No, this isn’t some script to a creepy horror movie about an evil mother. As a matter of fact, it’s like… the exact opposite of that.
Let’s start with tragedy
“Geez Erik, way to pull us down.” Well, we need to go here to appreciate what comes next.
My dad doesn’t remember a time when his mother wasn’t sick. She was diagnosed with cancer when he was young and his earliest memories are of her confined to her bed and him driving little toy cars over the mounds her legs made in the covers. He remembers her being weak and frail. The simplest of tasks would wipe out her energy for days.
This story (one I’ve shared in a previous post) is the most vivid memory he has of his mom.
His father (my grandpa) built a series of reflecting pools that fell into one another. These pools were filled with small, shiny pebbles and the water was pulled from a creek that ran through his back yard. There was a five foot drop from the second pool to the last pool.
One day, my dad was playing in the empty pools that had been drained for who knows what reason and he fell from the second pool to the last pool. My dad landed flat on his back, embedding dozens of these small pebbles into his back. The fall knocked the wind out of him. Once he could breathe again, he started screaming.
He remembers seeing his sick mother in her pajamas coming toward him and, despite being a 5′ tall woman who had lost most of her muscle mass and body weight to the tortures of 1950’s cancer treatment with near-zero energy levels, scoop him up with unseen, superhuman strength, lift her injured boy and carry him back across the yard to the house. She laid him in bed and plucked each embedded stone out of his back.
This physical exertion wiped out his mother’s strength and my dad doesn’t remember her ever recovering.
On November 18th, 1960, David’s mommy died. He was 7 years old. He was the youngest of 7 children and his older sister once told me, “when mom died, you could see the light just disappear from his eyes.” How does a parent explain this to a 7 year old?
I spoke to him this past Wednesday at lunch. It has been 60 years since she died and he still struggles to talk about his mom without getting emotional.
28 years to the day after she died, on November 18th, 1988, his youngest son was born (me). My recent birthday is bittersweet for him.
For those who have met my mom, I don’t need to say much. For those who haven’t, let’s just say she marches to the beat of her own drum. No one, and I mean no one, tells her what to do or what to think. Her Dutch pride and stubbornness were definitely passed on to my siblings but must have skipped me…
She is a mama-bear protector who is willing to fight an actual bear if her kids (and now grandkids) are threatened. She tells a story of when some elementary school kids were picking on my older brother. She tracked them down and, in what would probably get you and I arrested these days, not-so-gently persuaded these kids to never pick on my brother again.
She is one tough cookie who could probably still kick the crap out of me (if she could catch me).
She and my dad had a rocky marriage. I love them both to death but they spent nearly two decades in an unhappy marriage… for me.
A Crazy Time
The spring of 1996 was a whirlwind. Love was in the air as I had just developed my first crush on a girl in 1st grade. I did not handle this crush well. I spent the next 5 years shying away from talking to her, saying a total of probably 10 words to her over that time. However, I did later name one of our dogs after her so you can’t say I’m not romantic (and a bit creepy).
Back to the story… in April 1996, my mom and dad got some heavy news and had to explain something that I wouldn’t fully understand until later.
“Punkin (what my mom still calls me), your mommy has cancer.”
If you’ve been paying attention to dates, you’ll now realize that my 7th birthday was 7 months away. Once I connected the dots, I started crying uncontrollably. She grabbed me, sat me on her lap, and held me. She asked what was wrong, because surely a 6 year old couldn’t know what that all entailed.
I forced out one word at a time between gasps of breath and sniffling my nose. “I… don’t wanna… be… like… dad! Buwaaah!”
My mom, slightly confused, assured me that she didn’t want me to be like my dad either. “Oh Erik, I don’t want you to be like him either! He’s a strange, lazy man with no real ambition and you don’t have to be like him.”
Now I’m confused… (Still sniffling and struggling to breathe) “No mom… I don’t… want… my mommy… to die… when I’m 7… like his mom… died… when he was 7!”
Mom: Oh… yeah.. that too…
My mom’s biggest fears were not seeing me grow up and not being able to know her grandkids. She was on the phone with her best friend at the time and expressed these fears to her friend with my older sister sitting next to her. When she hung up, my sister told my mom that she was pregnant with what would be my mom’s first grandchild.
The next year was packed with hospital visits. In May, my mom started chemo. For that summer after chemo, my parents and I traveled the state because Utah had a little county passport you could get stamped by visiting each county. The county I remember the most was Kanab because my mom spent a few years as a kid living there. She showed me where her elementary school was. I didn’t realize it then, but my parents were trying to spend as much time together and with me in the event things didn’t turn out well.
The chemo caused her to lose her hair. Her hair would start growing back and I remember running my little hand over her head and thinking it was the coolest feeling in the world. But then her hair would fall out again with another treatment and she would have me pluck the little puffs of hair out of her head.
In September the stem-cell rescue (bone-marrow transplant) began. She had no immune system to fight anything and the slightest cold would have killed her so she had to be isolated in the hospital for a month. I could see her occasionally, but we had daily phone calls during the TV show Wishbone where she and I would sing the theme song together and talk about that day’s episode.
