Cecil and Prince: A Father’s Responsibility

Cecil and Prince FielderIt is a father's natural responsibility to affirm and approve of his son. It doesn't matter whether you intended to be a father or not. It doesn't matter how absent your father was. Too many men apparently don't want to know that they have the power of assigning value and worth to a child. It's not a sexist statement. Fathers and mothers impart different things to their children. 

I am saddened when I hear about Prince Fielder, a consideration for Major League Baseball's NL MVP award, say that he doesn't care about awards except insofar as his father (Cecil Fielder) never won one and to do what his father hasn't done is to finally shut him up.  

What happened here, Cecil? I'm hearing on the radio that you made asinine statements about your own son to the public. What the hell is the matter with you? He's YOUR SON. 

Prince has 50 home runs, but doesn't care about any of it until he supercedes his father with number 52. The comments I heard on ESPN radio yesterday indicate that Cecil Fielder (the father) once commented publicly that the main reason his son Prince received so much attention as a newcomer to the league was because of the family name.

There's also the whole divorce and family issues. Apparently, Cecil dropped his wife and his son Prince like a hot potato earlier in his career. Prince is on the cusp of accomplishing things his father never did, and his wounds are starting to show through.

I don't want to see anyone writing about how Prince needs to stop complaining about the old man. Give him a break. It's hard enough to grow up and mature WITH a functional family. Without one, there are always emotional casualties. Cecil wasn't around to father. He's said things that demean his son's abilities in front of the national media. In essence, he has not affirmed his son. I applaud Prince's drive to overcome the insults heaved toward him. He's attempting to be the overcomer.

Once he's accomplished what his father could not, Prince Fielder will stand on his own two feet as an accomplished athlete. No one will talk to him like he's in his deadbeat dad's shadow. Forgive me for judging, because we're all imperfect and wonderfully flawed. But give this guy a break. He should be applauded by his father. Cecil Fielder should be going on the record saying how much he hopes and expects his son to surpass his own accomplishments. That's what a father's heart does. It longs for more for the son that the father himself could have.

I'm looking for prominent men in all walks of life who truly father their children. I want to applaud them for raising up a generation of sons who will know their value and will believe in themselves and stand firmly for what they believe in. In the meantime, we must call a spade a spade and not condone poor fathering on the grounds of stardom.  

Good Communicators: When NOT to Speak

hushNot everyone is a good communicator. That's fairly obvious. What isn't so obvious, or at least commonly discussed, is when it's a good time for even talented communicators to zip the lip. Some of you communicators out there feel entitled to speak at all times, given the fact that when you do speak, people understand what is being said. 

Having a gift isn't the same as being mature, however. This is where people get confused. There are many skilled communicators who are VERY immature. There are various reasons for stunted growth in social and emotional areas, and we won't cover all the reasons why this happens today.

After some honest reflection, it's rather obvious to me that a gifted communicator will get away with a lot more immaturity than others, if for no other reason than because he or she can talk a good game. Sadly, knowing words and how to use them does mean that you are the embodiment of their concepts. Politicians are the perfect example. Eloquent words of peace, new beginnings, and reform are always popular subjects for political speeches. Does anyone really believe that these men and women espouse their stated ideals?

People learn to say what it takes to get results. Period. Children learn this at an early age. If good behavior doesn't attract attention, then bad behavior is the next choice. If that gets results, the child tries it again later. Eventually, a child learns what is effective and what isn't. The ends justifies the means.

Until you grow up… at least, that's the hope. Hopefully, you eventually reach a certain point where you weigh the pros and the cons and make intelligent decisions, sometimes accepting the more difficult road in light of the costs of the easy road.

Gifted communicators learn early on that the right words unlock the right doors. They find that if they can simply study words and the responses they elicit, the right combination of words can be found each time to elicit the desired response. For an immature communicator, this means that people and words become mathematical equations. Plug the right symbols into the right places and the equation works perfectly.

Sadly, this means that some communicators spend more time studying how to manipulate people than how to mean what they say. These orators have the gift of gab, and it's their ticket to the big time just like stunning looks allow some women to get whatever they want without ever developing a deeper personality.

I guess it's the same deal as always, different details. Football stars make their way through life on their athletic talent. Musicians and singers get what they want because of their ability. Models get what they want because they're beautiful. And talkers get what they want because they know the right words to say. 

All of these giftings may require some discipline to hone or maintain, but we all tend to gravitate towards what we do best. We all want praise and we all want to feel valuable. 

The biggest challenge for a gifted communicator will be learning when to remain silent. You may know the right words to get what you want, but can you walk the talk? If you're not speaking from life experience or sincere belief, chances are your mouth will write checks your character can't cash. Just remember that silence can be more profitable than the right words, if it means that you don't overextend yourself. Do what you say. That's character. If you can't do it, don't say it. 

