November 9, 2011

Follow from the front.

Your dad is the kind of guy who wants only to know what needs to happen.  Maybe get a few details to help guide the way, and then be left to his own devices to finish what needs to be done.  He likes to treat others the same way, including you two.  In his own mind, at least, he's smart enough to realize that neither you girls, nor other people necessarily work the same way.

One of you is just like him.  He asks you to do something then gets out of your way.  Any other interference is just that, no matter how well-intentioned.  A girl after his own heart. The smaller one of you, well, he's not so sure yet.  You're still at the point where he asks for something and either you do it, he gets a head shake, or there's a clueless look that could melt ice.  He's not sure how he wants you to turn out, but waits eagerly to see how you grow.

If you become a person who wants to have input, direction, guidance, and pats on the back along the way, he will try to accommodate.  Whatever way you operate, there will always be a clear desire to treat both of you the way that will foster the most constructive and beneficial activity.  And don't forget happiness.  Again, with all the best intentions.

But what happens when he doesn't quite realize what brings out your greatest potential?  When you realize this, what is the best way for you to act?  Cooperative followership, whether or not he knows it.  Because it's not only the leader that needs to think and adapt.

August 8, 2011

Oh Crap, It's My Chance to Shine

Girls, this will happen to you.

Your teacher, coach, boss will say, "I need you to ..." then finish with something like do a presentation on the Pythagorean Theorem.  Or lead today's calisthenics.  Or head up a new working group.  The first reaction for many:  Oh crap, why me?  After that, you have a choice to make.

You can mope and sulk and wonder how it came about that you got stuck with this.

Or, you dive in, ask questions, apply some thought and hard work.  Do your best, add value to what you've been given, and realize that it's not about your own comfort, it's about making things around you better.  Now you have an opportunity to prove yourself.  Show what you can do.

And shine.

August 7, 2011

Traditionally Valueless


It's Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter.  Maybe at church, school, or eventually work.  You'll decorate a certain way, say certain things, or otherwise establish your habitual patterns.  This can be good.  Habit patterns make the things we do easier.  By practicing we get better at them.  Through repetition we make fewer mistakes.  And when the things we do have shown to be beneficial to either ourselves, those around us, or our organizations, we should keep doing them.

Here's the rub: When those things aren't so beneficial anymore, we should stop.  Does that Christmas tradition we, as your parents, imposed upon you during childhood make you happy anymore, or is it just a chore you feel you have to continue?  Are you learning from the traditional way of teaching or is more of a hindrance?  Are you worshiping the same way because it still glorifies God or have you become stagnant in your faith?

These are questions you'll have to answer yourself when the time comes.  As much as I (or others important to you) may try to influence the answer, you're going to have to decide for yourself whether or not the things you do are providing value.


July 4, 2011

Don't Live so Close to Me

I wish everyone could be in the military.  Or at least the peace corps.  Or really any organization that takes you away from where you grew up and into different places.  Like Derek Sivers talks about here, I've learned more by moving away from California and living all around the country than I could have by staying there.  I can't wait to take us all to Socal for a couple years, but the experience of living somewhere else is priceless.

Travel, anywhere you can go and get into it.  Talk to the people (or at least try).  Eat their food.  Hang out.

Move away.  Get a job somewhere else.  Another country, another state, and get involved.  You might find another regional culture almost as foreign as going to another country.  This is good.

Stop calling the place you grew up "home".  Home is where you live now.  You'll never get into a place if you always think about leaving it.

I hope to do these things with you girls while you're growing up.  Once you're on your own, I hope you continue them.  Even if you settle back into wherever you decide you're "from", at least you'll have the experience of knowing that yours is not the only way of living.

July 3, 2011

Change this Title

Change is such a double-edged sword.  I see it now in you guys.  One of the requirements of the military is that we move every few years.  Soon enough you'll start getting excited to move.  You're already showing a little excitement as we move to California.  Unfortunately, you've already asked several times to go to your own house.  Since we can't move into our house for another 3 weeks, you've got a lot of uncertainty in front of you, especially for an almost 3-year-old.  But think of the fun we're going to have in San Diego.  Beaches, bikes, friends, and family nearby.  We'll have such a good time, as if all the pain of the change will have made it all worth it.

Like I wrote you before, sometimes you need a change of thought.  A different way.  At this point, you're still figuring out what your way is going to be.  Eventually though, nothing new will come from this way.  Learning will slow, stagnate, and might actually go backwards.  Take all you can from the experiences you have, the things you read, the conversations you make.  And when you feel yourself start to stagnate, change it.

You might not know where you are or exactly where you're going, but you'll eventually get there.  Keep searching and learning.  Once you get there, it'll all be worth it.

July 2, 2011


You girls may find this out if you really get into sports when you get older, especially they include any lifting.  Here's what it is: Sometimes you just need to "shock" your body; to put yourself through a workout that is totally different from the ones you're used to.  One that is more strenuous, uses totally new body parts, or completely exhausts one individual muscle group will get your body out of a rut.  You'll be amazed at how you'll feel when your shock your body occasionally.