October: My mom’s first grandchild is born. She lived to see it. November: Radiation and my 7th birthday. December: On Christmas Eve in 1996, she graduated from radiation and went into remission.
In April, my mom wasn’t feeling well. She went to the hospital and it turned out that she had a gall stone that was causing serious damage. The stone split in two with one half lodging itself in her liver and the other half in her pancreas.
She was put into an induced coma as they operated on her. They cut her open from her sternum to her belly button and later she learned that they had lost her for a full minute before bringing her back to life. The doctor told her later that he had operated on the exact same situation 2 weeks before, but that girl didn’t make it. My mom was lucky to be alive.
Can we get back to normal?
In May of 1997, my mom went back to work. Let me remind you that this is a month after dying and coming back to life. My mom is amazing.
And life was getting back to “normal.”
In August, just 9 months into remission, the cancer came back, this time in her hip. To make matters more uncomfortable, because of her compromised immune system, she got chicken pox again.
After another round of radiation, she was back in remission.
My mom was put in a support group of 10 other women going through a similar thing at the time. My mom was the 2nd oldest of the group at 43. They were all given 5 years to live.
This group would meet occasionally to go to lunch and provide support. They discontinued these get-togethers because one by one, others in the group would deteriorate and pass away.
At the end of 5 years, only my mom and one other lady were left. 80% mortality rate.
It’s estimated that 253,450 women will die this year from cancer. That is 253,450 baby girls whose parents have to watch their daughter wither away and die. That is made up of wives whose husbands are now left without the love of their life. That is made up of young mothers whose kids will be raised without a mom. That is made up of soon-to-be grandma’s who won’t get to see their first-born grandchild.
5 months from now marks the 25th year that my mom has survived cancer. Using that 253,450 number per year, 6,082,800 women have died from cancer since my mom was diagnosed. The number is likely more than that given our cancer treatments and survivability rates have improved over the last 25 years.
Why was I so lucky?
Grateful that I’m not like my dad
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told that I’m just like my dad. Some say I look like him, others that we share the same humor outlook on life. My mom, whenever I did something that ticked her off would yell, “Ew! You’re just like your dad!”
I love my dad. He is my hero, but I am grateful that I didn’t share the same fate as him in relation to my mom.
My mom lived, and is still alive. She got to see her first granddaughter come into the world, and 14 more grandkids since. She retired from work after a long career and now takes care of a bunch of dogs, goats, chickens, and bunnies doing whatever the hell she wants in retirement. Things turned out pretty good.
My mom – the teacher In contrast to the millions who aren’t lucky enough to be raised by their mom, I was.
And she taught me how to love. Not just how to love, but to express that love with words, and hugs, and gifts, and time. She taught me to defend those we love at the sacrifice of our own well-being.
She taught me about the power of self-belief. She looks back on that time with cancer and tells me how she would not allow herself to die and leave me alone. She would visualize the chemo fighting the cancer in her body. She would visualize her body’s cells destroying the cancer and telling her body to do what it needed to do so she could raise her punkin’.
She taught me empathy. I am a religious person and genuinely believe that the only reason she survived when others didn’t was her Dutch stubbornness…
I joke. I believe there was divine help. I feel fortunate that technology had progressed as far as it had between my grandmother and my mom in the treatment of cancer. I am grateful for the friends, family, and neighbors for the cards, meals, prayers, and countless acts of service for my family during that time and since.
When I think about God and miracles and the spiritual aspects of this story I struggle. In my mom’s case, there were 9 other women in her group whose families were praying and pleading with God to spare them with against-all-odds miracles. Blessings were given. Deathbed bargains were made with God in hopes of saving them, yet 8 out of the 10 didn’t get what they were hoping and praying and pleading for.
There is so much hate and negativity and sorrow and pain and tragedy in the world each and every day. The people that we meet and with whom we interact are going through unimaginable trials. Countless people are praying and hoping that they or their loved one will make it, only to learn that they didn’t. My mom taught me to be grateful for what we have, but be sensitive to the others who don’t.
I hope we can appreciate what we have, because in the blink of an eye, what we have and hold dear and cherish, could disappear.
I posted recently about my goal to finish 2 books per week throughout 2020. We haven’t completed the year yet, but I’m just ahead of schedule.
A kind reader asked how I go about finishing 2 books per week and I thought I’d share my strategy.
Disclaimer: This is just what I do. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, nor do I promise that you’ll retain everything and be able to recite the 5th word of the 246th page on command (I couldn’t do that no matter how many times I read something).
Start (or keep) listening to Audiobooks. 2/3 of the books I’ve read this year have been audiobooks.
I use a combination of Audible, Libby, and RB Digital. We have all heard of Audible by now, but Libby and RB Digital are both apps that connect to your library account. I have a card from my county library and I can check out audiobooks through these 2 wonderful apps… for free!
I have found that Libby is the most user friendly of all three of these apps and typically has more current titles than RB Digital.
You can rent digital books if you want to strain your eyes staring at a screen even more than you already do, or there is a huge selection of audiobooks. Sometimes you may have to put the title you want on hold, but I haven’t had any real issues finding the books I want.
You can check out the book for 21 days which, if you follow the next step, is never a problem.