You're only as good as your word. 

So You Think You Can Dance

So You Think You Can Dance
“So You Think You Can Dance,” one of my favorite summer T.V. shows, is here again. I must say, each year I am inspired anew. Inspired by their beautiful bodies to take care of my own. Inspired by their discipline, passion and strength. For me, most T.V. shows do nothing more than entertain. But with this one, I feel reminded that the world is a stage. Radiance is a lifestyle: a mix of gratitude, confidence, generosity, humility and determination. I want to be radiant. I want to be surrounded by radiant people. I’m blessed in that way, because the people closest to me glow with a particular kind of life. In some it is very faint, others very bright, but with each I anticipate what a new day will reveal about them.

When I was a young dancer, I was taught that it’s not how you begin a pirouette . . . it’s whether or not you can land it. All pirouettes start out looking pretty much the same, but toward the end it’s easy to see which dancers are deliberately creating beauty and which are flopping around. Flopping can be beautiful, but it lacks form. Thanks to Plato, I love Form, and I need it to properly enjoy dance. Unless, of course, my daughter-to-be wants to flop around. I’ll flop with her all day.

My husband would probably turn this into a basketball analogy. It’s fun to watch someone get lucky and beat the buzzer at the 3 point line once in awhile. But it can be more satisfying to watch a pro sink the same ball because one can sense the desire, commitment, and practice behind that shot.

If you asked me to tell you what life analogy I take away from “So You Think You Can Dance,” it would be this: Floppy leads to Form. A pirouette is never good the first thousand times. It always begins beautifully and ends horribly. It takes time to learn to land a pirouette. It takes time to land a new phase of life, too. Beginning a new phase is the most natural thing in the world. Like getting married. When Daniel and I said our vows we started beautifully . . . then landed on our proverbial asses. When we finally quit busting our asses we were still short of a masterpiece, but a new element was added into our routine nevertheless: parenthood. So far we’ve inflicted, and received, more than our share scrapes and bruises trying to dance this new dance together. It doesn’t matter, though. Floppy leads to Form, and I have the best dance partner in the world.

Interpersonal Relationship Tip #1: Choose to Be Unselfish in Conversation

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve met who has yet to grasp this concept, I’d be rich. Why do self-absorbed people never understand this simple lesson? I’m going to spell it out for you in simple English so you won’t miss it this time:

Stop always talking about yourself!

Okay, now for some elaboration. You’re not off the hook yet. This includes all of you who may not talk about yourself, but you’re only interested in the conversation because someone else is talking about you. If they discuss themselves for very long at all, your mind wanders and you wish the conversation was over.

Here’s a tip: Grow up!

Some people actually believe that they are very popular because the people they speak to are less selfish. Sorry, but you’re somehow taking their kindness and unselfishness and assuming that they don’t have a dozen other topics as interesting or more than you that they fail to mention. Well, if they have so much of importance to say, why do they always talk about me? Hmmm…. Well, the obvious reason is that you hung the moon.

Right.

Interpersonal Relationship Tip #1: Engage the other person on whatever level they are capable. Start by discussing the other person. If and when they appear comfortable discussing other things for any length of time, feel free to follow their lead. At times, it will be necessary to prod someone out into unfamiliar waters because without some help they’re going to stay put forever.

How do you know which type of person you are? It’s simple, really. Does the conversation revolve around you or the other person? There you go. If you don’t regularly express interest in other people’s lives, you are the weaker one in the relationship (don’t freak out, guys – this includes any level of knowing another person).

This post comes from years of being the person who always asks dozens of personal questions about other people in an attempt to get people to talk. It’s great to know people, so don’t think that I’m complaining for all the information I’ve received. Far from it. But there comes a point when you realize that after all the effort you’ve put into knowing someone, they’ve never reciprocated interest. They still know you only on the levels which you engage them.

At some point, we call these people leeches. They feed off the attention of others who are willing to get to know them. But they’re uncomfortable allowing someone else to receive positive attention, so they either stick with selfish topics or they lash out in resentment. Some people already know that they fall into this category, but feel powerless to change. Others don’t care to change. Still others are unaware, or refuse to become aware, and they choose instead to make others feel stupid when the conversation ceases to revolve around them.

There are two types of bodies of water: flowing and stagnant. People very closing resemble these two types. Stagnant water becomes a swamp: rotting, infested with insects and mold. Flowing water remains fresh and healthier to drink. People who absorb all the attention and conversation are a swamp. They start to stink after a while.

Think about it. Even if you’re too proud to overtly acknowledge the point, maybe there’s someone in your life you’d rather not lose to your own selfishness. It’s worth considering.

