This Father’s Day I celebrate Dads as builders! I revel in those fathers that built buildings, built large families, built Turbines, built farms and built all of us up to love! Amidst all the tearing down recently in our country, it is time for us Fathers to build up! Here are four examples of Father’s building up.
1. Building a family with bricks and good earth. My Father-In-Law along with his wife built a loving family of 10 borne on bricks, love, and good Minnesota earth. The first time I met Cal, he took me to his Raspberry farm to work and to talk about his tractor. This was the same raspberry patch that my wife and her nine siblings learnt responsibility each summer. Later, Cal took me to see the buildings he built as a Union Bricklayer. As we talked, I appreciated how he built a family brick by brick, berry by berry. A man of few words, his example spoke volumes.
2. Building engines that power cities, civil life, and a family. My father Big-D was a dynamo! Like the turbines that he built at his work, Big-D energized civil life and a family through respect and love. He was a Union Vice President, a Cub Master, a baseball coach, and president of several civic organizations. He taught me and the community how to throw a curve ball, build a car for the Pinewood Derby, and how to negotiate to get what a worker needs and deserves. Countries are built on civic organizations not tweets! Read more here (American Anthem: More Crosswicks less Crosswise ) Dad along with my mother taught us how to live, love and learn in a community.
3. Building in the background with humility and hard work. God is the ultimate father as builder. He built heaven and this good earth which we are called to protect. And when God was selecting an earthly father to protect and teach his only Son, he selected St. Joseph. A quiet, humble man, Joseph patiently taught the Son of Man how to build amongst humanity with his hands and heart. Joseph stood in the background and let his work show forth through the works of the Son. Joseph prayed and sent a path for what all good Father’s wish for their Sons; a life that eclipses their own and sets the world aright.
4. Building bridges of love. My first three examples are no longer walk in physical form with us. But I know that their example lives on teaching us to build bridges of love across all humanity. I see the builder in my cousin-in-law Uriah and the example he sets forth for Jessica my cousin, and their two young daughters, one only days-old. I see it each day as he builds up the love bursting forth in a young family through hard work and compassion. Getting up at night to comfort a little one and waking up each morning early to work each day just a little sleep deprived. And I remember how hard it is to be builder and cheer as his family grows in love and to serves as an example to all of us that love knows no bounds.
A Father’s love knows no boundaries. It builds up instead of tears down. It builds bridges across humanity and through time! It is color blind and love rich. Let’s all be builders in our families and society!
I decided to repost this to remind all Americans it is more important to be good not great. Right now we are neither. But we need to be good. To get our people and allies and protect them. Let’s be good even if we are not great!
A few nights ago, I had one of those dreams. You know the ones that I am talking about. A dream so vivid, so poignant that it seems more than real. A dream that wakes you up at 4 AM with a smile on your face and thoughts rushing so fast that you can barely keep up as you type on your cell phone in the bathroom with door shut so as not to disturb your wife. A dream of important messages heaven sent to shape your life and to pass on to others.
In this dream, I was again in my Grandpop’s house on Melrose
Avenue in Trenton, NJ. And there was my
Grandpop rocking on the porch. The
picture below is of that very same house that my sister Lori texted me today
while she was visiting Jersey, reinforcing the dream’s importance! As we walked together and talked in each of
the rooms, the memories of times shared together came flooding back. And there was an underlying message tying all
those memories together. My Grandpop –
John William Henry – was a good man.