Listen at 2x the speed. My wife first heard my little trick when she stepped into our car that immediately started playing the audiobook I had queued up on my phone, playing at 2x speed. She asked how I could possibly understand what’s being said.
I told her, “Easy, I’m a genius.” She laughed. I then said, “While I’m going to assume you agree that I’m a genius, it’s easy to understand at this speed, watch.”
Of course, she immediately corrected me by saying, “Uh… don’t you mean listen?” Good one genius.
Anyway… most apps allow you to adjust the listening speed. You need to trick your brain into thinking that 2x speed is normal or even slow. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this happens. I set the read speed to 3x and told her to tell me when she feels it’s at a comfortable speed. I then slowly decreased the speed until she said, “Stop.”
I said, “You’re comfortable here?! This is like 2.9x!” She said, “No! Stop! The light is turning red!” Classic back-seat-driver, (who sits in the front) always telling me how to drive.
At the red light I continued my reduction of reading speed until she said stop again. Of course, I had to reminder her that I am stopped and it turned into a whole thing.
Eventually, 30 minutes later, we got back to this awesome experience and we noticed that she had determined that the most comfortable listening speed was 2.15x normal. Just to show her how far she had come in life thanks to marrying me, I went back to normal 1x speed and her eyes burst open.
“That’s so slow!”
“Yeah… I know. Our brain is awesome!”
(This whole episode took less than 30 seconds. Your brain figures it out crazy fast).
I typically listen to fiction novels at 2.5 speed because I’m there for the story more than retaining details. Find out what speed works best for you.
I’m always listening to an audiobook and reading a physical book.
No, not at the same time. I listen to an audiobook every time I get in the car, work in the yard, go on a walk, or have an opportunity to listen to something but am unable to stand still and read a physical book.
I set aside a time every morning and every night to read a physical book. I still get in my fair share of Netflix and vegging on the couch, but I try to get through a chapter or two (or ten) at night.
Share what you learn. I was very lucky to work with another book worm who actually reads more books than I do (and she reads mostly physical books). We’d have jam sessions about the books we were reading, give suggestions, exchange books, and give each other books for birthdays and such.
I have since moved to a different place of work, but I still love getting her latest book recommendations. I have a few other friends who are avid readers and we do something similar, exchanging texts, going to lunch, and just talking about what we’ve learned from our latest book.
Read a variety of different genres.
I’ve found that if I go on a streak of reading books in the same genre, I start to get burned out. For example, I’m a marketer by trade and if I read a couple marketing books, I need a break. They all start to sound the same after a while. Same with religious, self-help, steamy romance novels, etc.
I’ve read more fiction this year than ever before, dabbling in some sci-fi, action, drama, and racial diversity pieces. I’ve also read a couple poetry books that stimulated my brain in different ways.
I highly recommend checking out a couple books that address a topic from a viewpoint with which you disagree. Try and listen to the other side of the argument so to speak. Get super angry. Call the author and anyone who agrees with him/her crazy and evil. Get super offended. And then tell everyone how much you hated it!
Or… maybe you’ll learn a bit more about other people and find you have more in common than you thought.
Keep track of what you read. I keep a good old-fashioned spreadsheet that I’ll make available at the end of the year. I put down the date of each week and the number of books so I can make sure I’m on pace. For example, at the time of this writing and based on when this year started, to be on pace I should have read 86 books by yesterday, October 28th. I should have read 88 books by Thursday, November 4th.
I’m currently at 88 completed books and will complete 1 more tonight and another tomorrow.
I also put the title, author, whether it was an audiobook or physical book, and rate the book on a scale from 1-5.
There you have it. My super-secret recipe for reading (at least) 2 books a week. I’m curious to know if you have any other suggestions to keep you brain stimulated.
If you’d like to get notified when I post something else or when I make my reading list public at the end of the year, consider subscribing.
This was the response I got recently when I mentioned that I have a bit of a reading obsession. I set a goal for 2020 to finish 2 books a week, giving me a grand total of 104 books read in a year.
(I will post the full list on January 1st. I have a 1-5 rating scale for each of mine as well so… stay tuned for that list)
So far, so good. I have 16 books left as of this instant, with some in progress. (Update: Hit my goal on November 20th, 2020). I asked for recommendations on LinkedIn & Facebook for the last 10 books to finish off my list with the caveat that only life-changing books be recommended.
I needed 10, I got 50… then 60… then 70… now we’re at 89!
Since I now have a whole list of books to read, I figured some of you may be interested in a list of life-changing books…. so… here is the list.
Title – Author – Recommended by Bolded titles are books I have read (and also recommend).
