended today. While I did enjoy watching others act out a world of imagination and wonder, I was fine being the camera guy who was there to snap pictures of it. That is all I needed to be. Sometimes I do very good to find the time to play out the role of being myself, let alone another character. I enjoyed watching other people live out their fantasies at the festival. It reminded me of a similar hope I have had for myself for quite some time. I want to live out my dreams.

What I learned at the festival is that dreams and fantasies are very different from one another. We can put on a costume and act out a specific character. We can role play and become the very object we desire with little imagination required. Living out the fantasy world is an easy process that anyone can learn to complete. We can all live in a fantasy world if we would like to, or we could attend festivals as a pirate or a princess. It doesn’t matter what we want to do, our fantasies have no limit as long as our imaginations don’t either. The dreams we have set for our lives are quite different though. I don’t dream to sail the seas on a pirate ship and find buried treasure. I dream to have a decent job and a nice house with a happy family to fill it with excitement every day. I dream to love like I’ve never loved before and have the same in return and never lose the spark that ignited the flame that led to a lifetime of happiness. I dream that my kids will be successful because of a drive and dedication that was given to them through watching their father climb the ladder of success and always strive to reach the top. These are dreams. You can’t put a costume on to achieve any of this.

When I left the festival today, I realized I was walking out of a fantasy world. It was a world that people imagined and brought to life. In the same way, I feel we all dream up ideas about who we should be or how we should be or what we should become and we try to make it a reality. The reality is though, we are not what our dreams are. We are dreamers. We are dreamers who hopefully someday will reach the goals we have mapped out for our lives. Some of us will reach those dreams and some of us will not. My fear in life is that my dreams will always be dreams and will never become a reality. I want to be able to enjoy the fantasies of life, but I want to live my dream. I don’t want to put a costume on and pretend to be everything I ever wanted. I don’t want to hide behind a masked smile that says I have arrived at my destination in life. I want to live my dream. All of my life I have been a dreamer. I’m ready to live. I don’t want to role play anymore.

Spilling My Lucky Charms…

Every child (and adult for that matter) has clumsy days. One day not too long ago was one belonging to my son Trace. He had the Midas touch, except everything wasn’t turning to gold. Everything he would touch that day would become an inescapable accident. He didn’t mean to have such a clumsy day, but it just happened. After a few incidents had taken place,  I wanted to tape him to the wall, but I knew better. There is no tape strong enough. So I tried to let him be, figuring that the horrible rash of negative influence he bestowed upon each object in his path would slowly fade. It didn’t.

In one particular instance, I heard a loud sound of a million tiny objects falling to the floor. I rolled my eyes wondering what mess I would find upon my arrival to the kitchen. When I got there, I saw Trace standing with an lucky leprechaunupside down box of Lucky Charms. A perfect mixture of colorful marshmallows and cat food shaped cereal was still falling to the floor. He had asked me earlier if he could have some, and I told him no. When he put it on top of the refrigerator, he didn’t push it back far enough. Later when he opened the refrigerator door again the box came tumbling down. He tried to catch the box, but it was too late, and the right side of the box was not up. There were Lucky Charms all over my floor. It was a brand new box and I was unhappy with what had happened. Being fed up from all of the other accidents that had happened that day, I told him to go sit down and don’t get up until I talk to him about his clumsiness. He did. I wanted to feel sorry for him, but I couldn’t. I was too busy cleaning up his messes.

As I was cleaning the breakfast off of my floor, I realized that we all have lucky charms in this life. We have special items or people who we don’t want to lose. We struggle to hold the box upright, but at one time or another, it will tip. It is a fact of life. We all will lose something we treasure at one point or another.  We will all face the loss of some lucky charms in life.