Don't forget to shock your mind.  Read a book from an author you never thought you'd like.  Read a different newspaper online (or in your brain-housing-capacinator or whatever news medium you'll have when you're older).  Go somewhere new and do something different.  Say something to someone you've never said before.

It might hurt at first.

You might get tired.

Soon you'll start thinking differently.

Then you'll have new ideas.

And you'll start to get excited.

If you go back to your usual activities, you'll see them through a whole new lens.  This is good.  You'll be learning.

June 25, 2011

My Career Mantra

Girls, I hate to tell you, but no matter what you do or who you are, things aren't always going to go your way.  They're not always going to be perfect, good, or even preferred.  In some cases, it will just be a little discomfort you have to deal with.  In others, it's going to be straight pain.  These experiences can make us stronger, but they can also make us weaker, if we're not careful.  It's not the adversity that strengthens us, it's how we handle it.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, whether or not you have good experiences or bad, do your best.  Add value to every situation you face.  Whether it's leaving a rental house cleaner than you found it, helping your mom clean up a mess you didn't make, or excelling in a job you didn't pick, take positive measures to improve your situation. People will appreciate it and you'll find yourself sleeping better.

No matter what, grow where you're planted.

June 17, 2011

On the Road with Krieger and Addy

This is no revelation, but there is nothing like a a cross-country journey to cleanse your palate and jump start your imagination.  Steinbeck and Kerouac realized this, if not before their travels, then after.  Maybe it's not quite as grand a trip as it used to be with the prevalence of fast food scattered along the Interstate highway system.  Along these routes, it's much safer than it used to be while the fame and novelty of Route 66 and the like are more difficult to find.  Hopefully one day I'll be able to make the trip again, avoiding any road with limited access and experiencing the land somewhat slower than at 80 mph.  Even so, it's an experience.  So I pray that some day we will be able to make such a trip when you two are old enough to realize what's happening.  

In time and with pressure, the earth's geology can shift and mold itself into new forms.  With time but very little pressure, so can a man's thoughts.  Funny sights, dramatic formations, city skylines, or ever-lasting landscapes affect your senses.  Their impressions run free in your head, tripping, colliding, reforming themselves into something you've never thought possible.  You'll find inspiration, humor, sadness, anger, and maybe an opportunity to flex your golden pipes to a new favorite song.  The best part: nothing to do but drive; nothing but time to collate and make sense of your thoughts.  You can let your mind run free, something that's as important, at times, as focusing on life.

June 4, 2011

I'm dangerous, and foolish.

Parenting is like flying a jet.  Every flight, for every pilot, everywhere, includes at least a couple of screw ups.  As you get more hours, more missions, more experience, the mistakes become smaller and usually less catastrophic.  At least on average.  But they always exist.  This may not instill a whole lot of confidence for the next time you girls fly to see your grandparents, but it's true.  As a pilot, you always strive for that fleetingly perfect flight.  All you can do is admit your mistakes, figure out what went wrong, how you can fix it, and go fly again. 

At least the Marine Corps gives you 2 years of training before you get in a real jet.

June 1, 2011

Stuff your face

We had a speaker recently who talked about a smattering of topics, all centered around leadership. In his talk he discussed success and significance.  He stressed the importance, as a leader, of being significant rather than successful.  As he spoke, this sounded good.  In a room filled with Marines, he defined success as gaining rank, power, or influence.  Compared to this, having a positive influence on people's lives and making a difference in this world clearly is superior.

Then I thought about my two girls and what makes you so amazing.  I owe most of that to your mother.  She's been such a positive influence on your lives, and mine as well.  She would certainly fit the speaker's definition of significance.  But she wouldn't fit his definition of success.  According to him, that's a good thing.  In context, I get what he was trying to say.  But I thought: What about a woman who's got it all together, raised two "practice kids" (German Shepherds), been through 11 years in the Marine Corps, and has managed to bring up two smart, beautiful, and precious girls?  Isn't she successful?  Can't you be successful and significant?  If you're significant, wouldn't that make you successful?

The drive for money and power would say no; a positive impact is unnecessary, maybe just icing on the cake.  Girls, according to God, significance is the cake.

May 28, 2011

Which way now Bobby Frost?

One of these days you girls will start thinking about what you want to be when you grow up.  You'll have a long time to figure it out and I encourage you to go to where you're drawn.  Sometimes I think about it myself.  I guess I think about it all the time.  I love being a U.S. Marine, but there's something attractive about the freedom and opportunity on the other side of the fence.  One of my dreams is to open my own business.  Of course, I would start a business in a field that interested me, but thoughts sometimes go to money too.  The business grows huge, yada yada yada, your dad gets to own that Steerman (biplane) he's always wanted to fly.  What a dream: doing something you love and getting rich doing it.  What could be wrong with that?

What if the thing I love to do in no way makes a real difference in this world?  What if entertainment, gadgets, or other offerings I could produce, and the enrichment they could provide to people's lives, just isn't the kind of fulfillment I'm looking for (not that there's anything wrong with any of those)?  What if the job that changes the world for the better and fulfills my drive to make a difference is one I hate?  I'd be changing the world, right?  Maybe I'd make a ton of cash as well.  What could be wrong with that?