I say a good man, not great man for a reason. The best men are good men not great men. They dole out love instead of striving for
power or money. They love their country
and their God. They care more about
friends and less about prestige. They
take time for fun, the Phillies, and to sing Irish songs. They look like Fred McMurray on My Three Sons
and remind you of Jimmy Stewart on It’s A Wonderful Life. That
was my Grandpop! And here are the four
lessons that I learned from that dream, his life and my Grandpop’s home and
Take time for Family
and Friends (The Porch) – Grandpop loved to rock on his porch and look out
on Melrose Avenue. Two memories came
back to me as I again sat on the porch. I
remembered how he would spend hours on the porch during the evening and
weekends talking to and visiting with his neighbors down the street. Some 50 years later, I can remember their
names, their faces and believe it or not their homes. During that dream, I visited with them again. Mrs. Curr a widower who gave us tea and
cookies in her home as she talked about her garden. Mrs. Heipel who lived on the end house on
Melrose talking about her daughter who had recently moved. The Toronto’s telling stories of my mother
when they were young. I was happy for
the friendship again and a little sad since my porch faces the back yard and I
so seldom visit with my neighbors (or remember their names).
The other thing I remember is how gentle and good my Grandpop was. He was no wimp having boxed when he was younger. But he knew how to calm his Grandkids when they were cranky and tired. I again saw him rocking my brother David as he sang “Tora a Lora” in a voice not as resonant as Bing’s but close to perfect due to its love. And as I saw this image again in my mind’s eye, I thought back that although I spent quality time with my kids, I was not as calm or soothing as that gentle man who rocked my brother asleep
Unconditionally and For Eternity (the Living Room) – We came in from the
porch and into the living room with its furniture entrenched in the fifties. We sat on the couch watching the Phillies
like so many times before. We both loved
the Phillies, especially Mike Schmidt (Schmidty as we called him). In walked my Uncle who had gone missing for several
months on another binge as he had done so many times before. He was the ultimate prodigal son. He asked to come back to the home and
Grandpop with tears in his eyes took him back.
And I thought to the times when I turned my back on others in need
because I was too busy and vowed to do better.
The dream changed again to a different moment. This one happened outside my other Uncle’s
house in Morrisville, PA but in the dream, it was in the living room. My family was visiting, and my Grandpop
walked in with a bag of donuts as he did on most Sundays. But this time it was different. It was several weeks after my Grand mom’s
passing and Grandpop had returned to the donut tradition for the first time
without Grand mom. I again saw the tear
from my Grandpop’s eye when my brother asked where is Grand mom? I was again a bit mad at my younger brother
since I was older. And I thought on how
my Grandpop who was still a young man of 50 when Grand mom passed, yet he never
dated seriously or married again. He
would visit his wife’s grave several times a week keeping the love of her in
his heart for the rest of life. And I
imagined them again holding hands throughout eternity and I vowed to love my
wife like Grandpop.
Be Frugal with Yourself,
Lavish with Others (the Phone room). I wanted to stay with both my Grandparents again,
but my dream switched to the phone room.
I was not sure if the room was a formal dining room or a second living
room, but I remember it as the phone room due to the rotary phone that rested
at the end of a long hutch. Another
thing that rested on the long hutch was hundreds of coupons. Having lived in the Depression, my Grandpop
and his brothers were frugal in saving money.
I again saw my Grandpop and Great Uncle Don talking about the latest
coupon that they found for Acme. My
Grandpop would drive to 5 or 6 stores to use the coupons to save a few
bucks. Besides being frugal on the
groceries, he did not spend much on himself.
He seldom traveled or bought expensive clothes or items but reveled in
the simple pleasures such as the occasional Phillies games. He was frugal with himself but lavish with
others. As my dream progressed, I
thought back on the time he bought my brothers and I a complete Lionel Train
set on Christmas. And how happy he was
when our eyes lighted up. Then I thought
back on the many times I had splurged on the latest iPhone or Uber Eats instead
of focusing on the ones around me. I
seldom use a coupon even though they are digital now and can easily be obtained
on the cell phone I have. I vowed to
spend less on myself and more on others.
Be Thankful for the
Simple Pleasures and Family (the Kitchen).
The dream now moved into the
kitchen and I saw the big yellow wooden kitchen table where we often sat. As I sat down at the table, I looked across
to a little stand when my Grandpop kept one of his prized possessions – a Hot
Dog Zapper! I do not know if they have
them anymore, but my Grandpop sure did take pleasure in it. He would invite us to sit down and put each
of the six hot dogs on two prongs at either end of the hot dog. He would turn on the machine and after a few
minutes of zapping they were cooked (and most often split open a bit!). He again laughed as he took them off and gave
one to each of us around the table.