The Spy and Traitor
Good to Great
Yuval Noah Harari
The Audit Principal
How Will You Measure Your Life
Ian Shields, Mike Zahajko
The Undoing Project
Ian Shields, Jack Saunders
The Obstacle is the Way
Ego is the Enemy
Stillness is the Key
Leading an Inspired Life
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The Slight Edge
Etu Moli, Aaron Livingston
Jordan Hanks, Sam Christensen, Dylan Anderson
When Breath Becomes Air
12 Rules for Life
Leadership and Self-Deception
The Arbinger Institute
Lauren Colby, Mike Zahajko
Bonds that Make Us Free
C. Terry Warner
Lauren Colby, Laura Stewart
Lauren Colby, Melissa Macleod, Rachel Ray
Born to Run
Lauren Colby, Jeff Larson
Natural Born Heroes
The Way of Kings
The Boys in the Boat
Jordyn Parry, Chrissy VanLeeuwen
The Day The World Came to Town
The Year of Less
Think Like a Monk
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
The Righteous Mind
The Coddling of the American Mind
Something Deeply Hidden
Ryan Ray, Tom Burton
Born a Crime
The Moment of Lift
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Ron Case, Mike Zahajko
Never Split the Difference
Great by Choice
The Last Lecture
The Book of Mormon
Erik Soderborg, Tom Burton
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Small Great Things
Enemy at the Gates
Why We Sleep
The 8th Habit
David and Goliath
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
Pam Massey, Jeff Larson
The 4 Agreements
Jan Miguel Ruiz
Pam Massey, Reg Spittle
The Innovator’s Dilemma
On the Shortness of Life
The Catcher in the Rye
Peace Like a River
The Power of Now
Holly Ojalehto, Will Bowman
Man’s Search for Meaning
I Know This Much is True
Ernie Johnson Jr.
Trillion Dollar Coach
The Promise to the One
Mark & Kris Marshall
The Lost Secret: Unlocking the Hidden Chapters of Napoleon Hill’s think and Grow Rich
Mark & Kris Marshall
You are the Guru
Mark & Kris Marshall
The Lincoln Hypothesis
Mark & Kris Marshall
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Americana: A 400 Year History of Capitalism in America
I just finished reading Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. This is the catalyst that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the Broadway hit, Hamilton.
This book is absolutely fascinating.
I had seen the musical and listened to the soundtrack (about a million times), and finally got around to reading this 808 page masterpiece. Chernow goes into every personal and professional detail of arguably THE most influential founding father of our country. His drive, work ethic, writing genius, and oratory mastery framed the constitution, our financial systems, and made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we do in this county.
The biggest takeaway (other than Hamilton being one of my new heroes and making it onto my table of historical figures with whom I’d like to have dinner) was how dirty politics were at the founding of our country.
When political power is up for grabs, humans resort to the lowest of low by lying, cheating, and name-calling.
Ken Burns said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature remains the same.”
Here is a small set of slandering comments made about various founding fathers made in the press. A handful were true, but the vast majority were blatant lies.
George Washington Hamilton’s puppet, a coward on the battlefield, a British agent, a power-hungry monarch intent on ensuring the presidency was passed on through his family line, and incompetent both in war and government.
Alexander Hamilton Accusations against Hamilton were many and I won’t list them all, but see if they sound familiar given our current political environment.
Impure blood, an illegitimate bastard, financial fraud, misappropriated federal funds, racketeering, bribes from other countries, spying for the British government, working to establish a monarchy, rape, incest, and countless extramarital affairs (one was confirmed to be true, many accusations were made).
Aaron Burr Rape, incest with his daughter, hiring prostitutes, blackmailing women into prostitution, breaking up marriages by sleeping with women based on political position, abuse, and murder.
Thomas Jefferson Spying for the French, adultery, rape (both of white women and slaves), abuse, desertion.
Again, some of these accusations were true (mostly the extramarital affairs). Most were not.
Several founding fathers either created newspapers with the sole purpose to slander opponents, hired writers at other papers to make up false accusations, wrote these horrible accusations themselves under pseudonyms, or did all three (Thomas Jefferson).
When we look at the political circus of our country over the past 250 years, when political power is up for grabs, human nature doesn’t change. Both sides revert to mudslinging of the worst kind, and we have to ask ourselves, “are we just puppets?”
What’s crazy to think about is that we have heard almost every single one of these accusations against the past 4 presidential candidates (Obama, Trump, Clinton, Biden).
Why do we let ourselves fall for it?
When will we see that we’re all being played by a system of political and media control that wouldn’t have a job if they didn’t incite hatred, disgust, violence, and scandal?
Maybe we don’t realize that it’s all a big game. Maybe we don’t believe we’re being manipulated in efforts to tear us apart, outrage us against other human beings, and shovel money toward media companies and political causes.
Maybe we are so determined to be ‘right’ that we’re looking for others to slip up, fail, and embarrass themselves so we can feel better about our own lives. Even if we’re wrong, we feel better about ourselves if those with whom we disagree politically do something wrong… and we find joy in it.
That is dangerous.
We are no better than uninformed colonial Americans reading the gazette. In fact, we’re worse.
It’s gotten so outrageous that we believe, ‘like’, and share blatantly photoshopped images of our political foes in compromising positions. We believe Facebook and Instagram memes to be truth because we read words with which we agree in a nice font, set on a thought-provoking background.
Fake screenshots, misattributed quotes, and phony websites are true if they post what we agree with, but totally false if it’s something with which we disagree.
It’s easy to look back at history and think, “Man, they were so gullible!”
WE are the gullible ones.
I’m sorry, but your sources are no more credible than ‘their’ sources. All major media outlets have been caught falsifying stories, spreading propaganda, and faking coverage. We can easily recognize Communist propaganda (now Russian propaganda… funny how it’s always their fault), but we can’t recognize the propaganda being peddled in our country.