A Toast to Aaron and Stacy Phillips

As the best man in Aaron and Stacy’s wedding, I offered this toast (speech) at the wedding reception:

“Despite the cynicism that weighs down so many men and women of our generation, I am convinced that a man and a woman can, and most definitely should, enjoy a lifetime of love in marriage. Our generation has not bought into the sugar-coated, fairy tale version of marriage sold by the media from previous generations.

We are men and women determined to find the REAL, to live the REAL, and to grow old together still insisting upon the REAL. This marriage between Aaron and Stacy is a picture of our own lives. Aaron is the “slightly” older, worn and weary version of us. Stacy is the youth, the amazing energy, and the promise of a future the Aaron in each of us so desperately needs.

This marriage joins man and woman, young and slightly less young. I have known Aaron for 12 or 13 years, and I have walked with him through some of his happiest mmoments in life, and also some of his most difficult. And through those 12 years of friendship, there are a few things I can say about Aaron with certainty:

First, he values sincere communication more than most men, and he pulls off being real and sincere without seeming less masculine.

Second, he has an uncommon sense of decorative style, which makes me wonder how he pulls this off without seeming less masculine.

Third, he desires to be a good father, and will do anything and everything in his power to make sure his children know that they are loved.

Fourth, he desperately needs Stacy in his life to be that wellspring of energy and vitality that draws out of him many amazing character traits which still lie dormant (everyone laughs)… I wasn’t joking (everyone laughs some more).

Fifth, He taught me what it means to be a loyal friend. I learned from Aaron what it means to demand loyalty of oneself even when it is inconvenient.

Lastly, he has a God-ordained calling upon his life which he may or may not have yet understood, but through his union with Stacy he will understand in time as they continue on the path set before them.

It does my heart good to see Aaron find a woman who possesses the willingness to embrace the pursuit of the path and the life God has called them both to.

I do not know a great many things about God. Despite my years of asking and pondering, He is still largely a mystery. But if there is one thing I can say that I know about God, it is that loving and receiving love appear to be much more important to Him than merely following a set of rules. And if there is one thing every man should know in his heart, it is that at the end of the day, a man who lets his guard down and looks his beautiful wife in the eye without emotional protection is worth ten men who perform all the right daily rituals and husbandly tasks so they can check off their “to do” lists from a safe emotional distance.

No marriage will ever be easy. Let’s be real. Nothing on the face of this earth is more difficult than maintaining a healthy, romantic, and intimate marriage.

But since we’re being real, let’s not forget that nothing else in our lifetime will ever possess the fragrant hope and opportunity for REAL companionship, REAL intimacy, and REAL fulfillment.

Aaron and Stacy, if nothing else, I challenge you to demand of yourselves to be REAL. Real in pain. Real in joy. Real, even in heartache or offense. And always pursuing a fresh, new way to maintain soft and vulnerable hearts… in other words, real in love.

May your lives be filled with this soft, scary, thrilling, unnerving, and ultimately liberating kind of love. May you find in each other the companion who captivates your heart, challenges your faith, and satisfies the God-given ache to never be alone again.

To the bride and groom!!!!

3 Year Anniversary: Part 10

Just when I thought the evening was winding down, Heather tells me there is one more card for me to read. It was after 9pm, and I had been thinking about how cool it would be to end the day with a late night movie. Turns out, that’s exactly what she had planned! We headed back toward NRH for a late night showing of The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The movie was great, though I’m still trying to figure it out. A lot of symbolism and mysticism involved. All in all, It was an excellent day. Heather put a lot of thought into making it unique and special to us. Of course, I got to enjoy the surprises, but she really enjoyed putting it together and experiencing my response to every surprise. This day definitely makes it into our hall of fame.

2 movies in one day... must be heaven!

3 Year Anniversary: Part 9

After a good 2 hour nap, we groomed ourselves fastidiously for the next event. The next card was dessert at Old Hickory Steakhouse in Grapevine. Located inside The Gaylord Texan, this steakhouse is where Heather and I spent our 1 year anniversary. It was great to return 2 years later and enjoy amazing desserts and champagne. Their lemon cannelloni won the award for best dessert in DFW for 2004. Mmmmm…..

famous and delicious lemon cannelloni

souffle to die for!

love that divine smell!

3 Year Anniversary: Part 7

I opened my next card to discover that we were on our way to the movies!!!! We went to see Deja Vu, one of the films I’ve been wanting to see most for months! The movie was great, and it was time for the next card! The opened card gave me directions to eat on Grapevine Highway. I followed the directions, trying to figure out which place we were going to. Turns out they built a new McAllisters Deli by the Hometown Starbucks!!!! That deli has been our favorite up in Edmond, Oklahoma for almost a year. Heather rocks!
she loves surprising me!about to get my chow on at McAllisters Deli