As we ate, more of my extended family gathered around and I
realized the time had shifted to St. Patrick’s Day. I again saw my Great Uncles (both cops), my
Uncle John and his family, Uncle Gary and my family. Each of the men had a Schlitz beer or two (I
told you Henrys are frugal!) as we went through a chorus of Irish Songs – Mrs.
Murphy’s Chowder, Come Meet a Donovan, The Same Old Shillelagh, and of course
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And I
thought. We often take for granted the
simple pleasure of singing with family and friends. We forget the expensive items we bought after
a few years. But I can sing verbatim
every one of those songs to this day and see the hot dog zapper in my mind’s
eye. Just before I left this part of the
dream, one more simple, glorious pleasure occurred. My Dad did not know the Irish songs of his
wife’s family but wanted to participate.
I again heard him sing “The Old Rugged Cross”, his favorite song and the
one we played at his funeral. As I wept,
I vowed to spend more time with family and the simple pleasure of life.
And as I woke, one thought ran through my head. Be good, not great! Strive for friendship not fame. Make memories not money to live on through
My wife and I have had the honor and privilege to watch our kids grow and prosper. The two things that have been consistent since our eldest blessed us with her presence some 30 years ago is their love for each other and the love of children movies and Costumes. Like many parents, we mark our children’s growth through the costumes worn and the love of children movies (mainly Disney). Each of them grew up with a movie or two that they loved and a costume that they did not take off! I remember my middle son and daughter wore their Hercules and Esmerelda costumes when they were little for some part of 20 days straight. (I also find it amazing that you can give a young boy two action figures and he will be perfectly content smacking them together for 2 – 3 hours – but that is for another time). Here is my best attempt to name each of my kid’s favorite children movies and the impact on their lives.
The eldest’s favorite movie was a toss-up between Land Before Time and The Little Mermaid. Her most cherished gift was a stuffed stegosaurus named Spike from the first movie. I remember the many band-aids on Spike, until the band-aids no longer worked. This occurred just recently when Spike 2 (the first one was lost) was chewed up by her Pitbull Lacey! She loved these two movies and they represent elements of her personality. She is adventurous, and family focused like Ariel and Little foot, seeking out the new while caring for the past.
My second daughter’s favorite movie was the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Like Esmerelda, she is empathetic to those less fortunate. She is a defender of the weak against the strong and cares for those less fortunate. She can see beyond the exterior (like the Hunchback) to see the good in all.
My only son was enamored with Hercules and rightfully so. He is courageous and strong of mind and body. He often wore his Hercules breastplate while running through the house; shielded yet always pressing forward.
The youngest loved Mulan. Brave and against stereotype, she is brave and smart beyond her years. She takes on the impossible and brings honor to our house. She is also funny like the dragon sidekick of Mulan.
Isn’t it funny how we can trace our life through movies! 30 years of Disney, memories and kids. A great investment!
I think for all of us there is one song that strikes so much emotion that by the end of the song, we can’t avoid the tears. I know the song for me and it is particularly poignant on this Father’s Day: Trent Tomilson’s One Wing in the Fire. Quite frankly I can’t make it through the first verse without breaking down most of the time. Here is the song if you want to listen. One Wing in The Fire
When we are growing up, most of us think of our Dads as heroes and some of us (like yours truly) as God like. They protect us, nurture us and lift us up. As we get older, we usually evolve into a more nuanced view. Our fathers may lose a bit of the hero or God like status. But as we deal with our own personal struggles as Fathers we realize that with all their faults, our Fathers may not be Gods but at the very least, they are Angels, even though they may have One Wing in the Fire.