Happiness versus fulfillment.  Which path do I follow?  I don't make any claims that I could make it big or that I could make a huge difference in this world, but hopefully you get the point.

What a dilemma.

May 24, 2011

Go Forth

Beware of confidence, girls.  It can lead down so many different paths.  It's another example of the old maxim: everything in moderation.  Clearly, too little of it makes timid souls and too much leads to blunders.  The question is, how do I foster the right amount with you two?  I think it's better to err on the side of too much, as long as you recognize the dangers and are self-aware enough to catch yourself before you fall.  At least then you will act toward realizing your goals.  Go for it.  Be bold.  Don't go forward with naivety, and keep your eyes open as you move, but go forward.  There certainly will be times when you realize too late that you went down the wrong path.  They may be painful lessons, but lessons worth learning.  Have enough humility then to admit your mistakes and learn from them, because sometimes the greatest learning comes from getting it wrong.  But go.

I'm a big believer that fortune favors the bold, as the saying goes.  It's amazing the good that can come your way when you look and act confident.  Not arrogant or pompous, but confident.  Doors will be open and you'll have a better shot at getting what you want.  And sometimes, unintended benefits will come your way.  Rarely does this happen as a result of timidity.  Move forward and you will succeed.  I'm sure of it.

May 16, 2011

Me and the Bear

So you (The Bear) and I went to California, just the two of us, last weekend.  The mood was solemn. We went to introduce you to your great grandma, possibly for the last and only time, but we had fun.  You loved your "Nana B," and she thoroughly loved being with you.  We got some good pictures of you two playing together and you laughing with her.

It made me think a lot about relationships.  Seeing Nana B for what may have been the last time was difficult.  I hope we get to see her again.  She has certainly lived a long (96 years!), rich, and fulfilling life, as far as I can tell.    So if we don't, I know that she will be living with God and we'll see her again "soon" enough.  Being there with her and seeing how happy she was to meet you was another illustration of just how important relationships are.  Of course, job success is important as it allows us to live more comfortably and propagate our family and friends' successes as well.  But you have to make sure you foster the relationships with the people most important to you.  One of these people was Nana B.  The other one was you.

You love everyone, Little Bear.  You'll probably be the social one so relationships will be easy for you.  Until this trip, I had never really gotten to spend a significant amount of time with you.  Your bigger sister likes a lot of attention draws it away from you.  A lot.  So a weekend with the two of us was perfect.  The plane rides were difficult, but it was all worth it (and Continental still gives free beer to military).  Now we're back, and I can tell it made a difference.  There's a connection.  A relationship built.  A foundation we can build upon for the rest of our lives (at least for me).

So thank you.  For a great weekend.  And for reminding me, again, how important it is to be close to the ones we love.  It shouldn't be so hard to remember.

April 2, 2011

Use your kids as levers

I thought I understood the concept of leverage.  Like with most things, you can't really understand it until you apply it.  Here are my great sources of leverage these days:  Finding Nemo, "the slide", cookies, etc.  

I just took an elective on leadership that included discussions on leadership experiences, both good and bad.  One comment that came up was that everyone who wants to be a leader should be issued a two year-old.  I think this is absolutely true (though it could probably include any child who's at least 2).  I can say that raising you two girls has definitely exposed my weaknesses as a leader, and given me numerous tools to apply to the art of leading Marines.

Since I spent a few years in sales, at least indirectly, I think I'm qualified to say that everyone who thinks he's a good salesman should also be issued a two year-old.  The continual give and take is a good lesson for anyone seeking a "mutually beneficial agreement."  You, little Joy, have even thrown out some good verbal negotiation techniques that I'll take to heart.

In almost two and a half years, you have taught me more about two important life skills than I thought I would learn.  Surprisingly, two beautiful baby girls, one who's just learning to talk, and the other who can't yet walk, have more lessons on leadership, negotiation, first aid, and so many other things, than you could imagine.  It's amazing, really.  I've always heard that kids teach you more than you teach them.  True.  Thank you, girls. 

March 27, 2011


I wish I could see you 20 years in the future.  Just a glimpse to see where you decide to take your life.  As a toddler and almost a toddler, it's fascinating to watch both of you learn.  It's amazing to watch you experiment with new tastes and react to new sounds or sights.  This morning Joy put toast in her strawberry yogurt.  You said it was yummy.  The Bear dabbled in a little crawling.  Turns out it wasn't for you, quite yet.  Standing back and watching you girls is truly a learning experience.

When you get older, these learning points will get more complex.  Soon enough you'll be picking out clothes, doing school projects, and trying on relationships.  It's scary for a father to think of his two daughters getting older, but also exciting.  I don't think I'll ever be totally prepared for "the talk" or anything to do with that, but it will come and I'll embrace it and I'll smile as I watch you grow.  