What do you think the Russians are saying about our media? Hint: Propaganda
This started as a recommendation for you to read (or listen to) the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.
It still is.
I loved it. Hamilton was a genius who did some stupid things. He was a loving husband who cheated on his wife. He was a loving father who went long periods without seeing his children. He was a loyal friend who quarreled and ended friendships. He was an imperfect man who made several missteps, miscalculations, and serious mistakes while trying his best to make his home, family, community, and country better.
Sounds like just about every person I’ve ever met.
We can choose to focus on the good people are trying to accomplish, or we can focus on their mistakes.
I genuinely believe that people on the Right and on the Left want to be safe. They want to feel protected. They want their families to be safe and their children to have opportunities in life that they themselves never had. They want to find more financial freedom. They want to enjoy luxuries in life. They want meaningful relationships with others.
We are more similar than different. And just because I have a different idea of how to get these things doesn’t mean we’re right or wrong, righteous or evil (we’ll write a post on that later).
We may disagree on things, but I’m working on trying to understand both sides of an issue rather than searching for fault on one side with a microscope while burying my head in the sand when something uncouth pops up on my side.
We can’t control how our beliefs are portrayed in the media. We can’t control what others believe, say, or do.
But be kind, both to people you know, and the people you don’t. They could be going through the unimaginable, so give them the same lenience you would expect from others towards yourself.
If you haven’t heard Disturbed’s version of the Sound of Silence… you absolutely have to check it out. Song covers don’t usually blow away the originals, but this one does it. And I fully expect some hate mail for this view. Actually, I would absolutely love it if someone mailed me a physical letter with a disagreement… but alas… it will be comments in the digital world.
Life is nuts.
New job. Family. Planning the most amazing event ever (Man Games). My obsessive reading habit. Exercise.
Whew… it’s a lot.
But here is where I have found some peace that helps slow down the day and start it on the right foot.
Have you ever tried to sit still, in complete silence?
It is impossible!
My house creaks, the kids scream, the construction crews across the street are noisy, and I get it, your vehicles need to beep when you’re going in reverse… but are you ONLY driving your machinery in reverse? #stopthebeep
I’ve actually invested in a set of noise cancelling headphones… just for the noise cancellation feature. They arrive today so I’m super excited.
But here’s where the sounds of silence are absolutely wonderful.
Every morning, I wake up, at an hour that I won’t share, and listen to the silence around me. My wife shifts in bed as I head to the shower. I move as quietly as I can so as to not wake up the world that lives in my house. The dogs get up and want food so their little claws click across the tile in the kitchen. I brush my teeth and pause for a second, looking in the mirror (“hey good lookin'”). I can hear myself breath. I can feel my heartbeat.
I head to work. My drive is about 10 minutes down a slow, winding road. Right as I pull out of my driveway, I roll down the windows, turn off the A/C, and shut off the radio. Silence (sort of).
It is the sounds of this silence that get me amped for the day. If I pay attention, I hear sprinklers shutting off. I hear the subtle whooosh of cars on the road behind us. My engine purring.
As I make my way to work I hear more cars. There’s a fountain in the front yard of one of the houses I pass with water pouring down a rock feature. I can actually hear the tires as they roll over different parts of the road that have been covered with tar.
The smells are fun as well. I smell wet grass from the before-mentioned sprinklers. There is a taste of dirt as I drive through a construction zone (the perpetual reverse drivers). Some homes have beautiful flower beds and, if the breeze is just right, I’ll get a whiff of wonderful flowers.
I see trees, gardens, manicured lawns. I see a slow-moving snake of cars filled with people headed to their jobs, probably just as groggy as I am, and I hope they enjoy it. I see the majestic Wasatch mountain range that towers over the valley. This drive is so peaceful.
During this drive, I’m not only noticing the sounds and smells, but I’m trying to connect with my inner self.
What is the plan today? How are we doing, self? How is life going?
I’m a religious man, so I take the time to pray while I’m driving. “Are we good?” “Where can I be doing better?” “Hey, thank you for this. Life is something else, isn’t it?”
This 10 minute drive does wonders for my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
I have many flaws. Just ask Caitlin. And they wander into my brain during this time, but they are quickly replaced with an overwhelming awe for the world around me.
Can I make a suggestion (or two)? Find the time to embrace the silence. Find opportunities to shut out everything else and listen to the things you take for granted.
Meditate, find your inner self, pray, connect with God, or the universe, or nature, or whatever it is that you believe in, but connect.
I’m telling you, the best way to connect with yourself, is to disconnect from everything else.
Life is awesome. No matter what anyone tries to sell you through fear, chaos, or manipulation… Life is precious.
Live. Love. Laugh. Enjoy this time because, as Macklemore once (several times) wrote,
“I wish somebody would have told me babe Some day, these will be the good old days All the love you won’t forget And all these reckless nights you won’t regret Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change You’ll miss the magic of these good old days.”
If you’ve never played in an event with referees, this may not be as visceral a situation to you as it is to those who have played in such competitions. Likewise, if you’ve never actually been a referee, and only a participant, it may do you some good to step into a referee’s shoes every once in a while… or just once should do the trick.