My Dad, known affectionately as Big D, was larger than life to his family and friends. He was our Cub Master, Baseball Coach, Union Vice President, friend to our friends, and all around great Dad. But he did like all of us have flaws. He was like the subject of Trent’s song – An Angel with No Halo and One Wing in the Fire. I would like to reflect on three portions of that song to explain why it is so important to me and even now 15 years since his death brings deep emotion.
The first verse has these words:
“Daddy’s been a back-row Baptist
With his share of front-row sin
His Saturday night still on his breath
Every Sunday when he’d walk in
He’s never led the Benediction
He’s never sang in the choir
But he’s an angel with no halo
And one wing in the fire”
My Dad always called himself a back-sliding Baptist, even as he supported our Mom in raising us Catholic. He also had been known to have a few drinks on Friday and Saturday nights and raised a little heck. But he was an Angel in the way he cared for Mom, me and my siblings both spiritually and physically. I remember him attending each of our Sacraments and religious holidays. He also supported our church by being the coach of its basketball team. He may not have sang in the choir, but each St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, he sang the protestant hymn the Old Rugged Cross to be part of the Henry clan singing Irish tunes and hymns around the kitchen table.
If I can make it through the first verse, I usually falter on the third verse. This verse goes like this:
“Daddy’s always been there for me
From T-Ball to touchdowns
Fixed my car and fixed my heart
When they’ve been broken down
I know he calls for more forgiveness
Than most folks do require
But he’s an angel with no halo
And one wing in the fire”
Truer words have never been said than the first four lines of that verse. My Dad coached me from T-ball through Little League. Many in Crosswicks still remember the rivalry between Don Grier’s Chesterfield Red Sox and Bill Haluska’s Chesterfield Black Sox! Besides being my baseball coach, he was my Cubmaster, basketball coach, and all-around Football and wrestling supporter. The picture attached here shows Dad supporting me my Junior year in Football.
He was always the loudest in the stands (although sometimes he got a little too loud, like the time he was expelled from the Shawnee Wrestling Match). Finally, let’s not forget about fixing cars and hearts. My Dad could fix our family car by himself except on rare occasions. Even though my brother and I could not help him that much since we could not tell a 3/16th wrench from plyers (think Frazier and Marty Crane from the Frazier TV show and you get the picture)!
If I am still composed by this time, I cannot make it through the last verse:
“Well, I just can’t imagine
What Heaven might be like
If me and mama make it
Without daddy by our side
Lord, could you please remember
When it’s time to call us higher
That he’s an angel with no halo
And one wing in the fire”
This last verse always brings me back to one of the most poignant days of my life – my Dad’s funeral. Even though my Dad was a Baptist, my Mom asked me if I could get a Priest to preside. With some trepidation, I asked the local Priest in Palestine, Texas to preside. He was a missionary priest from India and I was concerned that his homily/eulogy would not resonate with my Dad’s side of the family. I was also concerned as to whether he would do it since my Dad was not Catholic.
But God works in his mysterious ways. The priest not only agreed to do the service but gave one of the most memorable homilies of my life. The gist was this. We all enter this world crying. We have left the nurturing embrace of God and mother’s womb to face an uncertain world. But when a person leaves the world, it is his family and friends who do the crying, but they should not. It should be a time of joy and hope since the departed is returning home. It is the duty of those on earth to wish them well and pray for a speedy return to the loving embrace of the ultimate Father.
On this Father’s Day, I ask all of us who have Dad’s who are Angels who may have one wing in the fire to pray for their speedy flight to Heaven. Think of all they have done for you and pray God dusts off the ashes, shines up their halo, and welcome them home.