But to really see where you take your life is one of those mysteries that holds Christmas-like anticipation.  At least for now.  Growing up, like any other kid, I used to dream about what I wanted to be when I grow up.  I guess I still do (growing up now means when I decide to get out of the military...), but what's more intriguing is thinking about what you're going to be when you grow up.  A doctor, teacher, engineer, administrator?  Any of those, and so many others, are respectable and useful professions.  Will one of you follow in daddy's footsteps and become a Marine?  Yikes!

Whatever it is, I hope your mom and I can give you the tools to succeed.  We will certainly try our best to lead you toward a meaningful life.  I pray the best for both of you, and wait with a sincere hope that wherever you take your life, you will give it your best effort.  And maybe you'll take your dad along.  Until then, I'll just watch and be amazed.

March 26, 2011

Don't kick the habit

There's a lot of bad to be done in this world, but there's also a lot of good.  I hope you girls have great dreams of helping this world out.  I wish upon you goals of doing something in life that's more important than you.  Serving God is of course the ultimate of these, and you should seek to do this through tangible means.

Sometimes though, these lofty goals can seem so far away that we think they're unattainable.  Girls, you need to start small.  Whether it's rinsing your coffee cup and putting it in the dishwasher instead of just dropping it in the sink or putting away your book now instead of leaving it out to be picked up later.  Ok, maybe these are my habits that I need to work on, but I think you get the point.

Do the right things now, starting small, and begin good habits.  Soon enough you won't even think about them.  These things being second nature, you'll be in the right mindset for doing bigger things.  Small habits lead to bigger habits that ultimately pave the way for a life of service.  Recognizing that it's not all about you, that there are more important things than just yourself are a part of service.  Let's start those habits early, together, so we won't think twice about making a difference in this world.

March 17, 2011

Set the tone

I heard you in your room this morning.  It was the second morning after moving into your "big girl" toddler bed.  Even with the guard that keeps you from falling out, you can climb out on your own.  With free reign of your room for the first time, you went to the door and started knocking.  From the inside.  In a sweet little voice you called Hello.  Hello?  Helllllooo?  I wish you would've slept longer, but it was so funny we couldn't help but start the day with a smile.  With that, you set the tone for the day.

You'll learn soon enough how important first impressions are, but a starting tone for any encounter is just as key.  Since you started the morning off so well, we were much more willing to look past the minor fusses and complaints of the day to enjoy our time with you.  If you had started off screaming and ornery, we would have met even the cutest times with a bit of exhaustion.

This is true for any encounter, from the morning wake up, a school lecture, or a business transaction.  When you first meet up with someone, be careful about what you say and how you say it.  If you start off crabby, even the most genius of comments may find a home in the garbage.  A bad mood from the start can turn people off, no matter what you have to say.  More importantly, a positive approach can work wonders.  People respond when you set a good tone for the day.  People will listen to you and will let you listen to them.

As a leader (if nothing else, both you and your sister will struggle to lead each other), the message you send depends on the tone you set from the start.  Make sure the two match up, and you will get your point across. You may even get your sister to do what you want.  Or get that second cookie from Daddy after lunch.

March 15, 2011

Open your eyes

It's hard to teach this lesson to a two year-old.  Joy, you love to close your eyes and flail.  I know you're not mad or throwing a tantrum, you just get excited and playful.  I love to see you happy and smiling without a care in the world.  I wish we could all be this way.  The problem is you do this while your sister is nearby and she sometimes finds a foot in her back or face.

How do I teach you to be aware of your actions and surroundings?  While you're not going to do any real damage, this clearly isn't acceptable.  A tiny kick now, even when you don't mean it, can turn into a crippling blow down the road.  How do I teach you that your actions have consequences?  And that you alone are responsible for those actions? How do I teach a two year-old that if you run down a hallway with your eyes closed, whatever happens to you or someone else, is your fault? (Though I will always pick you up when you're down, even if it is your fault.)

As you grow, actions will also become words.  The consequences of their use will be the same.  You will be responsible for both.  Hopefully you will use them to help people and society.  I pray that you learn how to use them for purposes greater than yourself.  Unfortunately, sometimes you may hurt people.  We all do it. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but many times it's simply because we don't understand what exactly we're saying or who our audiences are.  Whether on a personal level or a world stage, our words and actions have effects.  What those effects are depends on what is being said, who is saying it, and who is hearing it.  Whenever we speak or act, we need to be careful.

So how do I teach you be aware of yourself and your surroundings?  Hopefully I'm learning how to do this.  I'm trying to lead by example.  It's a hard lesson to teach to a two year-old.  Sometimes it's hard to teach to a 32 year-old.

March 13, 2011

I did not mean to blow your mind.

Now I know why parents embarrass us so much.  They don't mean to, most of the time, it's just a product of practice.  Apparently, both of you girls like hearing me hum Europe's Final Countdown.  In a falsetto.  Turned up to 11.  (Oh how that synthesizer makes the jean vest jump out of my closet. Yes it's there.)  You were both eating tonight, and somehow that song rocked my mind.  So, being the good father I am, I rocked your dinner with it, and other various 80's rock moves designed to blow your mind.