Quickly, after Trace spilled the box onto the floor, he bent over and began scooping it all back up and placing it back into the box. I told him there is no use of trying to save any of it now. It was lost. There was no bringing it back. Such is the way with life. We need to be careful how we handle the every day operations of our lives, because if we are not careful, we may lose the things that are most important to us. We need to strive to preserve those things the best way that we know how. I have spilled some lucky charms in my own life. Even today I look at myself and think I am standing with the box in poor position. Everything is spilling out, and I can’t keep it from falling. I am losing my lucky charms and I need to find a way to protect them. Hold on and don’t let go, but hold it right, don’t let any of it be wasted. Whatever it is that you may call a lucky charm in life, cherish it. Don’t drop it. Don’t spill your lucky charms.

Coloring Outside the Lines…

I don’t really remember at what point in my life I began to properly color a picture and stay inside the lines.  I know that as a child I must have colored all over whatever picture I was working on.  We all have.  In watching my own children, I have noticed that, as they mature and get a little older, their pictures have become more precise.  They have gotten better at coloring inside the lines.  I do remember in school that some of the children were better artists than others.  Even though we all began the same and all improved our ability to stay inside the lines, some became masters of their artistic ability.  While some were creating what seemed like a masterpiece for the parents refrigerator door, others were doing their best to just keep their crayon inside the lines on the page.

As an adult I feel like i still suffer with this battle.  I have never learned to create a masterpiece.  My whole life has been a struggle to keep it between the lines.  From the time I was young I have wanted to paint a beautiful picture of what I felt like life should be.  Unfortunately I am not a very good artist, at least not in creating the portrait of my life.  I struggle every day to stay inside the lines and not destroy the good that I do have.  In the same way that a little child wants to present the picture he colored in class to his parents when he gets home from school, I also want to present the most beautiful picture for the people I love.  I want to give my children, my family and my friends a masterpiece.  I want them to be proud, but I cannot paint.  Even as a journalist, I want to create a masterpiece for those who read my stories.  I want to present a beautiful piece of artwork, still, I struggle.

One day my kids will grow up.  They will have a life of their own.  Have I colored the picture of them the best way I possibly can to provide a promising future?  Have I stayed between the line enough to build on my relationship and create a masterpiece that will forever be cherished?  We can’t all be great artists, but is what little I can do enough?

I am going to try my best to simply keep it between the lines in this life.  I hope no one expects a masterpiece.  Maybe in the future I will be able to create stand out work.  Right now, It is more than a full-time job to keep everything between the lines.  Maybe you have struggled with this as well.  We all want a masterpiece.  Many of us fall short.  I feel like I couldn’t ask for better people to be in my life.  I can only hope I live up to offering back to them what they have given to me.  I want to give you all a masterpiece you will never forget.  I’m going to keep it between the lines.

Aren’t we all the same?

I have always believed that we all are similar.  Everyone of us, while unique in our own ways, match each others actions in certain situations.  Sure, we may have a different hair or eye color.  Some of us may speak different languages.  Some people grow up wealthy and some grow up in poverty.  These things make us different, but aren’t we really all just the same?

Every person I have ever met has cried, this shows me that we all hurt.  All of us have laughed or smiled, revealing that we like to be happy.  We all fall in love, showing our desire to be close to another person.  We all share the same basic emotions.  These are universal.  We all use them differently, but we use them none the less.  What gives us a unique personality is the type of surroundings we grew up around and how we reacted to the emotions given to us from that foundation.  A child who has parents who were both athletes is likely to follow the same course.  A child who grew up in poverty has a much higher likely hood of living in poverty as well.  It all falls back on the way the child was raised.

What makes you who you are is not the environment you grew up in.  That is simply what helped you find yourself in the environment you are in today.  You are not the surroundings you grew up around, you are the person who reacted to those surroundings.  How does the life you have lived affect who you are?  Are you a better or worse person because of the way you grew up?  I don’t necessarily believe so.  I would like to challenge that mind set.

A goal driven person will find ways to reach their destination regardless of circumstance.  It is in their nature.  This is why you see some people come from a very poor family, but find ways to suceed and become wealthy.  While the case is rare, it does happen.  We also see celebrities, who came from well known families, make major mistakes.  You determine your course, not the influences of nature around you.  Only you can decide how to react to each obstacle in life.  This is what determines who you are as a person.