We’re going to use basketball as the competition just to make things easier for me, because I’m sure that’s all you readers care about… my well-being.
Basketball was my life growing up so I’m most familiar with it as a sport, and referees can have a lot of influence on the outcome of the game.
You see, a referee must make decisions and calls based on the split-second actions of 10 other humans running around within specified lines, throwing/dribbling a ball, and running into each other. And, as we all know, a basketball game to parents of a 3rd grade child who can barely lace up his own shoes, is life.
Millions of parents across the world are certain that their little Billy is going to get noticed in some obscure gym by some college… no… pro scout who will sign their little pumpkin to a multi-million dollar shoe deal right there on the spot if Billy can just dribble the length of the court without bouncing the ball off his foot. Think of how many free throws Billy could miss if the referee would just open his eyes and call a flagrant foul on that bully opponent who intentionally aimed his breath in the direction of Billy!
Nearly every call a referee makes during a basketball game is considered wrong by 50% of the people in the gym at that time. If a referee calls a foul, the player, coach, team, and fanatical parents of the person who committed the foul are fully convinced that the referee is a moron, should get his glasses checked, and somehow developed a life-long grudge against the kid and his parents for no apparent reason.
Billy could tackle another player like a linebacker meeting a running back at the line of scrimmage (sorry for mixing sports here) and still, the parents and coach would scream at the ref, accusing him of favoring the other team.
In fact, I once refereed a church ball game, which of all basketball settings you would think is the most tame. I mean, the game begins with the teams petitioning to Jesus to keep everyone safe and kind to one another, inside a building with religious pictures and words all over the place promoting love and acceptance, what could go wrong? This should be a nice, casual experience for everyone.
I found myself having to separate full grown men, usher someone off the court because he was bleeding profusely, and receive some choice words directed my way full of several expletives I didn’t even know were legal to string together in that order.
I was just doing my best to maintain order but so many opinions and so much disagreement left me feeling like everyone in the gym wanted to fight me in the parking lot.
Here’s the connection I’m trying to work through. It seems as though the major (and many minor) life decisions are no different.
Well, hopefully not the bloody, expletive-riddled church experience.
I mean the referee/game relationship.
Here’s the poorly formed, way-too-complex analogy I guess I’m trying to make:
Life is a game… and sure, you’re kind of player in the game… but you’re also kind of the referee… so this gets super confusing, but being a referee sucks… because half the people in the gym (your life) are convinced you’re making the wrong calls.
Phew… we worked our way through that one together.
A Life Changing Decision
This past week, I gave my employer my 2-week notice. It was a tough conversation to have with my boss, who I enjoyed working for and respect immensely. I don’t think she saw it coming and it wasn’t a good feeling knowing that some people were now going to have to take on some more work because of my departure.
I am learning that, to the employer, the timing of an employee voluntarily leaving (assuming this employee was decent at his or her job) is never convenient.
I was responsible for projects that needed to be wrapped up. Couldn’t I have waited until they were done?
Well, once those were done, I would be in the middle of another 4-5 projects… meaning I’d have to wait for those to be done while other projects were added on… lather, rinse, repeat.
The loop is infinite if you are responsible for areas in a growing company, so I am convinced that there is no “good time” to leave a company.
When you decide to turn in your 2-weeks, to one team, you have made the wrong call, betraying any loyalty or trust someone had in you. To some, you never cared for anyone to begin with and have secretly sabotaging the company since the day you got there. Some family, friends, and LinkedIn connections are quick to throw in their two cents about how you’re probably making the wrong decision and it’s too risky.
Important note: my boss took it amazingly well and had nothing but kind things to say and amazing encouragement. She is in the group below.
To the other team, the new place to which you will be taking your talents in hopes of wonderful times, you made the right call. The timing is perfect. There are projects with your name on them that seem to have been built just for you. Your previous work impressed the right people and they want your skill, talent, work ethic, humor, and viral blog following to join their team. This side has similar friends, family members, and LinkedIn connections now calling you brilliant and destined for greatness.
Same decision. Two very different perceptions.
I’m finding more and more that most decisions I make have a negative impact on one group of people who firmly believe that I am acting with intentions that range anywhere from dumb to murderous. These same decisions have a positive impact on another group of people who firmly believe I am acting with dignity, wisdom, and kindness.
How can it be both ways? How do I know which group to listen to?
7 seconds of politics
An election is months away. If you vote for Donald Trump, half of the country thinks you are saving the world while another half thinks you are a racist, homophobic, sexist, moronic imbecile.
If you vote for Biden, half of the country thinks you are saving the world, while the other half thinks you are a racist, sexist, socialist-loving, soulless, moronic imbecile…
See what I mean? So, good luck with your vote this year!
Moving off politics…
Even seemingly small decisions turn into your own children shrieking that they’re going to run away from home because you never really loved them.
“Seriously?! I just told you to brush your teeth!”
This fight wakes up your 2-year-old from her nap, interrupting your wife’s nap time, and now your entire house thinks dad is a jerk who is only good for… well… ruining nap times.