It hit me later that I've indoctrinated myself into embarrassment insensitivity.  It starts small.  Maybe Air Supply's All Out of Love came on hair nation and I didn't realize the window was down while we were driving by the drill instructors practicing at DI school.  I thought I sounded pretty good.  Maybe later I was practicing air guitar in the hallway with the front door open as the mail lady came to the door to deliver a package too big for the mailbox.  What does she know about good air riffs anyway?  Who really knows how it comes about, but eventually we, as parents, become unable to sense our own embarrassment.

So now I understand.  Parents can't help it.  It's a natural progression of life, adulthood, and parenthood.  We stop being preoccupied with what others think of us.  While we shouldn't turn this self-consciousness off completely, it probably shouldn't be turned up to 11 either.  Sometimes turning it up too high holds us back and we don't realize our true potential.  So if I continue to embarrass you, especially starting in about 10 years, I'm sorry.  I'll try to keep it turned only to 4 or 5.

March 11, 2011

I'm glad babies don't remember, so maybe I shouldn't write this down.

Sometimes we need changes in our lives to snap us out of the every-day routines.  Whether for our own entertainment or to wake us from potentially dangerous complacency, things happen that we need to be pay attention to.

You knocked over your high chair this morning, Little Bear.  With yourself in it.  Your mom rushed over and found you a little shaken up, but ok.  This is one of those times when a parent's heart stops beating and all the feelings of failure and inadequacy rush through the mind.  The actual threat to your safety may not have been all that high, but so many what-ifs ran through our minds about what could have happened.

We could spend days worrying about all the terrible ways you could have been hurt.  And for a bit, while emotions are still running high, we will.  Once we calm down, hopefully we'll take this for what it is: a shock from a normal day's routine to highlight the fact that we need to be careful and think about the things we're doing and how we're doing them.  You are basically helpless at this point, and we are the ones with the great privilege and responsibility of seeing that you grow up healthy, both mentally and physically.

So, we'll learn from this.  We'll put you back in your un-knock-over-able high chair with its 5-point harness and make doubly sure that wherever we put you, there are no readily available dangers.  Including yourself.  In the mean time, we'll wait and see what the doctor has to say at your appoint today.  And we'll worry.  Hopefully it'll make us better parents.

March 7, 2011

Stop Learning What I Teach You

So I was trying to describe to you why, when someone farts, it doesn't always mean they pooped.  This clearly was an important topic over the weekend.  A certain member of your family, name to remain anonymous to protect her tiny little identity, was having some issues.  You decided to notify the rest of us each time that she needed a new diaper.  This is my explanation for why she didn't need one just yet:

"There are two types of poops: solid poops and air poops.  Solid ones need a new diaper, air poops do not."

Since for the last two nights you have been vocalizing it each time you have an air poop, loudly I should add, I've either failed miserably (says your mom), or attained triumphant victory (maybe, Dave Barry  might have covered something like this in his Guide to Guys).

Either way, I imagine this is another one of those areas, like bras and other lady topics, your mom will probably take over.  Oh well, this topic is for the dogs anyway.

March 5, 2011

Follow Your Heart, That's What I do

Your mom and I watched the Social Network last night, after you two went to bed.  It was a great movie.  It's quite apparent, even if you didn't know it beforehand, that the director had no love lost for Mark Zuckerberg.  If he's successful in anything, it's showing just how detached from people Mark is, to say it nicely.

I'm a firm believer that there is something to learn from everyone.  In this case, The Facebook's creator has one quality we can look up to: an aggressive drive toward accomplishing a goal.  He had an end in mind and would not accept failure.  This is an admirable quality.  He wasn't worried about perfection.  He wasn't worried about what people thought.  He simply knew that this was what he wanted to do, and he drove toward that end.

Unfortunately, there are many bad things we can learn from this portray of Mark, like don't forget your friends.  Don't steal from others; ideas, money, or anything.  Don't be a jerk.  The list could go on.

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things perfect the first time that we forget to just do.  Sometimes we get too caught up in how other people are going to view us for doing what is important to us.  Sometimes we just don't think we're good enough to accomplish anything big.  Sometimes we just need to follow our heart, and do what we put our minds to.  If it makes us $26 billion, that's just icing on the cake.

March 1, 2011

When it Positively has to be There, but Maybe not Overnight

This might be my second favorite leadership principle: Know yourself and seek improvement.  (I don't necessarily plan on hitting all of the Marine Corps' eleven principles, but there are a few that stand out prominently in my mind.)  I think it pretty much speaks for itself.  One problem with the way it's interpreted by many Marines, however, is that it focuses on the negative.  It could be rewritten to say:  Know your faults and seek improvement.

This is still great advice, as it implies that we should seek our shortcomings so we may recognize and improve ourselves.  Nobody is perfect, and most things we do take practice to get good at.  Getting better at things we struggle at is certainly a good thing, and I'm sure I'll write plenty more to you girls about this in the future.