We should probably learn to overlook a persons social status when deciding how we feel about them.  We should look past the influences that have changed their circumstance, but not the person.  If we could peel back the shell of who we are we would find that we all have similar traits.  We all want the best for ourselves and our families.  We want to suceed.  We all want to be happy.  We all like to laugh.  None of us want to hurt.  None of us want pain.  We don’t really want to be alone. . . Not forever anyway.

I say everything I just said to try to point out that the person you judge walking by for the way they look or the way they act, that person could be you.  If you had only grown up in their environment, you may be their twin.  I think we could all look at ourselves and find sucess and failure in our lives.  I think we can all also look at ourselves and say we are proud of who we are.  Many may disagree here, but don’t be too quick on this.  I don’t believe anyone wants failure.  Because of this we all try.  We do the best we can with the best way we know how to do it.  Sometimes it just takes a little push from an outside source to teach us to do a little more.  Or maybe we need a little more motivation from somewhere, anywhere, but we still know everyone wants to suceed.  We all just haven’t had the same push.

I guess all I am asking from all of this is when you look at someone else, don’t judge them.  They grew up different than you.  The person you are looking at is not the drug dealer or the prostitute, the begger or the dirty person you pass by on occassion.  This is just the environment they live in.  The real person is inside.  The person who hurts, cries, laughs, smiles and wants to be loved.  This is the real person.  Rather than judging their situation, help them out of it.  Share your sucesses and ideas that have helped you along the way.  You had help.  Somewhere along the line, the helpless lonely person, that is you, was given help that got you to where you are.  These people could be there too, they just haven’t had the help.  We all do it the best way we know how.  They just don’t know how.  You may think it is easy, but for them it is not.  Don’t be too hard on them though, you could have grown up in that environment.  It could have been you.  They aren’t where we are, just like we aren’t where some others are.  None of us are without flaw.  Why?  Because I believe we truly are all the same.

Beating the Storm…

I spent some time with my girlfriend in Charleston this weekend and had an amazing time helping her do some shopping and just spending one-on-one time together.  I must say it was probably one of the best weekends ever.  I think I fall harder for her every time I am around her.  While in Charleston, I received some reports of bad weather that was going to be heading in and was informed it may be in my best interest to head back home early.  Obviously, no one wants a perfect weekend to end for any reason, but I decided it may be best to pack it up and come home soon.  After carefully considering weather reports, I decided I would stay, but come home early this morning to beat the weather that looked like it would hit around noon. This morning I headed home trying to beat a storm that to this moment, 11:30 p.m., hasn’t really hit hard yet.  I wonder where is this storm?

It is kind of funny how a report can change the course of a weekend.  I mean, I guess I was going to be coming home soon anyway, but I left extra early to beat a storm that I didn’t have to really try to outrun.  It didn’t come at that time.  I wonder how many other courses in our lives we alter due to a circumstance we can see in the future that may not have ever happened in the first place.

Some people fight because they believe something is true that has not or will not happen.  Some people end relationships based on a rumor.  Some may marry thinking another means it when they say, “I do take you now and forever.”  We never know what the future holds, but sometimes we act according to what we feel may happen.  Is this the smartest thing?  I tend to move a little slower.  I want to believe that I do not know the answers and I need the time to step back and see what is true and what is not.  We should all be careful not to race to a place based on reports of a storm.  We need to prepare for the storm, but not alter our course because of it.

I have dealt with many storms in my life.  Sometimes it seems I have faced enough to last a lifetime, and the rest of my days should play out with peace and joy filling my every moment.  This will not be the case.  All of our lives are filled with turmoil.  We all face struggles in our every day lives that we need to be careful not to run from, but to face them head on. We need to allow them to shape us in to who we are.  We do not fear the storm, we prepare for it.  By doing so, we have beaten the storm.  We may not have out raced it, but we beat it.  Beat the storm.  Don’t let it alter your course in life.