One of the most inspiring people in my life is Father Mike Schmitz. For you that may not heard of him, he is a Catholic Priest and speaker who leads the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is prevalent on social media and speaks often at youth conferences and for Ascension Press. His two podcasts (one for UMD and one for Ascension Press) have often inspired me and believe it or not have been critical to my weight loss! During my exercise routines, I often listen to a Father Mike playlist. His podcasts for UMD range from 20 to 25 minutes and those for Ascension Press shorter. You can read some more on my Fr. Mike exercise practice (item 9) and other weight loss essentials in this blog. What’s AP? A Digital Guide to Weight Loss
If I have a good day at the gym, I report to my wife that I did 3 Father Mike’s (the UMD variety) on the treadmill. I think people in the gym may think that I am a little crazy during Fr. Mike’s talks. I have listened to some when he speaks about being Minnesotan and laughed so loud the guy on the treadmill nearly fell off! Equally, I often listened with tears streaming down my face moved by his words of faith, inspiration, and love.
This latter reaction is what happened yesterday at 5 AM during my Saturday exercise routine. I listened to Fr. Mike’s podcast “It takes Courage” and was immediately overwhelmed with his simple message that so much of life just takes courage. He gives some simple everyday examples that at first may not leap out at you but later resonate deeply. Parents going to work on a Monday after a hectic weekend to take care of their family. Children in their first swim meet when they climb up in the blocks. Parents who are getting on in life and are willing to let go and prepare to meet their next chapter. The infertile couple who desire a kid so badly but are not sure if they will ever conceive. And those couples that do ultimately conceive. In Fr. Mike’s words, “It takes courage to bring a life in this world and say I am going to lay down my life for whoever this child is.” You can hear the full podcast from Father Mike here. Life Demands Courage – Fr. Mike Schmitz
This message – It takes courage to face a world full of everyday unknowns – moved and inspired me to develop my next blog series which will unfold over the next few weeks. Ideas kept popping into my head – not of the famous – but of my friends and family that everyday wake up to face the world with courage when so much of their future is unknown. A cousin as he faces a world that he sometimes does not understand to bring God’s smile into the world. An uncle that walks up the daunting stairs of Eisenhower Hall on two wooden legs. A friend with the courage to be himself and not whom other thought that he should be. These friends and family inspire me with their faith, love and courage to face everyday challenges and to bring their light and that of God into the world.
Two key ingredients to sustained and maintained weight loss are family and friends. They are just as important to your weight loss journey as healthy food, careful tracking, water, and exercise. I wrote about the first of these ingredients – family – in Part One of this blog here Two Essential Ingredients to Weight Loss – Family and Friends (Part One). On this one, I tackle Part Two – friends – in this blog.
There have been three categories of friends that have helped me as I lost 170 plus pounds and kept it off. Here is how Work Friends, Facebook Friends, and Fitness Friends at Weight Watchers and Lifetime Fitness have helped me along the way.
1.Work Friends – My friends and colleagues at Accenture have encouraged me on and challenged me over these last two years. First, my company has a program called Accenture Active where I had the good fortune to be one of 30 selected Journeyers when we initiated the program. As a Journeyer, we had bi-weekly meetings to touch base and learn from each other. We also had access to special lectures to inspire. One particular one was given by Diana Nyad who told us how she trained to be the first person to swim from Florida to Cuba. She accomplished it at 64, after several previous tries. Her story a long with the Accenture Active group inspired and made it easier to keep on plan. If someone can swim to Cuba, I can lose a 100 lbs. Here is a link to Diana’s wiki page if you want to learn more.
Second, my office friends and colleagues formed a Fitbit group. I cannot tell you how the many contests drove me to exercise more! I actually walked the halls of the Columbus Sheraton to pull ahead of my colleagues. My friends also helped me accomplish a long-term goal of walking 50 miles in one day. My friends from our sales team that walked 10 miles with me with their kids, partly in the rain! That is what I call support! Below is a the Fitbit badge to prove it.