What's also important is for us to search ourselves and recognize our strengths.  We were all given certain gifts, and whether or not we like them, we should take advantage of them.  There are some abilities each of you girls will be better at than others.  Joy, you are great at organizing.  Little Bear, people are drawn to you.  You may find these talents stick with each of you, and you'll develop others.  Of course, you'll have to practice these things as well to get truly good at them, but that is the point: Find the things you're good at and harness them.  Work on them.  Strive to be better and improve yourself.  Improving upon things you excel at will build self-confidence, and that's a trait that's missing in us today.  It's a trait I want to help you develop.

In just the couple years of your short lives, I've been fascinated by the changes I've seen in you two.  I look forward to seeing what talents you develop as your characters and personalities form and mature.  As you grow, I hope I can help foster a learning attitude in you.  As you both realize your strengths and weaknesses, I hope you seek to improve.  As I get older too, along with finding gray hairs (I'm on 6 right now I think), I hope I'll find new qualities as well.  I just hope that we can all help each other foster our strengths and build self-confidence.  God willing, we can do it all together.

February 26, 2011

Do as I do, but not all the time

Lead by example.  It's one of my favorite leadership principles.  On the surface it's quite simple, but there are so many underlying aspects of it that make it so powerful.  Most obviously, if I can show you two how to act instead of simply telling you how to act (especially since actions and words aren't always the same), I can raise you girls to do the right things.  For myself, knowing that someone is always watching, judging ("look at the baby, look at the baby"), is the greatest motivator for myself to do the right things as well.  It's circular, I try to scratch your backs, you scratch mine.  We're all better for it.

What happens though when you see your dear old dad mess up?  As much as I try to get things right the first time, every time, I'm going to get them wrong sometimes.  I don't always get it right when it comes to discipline.  Or handling frustration.  Even when I know you're watching, I still do it wrong.  That's not leading you two by example, and telling you to do as I say, not as I do is probably the worst response I could make.  

What is an example is showing you how to react to those mistakes.  We all have the ability to learn, if we just pay attention.  Like I've written before, when we mess up, we need to take a moment to realize our mistakes, think about how to fix or recover from them, then press on.  At this point, it's not as much a lesson for you as it is for me and your mom.  If we can learn to handle our mistakes, and you see how we're able to do this, then we don't need to be perfect to raise you right (thank the Lord!).  We just need to lead by example.

February 23, 2011

You Said It, All by Yourself

It sounded like this:

Ayow yo Dada.

I remember it like I remember the first time you ran to me as I walked in the front door after work.  This time I was walking to the door, leaving for an overnight trip.  I had already kissed you goodbye while you were preoccupied with one of your books on the couch.  Before I got to the front of the house, you came running, knowing that I was leaving.  So I hugged and kissed you again.  Then as your mom stood in the doorway holding your sister, I walked outside.  Before the glass door shut, you said it.  I couldn't help but stop and smile.  When I looked back you were waving at me and smiling too.  I had to respond.  I couldn't let those words go unacknowledged.  So I blew you a kiss.  We'd never done that before, but you caught on and returned it.

As I drove down I-95, I could think only of that moment.  You saying those words was another one of those moments that will stick with me forever.  There will be days when I need those memories.  We all have them.  Days that are long or difficult, tiring or frustrating.  On those days, I'll pull out memories like this, and think about how much I love you too.

February 20, 2011

Was Going to Have a Scotch Tonight

Here's one of my favorite lyrics from the song Used to Be, by Lost and Found, the Christian duo.  

It used to be that failure only meant you didn't try /
In a world where people gave a damn.

I first heard it my freshman year in college.  There are a ton of good nuggets in these lyrics, but this line has stuck with me all this time because they're right: Seldom do we fail at things we put actual, legitimate effort into.  Very often we fail, whether at school, at work, or at relationships.  Ultimately it's because we don't try, especially when things get hard (I'm certainly no exception).  So whatever it is you girls decide to pursue, praise the Lord by giving it your best.  Put your heart and soul into those things that are important to you.  Don't ever stop listening and learning so you can be better, or pick yourself up when you fall.  And because you will have given a damn, you will not fail.

February 17, 2011

Feel the Pain

In flight school, I wanted to go home.  The plane ticket from the back woods of Mississippi to California wasn't cheap.  At the time I was between phases of the training pipeline; the break between the two fell perfectly over Christmas.  It was perfect timing, really.  I had already gotten my leave papers approved up through the chain of command and was slated to begin the next phase right away in January.  As November closed, I was told I would have to begin ground school for the next phase in a few weeks.  The training would significantly interfere with my trip.  So much for those tickets.

I went to the operations officer and told him my situation.  While it doesn't seem all that important, several hundred dollars was still a lot of money to throw away.  I told him I didn't want to put anyone else in a similar situation, but I asked if it would be possible to push my start date back to January, where it was originally.  He asked the usual questions: when was I traveling, where was I going, etc.  Then he told me a story.

He had been in a similar situation.  His leave had been approved and he had bought his tickets.  He was going home.  Unfortunately, a last minute situation arose and he was told he'd have to cancel his trip.  He missed his family during one of the few opportunities he'd had in years.  He was crushed.