Wait… this isn’t a daily occurrence for you like it is for me? Hmm…
Look. Life is cray cray right now for everyone. Life is always crazy at any given moment (except when you’re reading these entertaining posts… amiright???). There are people in your life who are your biggest fans and will cheer you on no matter how absurd and crazy your actions are. They are the types that would wake up in the middle of the night to come pick you up out of a destroyed car you drove into a ditch after four too many drinks. These fans will then start ranting about how the car maker should’ve made the seats less comfortable so you could stay awake and that the road itself didn’t seem to be up to code.
“You’re awesome. It’s not your fault!”
Caitlin is really good at this with me.
Not picking me up out of a ditch. Nor the driving into a ditch part.
Just to be clear, none of that previous paragraph actually happened. It was just a random example of how my mind comprehends loyalty.
Let’s try this again.
Caitlin is really good at listening to my decisions (that don’t involve nap time) and making me feel like I am brilliant and anyone who disagrees with me doesn’t have a working brain cell left in their skull (she goes a little over-the-top sometimes).
Some unqualified advice
I’m no psychiatrist. I’m not a spiritual leader, intellectual, or philosopher, so take this advice for what it’s worth.
Any decision worth making is going to piss some people off. Know that going in. Some people genuinely want you to succeed. Others feel like your success is getting in their way, or is somehow threatening to them. You can’t change that.
When you find yourself needing to make a decision, do what is right to you, even if it may tick some people off.
Unless that decision is to bash my blog… then keep that to yourself…
This is by far the most frequently recommended book I’ve ever read, meaning, I have probably bought a couple dozen copies of this book and given them to friends and family. I’ve had discussions about this book with those who have read it and belong to the same church as I do, those who belong to other Christian faiths, as well as those who consider themselves agnostic. Regardless of religious believe, all seem to hold this book with similar respect.
This book changed my entire understanding of who Jesus Christ was. This book, I believe, has made me more kind, thoughtful, and humble when it comes to who this man was that we believe is the Savior of the world.
I consider myself a religious person. I was born and raised in a Christian home where we read scriptures centered around Jesus Christ. I went (go) to church every Sunday when not under quarantine and listen to lessons about Christ, his life, and his teachings. Even with all of this, my world view and entire understanding of who he was as a person was blown up (in a good way) after reading The Jesus I Never Knew.
The author, Philip Yancy, was also raised in a Christian home, albeit a different denomination than mine, and describes going to Sunday School as a child/youth and seeing pictures of the beautiful Savior with deep brown eyes, soft, flowing brown hair, a smooth, pleasant face and soft, straight-toothed smile. As the author learned more about the life of the Savior, Yancy began to realize that Jesus was nothing like these pictures depicted him.
Jews at the time were deeply entrenched in traditions and a culture that had evolved over thousands of years. The Pharisees were set on holding to the letter of the law and placing culture above charity, love, and God. Jesus came and torn down centuries of long-standing culture, culminating in his crucifixion.
Jesus was not the beautiful specimen that the paintings make him out to be. He wasn’t tall, strapping, chiseled, and clean. Isaiah describes him as “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 52:2).
Jesus was a political rebel, a religious revolutionary, and at times, a blunt vehicle of truth who would cut to the crux of God to some, and speak in confusing stories to others. He felt emotions. He cried. He laughed. He became frustrated with his closest friends. He became angry. He felt betrayal.
After reading this book, Christ became much more real to me, if that makes any sense. Yancy’s words help illustrate how quick I am to judge others based on incorrect perceptions of Christian teachings. Yancy persuaded me to step back and internalize the overall point of Christ’s mission and focus on helping people rather than looking for what they are doing wrong.
What I enjoy most about this book is the author’s ability to show you the historical relevance of Christ during that time. The author’s research and citations of historical events that must be taken into consideration when deciding who Christ really was. We tend to look at history through a modern-day lens. This prevents us from comprehending important aspects of the stories we read about history, and Christianity is no different.
Yancy takes you through Roman rule and laws in place at the time that influence the people’s behavior.
He highlights who the different religious groups were and their beliefs (Pharisees, Sadducees, The Sanhedrin, Zealots…). He describes where he would likely fall given his current outlook and asks you do to do the same. The first time reading this book, I would totally be a Pharisee (not a good thing).
He explains political forces existing within Judaism.
He explains geographical areas and customs. Back then, even in a relatively small area (although large if you don’t have cars), there were certain stereotypes of people living in Bethlehem, Galilee, Nazareth, etc.
All of that comes into play and is significant, like when Nathan asks, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” There’s a reason why Nazareth is in Nathan’s doubtful question.
What doctrines did Christ confirm and establish? What policies did Christ eliminate and implement? What cultural practices did Christ condemn?
Most importantly, which of his teaching and doctrine have we twisted and morphed into incorrectly interpreted cultural problems?
Look, I’m just a guy trying to stumble his way through life and find cohesion between what I believe and what I observe. I think kindness and love are the answer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also have firm beliefs. If you’re anything like me, give this book a read.
I was driving home from a late-night pickleball battle. Once a week I’m able to go out after the kids have gone to bed and get what some would consider exercise. We play from 9 pm until that moment when a ball is flying toward your face at 75 mph and the lights suddenly shut off. That ball you were about to cram at the other team disappears and pegs you in the eye, which tends to be precisely at 11 pm.