2.Facebook Friends – My friends on Facebook were also a great help in my Weight Loss. First, they gave me Likes to my corny workout rhymes (Example: Today I did the typical, 5 miles strong on the elliptical!). They also gave me Likes and a few Loves as I hit my weight loss milestones. Along, with individual friends on Facebook, I was helped immensely by some of the Facebook groups. Four groups in particular, Weight Watchers Saturday Round Rock Group, Sheri’s FIT (my sister-in-laws great workout group), Spreading Positivity, and the West Point Class of 85 site. Each site gave me helpful hints and encouragement. For example, yesterday I learned that I could get Center Cut bacon which was only 2 Weight Watcher’s Smart Points for 3 pieces!. That made my day and helped me get my bacon fix while reducing calories and keeping the pounds off.
3.Fitness Friends – I already discussed my fellow Journeyers at Accenture Active. There are two other fitness and weight loss friends I want to give a shout out to. First is Weight Watchers in Round Rock Texas. This group literally changed my life. I love meeting with them every Saturday to trade tips, words of encouragement, and recognition. I also found out for me as a guy it was a good fit, so do not let anyone discourage you guys out there. I found that it had the accountability and recognition of the scale while it taught me to be more empathetic and listen more. Here is a link to the meeting if you decide to join us!
The second group is my exercise groups at Lifetime Fitness. As I got more fit, my fitness classes changed from Water Aerobics to the Spinning AMP course. I even have done Zumba and Yoga! In all the classes I loved the friendship, exhilaration and fun! I want to give a special shout out to Corey’s Saturday EDG class at Life Time Austin North. I now know as many hip-hop songs than some of my kids (although I will never beat my son!). I also know I can get over 130 RPMs (wait till I get my cycling shoes this Tuesday). Spinning is Winning! Here is the link to Life Time North Austin location.
Two key ingredients to sustained and maintained weight loss are family and friends. They are just as important to your weight loss journey as healthy food, careful tracking, water, and exercise. Family and friends inspire you to be healthy, console you when you go off plan, and applaud you as you meet milestones. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes your family and friends to take off the pounds and keep them off.
This has certainly been the case as I lost 170 plus pounds and kept it off over the last two + years. Here are just a few of the ways that my family have helped with my weight loss. Part two will focus on friends.
1.My wife has provided great support and companionship. She has listened patiently as I droned on about how many more Weight Watcher points a chicken thigh had compared to a chicken breast! She has kept the cabinets and fridge stocked with healthy food and has hidden away any indulgences that she likes so I can’t find them. She has asked each week how I did with my battle with the scale. Most important, she has gone on numerous hikes with me. Last year when I did my first Kennedy Walk (50 miles in one day), she walked with me for the first 10 miles at O dark thirty and finished the last 10 miles with me at 10:30 PM. Here is a picture of us before walking the Bix 7.
2.My kids encouraged me and listened to all my Dad anecdotes about my latest struggles as I turned away from my Peanut M&M addiction. They showed their support by giving me Likes on my countless Facebook posts (especially my son-in-law). They also did not gripe when our family outings changed from pizza to Brussel sprouts. Lastly, they turned me on to the latest self-help gurus like Tim Ferris that inspired me (thanks Kyle).
3.Family Pets – Boots the dog joined the weight loss journey with me. I remember that initial walk when he and I were at peak weight as we trudged up a hill on what I called our last chance workout! We both made it thankfully for Colette since she did not have to carry us up the hill (although Boots stopped for 10 minutes mid-way through)! As we lost weight together on the trails of Turkey Creek, he shared my victories and my steak. You can read more about Boots and me in this blog. The two cats have been helpful because they wake me up at 4:30 AM to let them out, thus making sure I get to the morning work out on time!
4.Extended Family – My siblings and my in-laws have been companions and inspired me on my weight loss journey. My brother also took on the weight loss challenge and has lost over a 100 lbs. We really should have gone on the biggest loser and won the cash (but our health is way more important). My other brother and sister have also encouraged me with Facebook likes and encouragement. As for my wife’s family, they have been key to establishing an exercise regimen. One of my sisters in law established a monthly challenge group on Facebook. Together our team walked across Texas and challenged ourselves in fitness. One of my nieces made a group called Spreading Positivity which was a key to keeping me up when I was down!