He paused and looked up at me.  At this point I knew I was missing Christmas.  Looking back, this wouldn't be the first time (and probably still won't be the last).  I thought I better start getting used to it.  He continued, saying he had gotten hosed, even with tickets and papers in hand.  He explained how he dealt with it, because as Marines (even though he was in the Navy) and aviators, missing important holidays came as part of the job.  Then he said he wouldn't let that happen to me, this time.

In a cliched way, the Hallelujah Chorus sang.  A very minor crisis had been averted.  I learned a great lesson that day.  Everyone has to face adversity.  There are always situations where people get a raw deal.  This is a given.  But there are two kinds of people.  Some people have the attitude, "it happened to me, so I'm going to make sure you feel the pain too."  And there are those with a better, though more difficult attitude to foster and maintain.  Those people say, "it happened to me and it wasn't right.  I'm not going to let it happen to you."

Losing a few hundred dollars and a couple weeks with family doesn't really count as adversity.  It wouldn't have been so bad.  What's important is the lesson that I carry with me nine years later.  The lesson I want to pass on to you girls.  The lesson that I want to pay forward.  

So you know, while in California, I got to pick out a diamond ring for your mom.  I'm sure glad I got to go on that trip.

February 14, 2011

V-Day is Better in a Mini-Van

I had a co-worker today tell me that just about anything you can do is better when you're single.  Really?  Maybe this is just the way it is with your mom and me, but I enjoy being with her.  Wouldn't you like to do things with your best friend?  I sure would.  Of course I'd like to go play golf with the guys, but even after having some fun with buddies, I enjoy coming home to see your mom.  And you girls too.

She asked me, "why would you want to have kids? They take up all your TV time and you can't go out and do anything fun."  She has never come home to see her little Bear, big blue eyes looking up, blurting an innocent "dadadada."  I still remember the first time you, Joy, came running to me.  I would say I wish I had it on camera, but it has a special place in my mind that I'm not sure I'll never forget.  And while she may be right about certain times, like cleaning up the puke that filled your entire car-seat that day (don't worry, your sister uses that seat now...), there truly is nothing better than a surprise hug.  I could only smile at her and shake my head.

Then I realized it's Valentine's day.  And she's single.  While I hope she is happy, I realized that she may have been trying to tear down two institutions that make me the happiest: marriage and fatherhood.  All in the name of helping herself feel better.  I hope this isn't what was happening, but it was very convenient on a day when love and relationships are celebrated.

It made me sad.  If only she could know the feeling of being loved by three wonderful people.  Or be happy in her own situation.  I pray she can find that happiness.  And I pray that you girls will too, now and in the future, whether or not you get married.  If I could tell you two things today, I'd say first, there is absolutely no feeling like the love I have for you two.  Indescribable.  (I tried once.  I think I utterly failed).  This is a source of great happiness for me.  Second, don't let your happiness come at the expense of others'.

February 12, 2011

Daddy Fan Club

I felt like I had my own fan club today.  Both of you decided that Daddy was the one to be with.  I’m not sure why, but I’m not going to complain.  Sometimes I feel bad for your mom on days like these, but she does get plenty of days when Daddy’s name is mud.  I love these days.  They erase any negative feelings I might be having.  It’s amazing how the look of your daughter can make you feel.  Not that today was a bad day, but a ray of sunshine on even the nicest of days is a welcome surprise.

After days like these, Joy, I wonder how we can get into the battles-royale that we do.  I realize you’re only two, but there’s something about the clash of our personalities that leads to a quickly elevating struggle.  Your mom says it’s because you love me so much; that since Daddy’s for fun and Mommy’s the more common enforcer, when Daddy has to take that role it hits you much harder.  She’s probably right.  She is very good at understanding human emotions.  And predicting the end of a movie.

There are certain things you need to learn, like listening and respect for authority (I guess I do understand what your Grandma and Grandpa were trying to say back then).  What I need to realize is that I need to pick my battles.  Those lessons are important, but you are still just two.  Your mom is much better at figuring out how to get you to do what we want, while making you think it was your idea.  Genius really. 

I like to think I’m pretty good at things, generally.  But this is one area where I struggle.  As you get older, I feel more and more humbled by our interactions.  I’m learning.  And I think you are as well.  I realize you are young and quite new to life.  Though I’m only 32, I’m beginning to realize how much I thought I knew, and how much there still is out there that I don’t know.  I hope we can learn some of these things together.  I look forward to it.  Especially after days like today.  There are few feelings out there that can surpass a willing hug from a daughter.  I don’t think there is anything else that can wipe clean any slate of frustrations so cleanly.

It makes me want to pray.

February 9, 2011

I Was Running...

I am amazed at how much little kids trip and fall.  Sometimes it's hilarious (is that bad?), and other times it's sad. But what I'm really amazed at is not so much the frequency, but the reaction.  Of course, there are times when you fall and immediately start crying.  But there are so many times when there is absolutely no reaction.  You just get back up and keep running.

This is an important lesson to keep in mind because we all make mistakes at some point in our lives.  Wrong decisions, stupid words, or a clumsy step happen to us all.  What's important is how you react to it.  There are those who will simply never try again.  Why bother?  I got it wrong this time, I'll just do something else instead and spare myself the embarrassment.  Then there are those who get back up; those that realize their mistakes, learn from them, and start running again.

Sometimes dads need to remember this lesson too.  So let's get up and run together.

February 6, 2011

Man Landers

I'm not big on etiquette, but there are a few rules I do like to follow:

1. Say please and thank you.
2. Share your cookies.
3. Don't poop in the tub, especially when you've got company.

Apparently one of you needs work on number 3.

February 5, 2011

Courage Under Fire

Let me just tell you two that putting out “the vibe” will no longer be allowed once you turn 13.  I think a lot of things will change around that age.  It scares me, having you girls, especially being so close in age.  I know at some point you’ll start liking boys and wanting to do crazy things like driving cars and talking on the phone.  Maybe I’m overreacting.  Probably.

I just don’t want to lose you. I’m sure all dads go through feelings like this, especially with their daughters. I know I won’t “lose” you, but when you hit those teens and Mom and Dad are no longer cool to hang out with, well that’s going to be tough.  And again, there are boys.  So I’m scared. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Since it’s inevitable, I guess there’s really no use worrying about it. Besides, what would I tell you, or one of my Marines, if you were faced with fear? I would tell you to be courageous.  I would tell you not to back down or give up just because something is scary or hard. I would tell you to do just the opposite: Let the face of adversity drive you harder to do better. Because there are many things in this life to be scared of, in some way or another.

Maybe I’ll take my own advice. Maybe you still have over a decade until these "problems" arise. Maybe I should focus on loving and teaching you in the best way I possibly can so when those years come, I know that you’ll make the right choices. Maybe I’ll go put on a sherbet-orange tuxedo and put out a vibe of my own… to scare away the boys. And probably everyone else too.

February 3, 2011

The Anti-Santini

I’m not the yelling type.  I never have been, and barring some unforeseen life change, probably never will be.  I have started raising my voice to you Joy.  Why?  Because you’re two.  And after asking you once and telling you again, raising my voice seems to work.  I’ve always told myself I would try to remain calm; I’d be firm and in control, never aggressive.  Not that I am mean or condescending when I do this, but I’ve been raising my voice more often lately, and resorting to it sooner.  But the ends don’t justify the means.

This may seem unusual for a Marine.  If you ever read The Great Santini (which is worth a read), I hope you never see any of him in me.  This may also sound unusual for a Marine: I want to make sure you grow up in a loving environment.  I want you to know that your father loves you and always will.  I don’t want you ever to be afraid of coming to me and sharing your thoughts, feelings, opinions.  Or your favorite book.  I know I may want to regret saying this as soon as you hit those teen years, but this feeling will never truly change.  If I raise my voice to you once a day, as it seems I’ve been doing lately, this environment will fade.  If I raise my voice to you repeatedly, I may begin to yell, and eventually find myself grasping for a branch as I plummet down that slope.

This may be overly dramatic, but falling into such traps is a great fear of mine.  Sure, I could intimidate you and force you to obey.  But I would rather lead you to the right path, even as a two year-old.  I am your father and in a position of authority, but I can build our relationship around love and mutual respect so we can grow and learn together.  I will always choose your willful obedience over fearful reluctance, even if it means a more difficult path for me.  Raising my voice has worked.  And it has been easy.  When I can’t think of anything else to do at the moment, or my patience has ended, a louder, lower timbre seems instinctive.  I need to realize the ways of coercing you to do what I ask, before I get in those frustrating situations.  What I need to do is work on “the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables [me] to inspire and control [my girls] successfully."  John Lejeune may have long since passed, and his words may have been intended for leaders of Marines, but they certainly apply to a father who loves his girls.

There will be more times when you frustrate me.  (And trust me, I will frustrate you too, especially when I wear my Members Only jacket around your friends.)  I may lose my cool.  God-willing I won’t.  I am, after all, the adult.  I am the one with the experience and responsibility to do my best for my family.  I will always strive to foster a loving relationship between both my girls.  Because if there is one thing I love, it’s when you sit on my lap with your doggy book for us to read together.  That’s something I’m not willing to let go.  And neither is that jacket.

February 1, 2011

Ponies and Bras

Apparently I need a remedial class on animals. I saw a horse today and told you it was a cow. You got the noise right though with an aggressive “mooooooooooooo”. Your mom decided that she’d be the one to teach you two about animals. With that, we had to set some ground rules. Turns out I’m responsible for teaching you left and right, colors, and animal sounds. Your mom gets the animals themselves, girl-things, and feelings. You can come to me any time, about anything, including those things that are officially your mom’s. But if you ask me about a bra or something, I just might tell you mooooo.

January 26, 2011

Coming Soon

This blog will be an account of all the joys and lessons of being a father of two beautiful girls.