This past week, my partner and I crushed it. Undefeated. The freeway was mostly empty on the ride home and I was listening to an audiobook while contemplating the mysteries of the universe. It was a good night.
I’ve driven this route so many times that my brain and body are on a form of autopilot as I drift onto the off-ramp, following a car that seems to be going slower than my liking, but what’s the rush?
The off-ramp lane merges to the right and into another set of lanes that head toward my house. The far-right lane doesn’t have a stop light or stop sign so the car in front of me and I should just be able to maintain our cruising speed and continue on our merry way.
I saw the brake lights go on and I assumed they were just slowing down a bit to glide through the turn at less than the 5 Gs I normally try to achieve at this particular turn, giving me the opportunity to pretend I’m a race car driver.
I assumed incorrectly.
He must have been an idiot.
Rather than reading the many signs informing the world that our lane doesn’t need to stop, this guy decides this is a good place to slam on his brakes.
I wasn’t tailgating, but the sudden stop meant I had to react quickly, otherwise I was going to end up in his back seat… while still in my front seat.
Luckily, my reflexes have been fine-tuned over several years of children throwing things at each other and at me. I have years of catching these same kids as they tripped over sidewalk cracks, fall off bikes, and attempt to spill every bit of food or drink all over my nice pants and shirt. I had been preparing for this moment my whole life.
I slammed on my brakes and had to veer to the left of the sedentary vehicle in front of me. I laid on the horn, rattled of some words I shouldn’t repeat, and was ready to start ascribing every adjective representing a person of low IQ to this guy.
I had heard of people who try and get people to rear end them in attempt at getting insurance money, and I was sure this was what was happening.
I stopped so close to this car’s rear bumper that I could tell you the ID on the license plate decal and see the flaws in this car’s bumper paint (probably from other victims he had lured into an accident).
The driver and his car just sat there motionless for an inordinate amount of time. I started thinking he was going to throw his car in reverse and try to back into me, or worse, get out of his car and try to murder me.
Let’s be honest here, I’m not super tough, so if someone is going to try and murder me, they are 100% going to succeed in murdering me.
As my life is flashing before my eyes and I’m considering recording a final message to my family using my phone’s voice recorder, something moves in front of my murderer’s car.
I was the idiot
At 11:30 at night, at this particular crossing of a freeway off ramp and side street, a father was on his bike, escorting his daughter across this intersection. The guy in front of me was no crazy, insurance fraud, murderer. He had narrowly avoided taking the life of these two people.
His awareness, and the fact that he wasn’t texting and driving or distracted enough to miss two random people riding their bikes in the dark of night, meant that four of us avoided a potentially deadly accident.
In the matter of seconds, I went from autopilot, to rage, to certain death, to gratitude, to embarrassment, and finally, to reflection.
We like to judge people, including ourselves
“We tend to judge others by their behavior, and ourselves by our intentions.”
Stephen M. R. Covey or Albert F. Schleider… I’ve seen both attributions
If you’ve ever driven in Utah, I think you’d agree that this quote is pretty accurate.
I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the number of times I was sure the other drivers were out of their minds (to put it mildly) as they wandered into my lane, cut me off, or (the most unforgivable) were only going the speed limit in the fast lane of the freeway.
“We all know that the fast lane speed limit is 15-20 mph faster than the posted speed limit!” I shout while shaking my head and throwing my hands in the air as I have to pass these fools on the right.
Admittedly, I have also caught myself accidentally wandering into a lane I shouldn’t, cutting someone off, and yes… only going 5 mph above the speed limit in the fast lane with an absurdly-lifted truck riding me waaaaay too close.
“He must be overcompensating for something.”
Isn’t it interesting that every time I make a mistake driving, I sheepishly mutter, “I’m sorry” in my car and try to avoid any eye contact as the person I’ve wronged drives next to me… slows down so they don’t pass me… and stares me down for a couple seconds? my gaze is fixed directly in front of me, or away from the other driver as I admire the beautiful scenery out that window and not the window nearest to this other person.
I tell myself it was just a stupid mistake and that I’m going to focus better. “I’m still an excellent driver!” “Everyone makes mistakes sometimes!” “I’ve already confessed my sin and experienced the process of repentance!” “I’m a good person, I promise!”
However, anytime someone wrongs me on the road, I’m certain they hate puppies, probably stole the car their driving, and should be locked up because they are clearly a threat to society based on their behaviors.
Caitlin’s brilliant idea
Caitlin has this genius idea that I think would actually solve a lot of road rage. Also, if any investors out there want to make several dozen dollars, let me know, we can make this dream a reality.
She wants someone to invent a sign that goes in your car and can light up.
The sign has two messages. 1. I’m genuinely sorry about that. I’m an idiot. 2. F-U
This way, if you made a mistake… and you know you made that mistake… and you want that person you’ve wronged to know that you know you’ve made a mistake… you can just switch on the “I’m genuinely sorry about that” message.
Think of how many incidents of road rage could be eliminated! All the wronged driver wants is validation that the person who just wronged them is sorry and acknowledges their mental and physical ineptitude.
At the 2nd sign?
Well… we all wish we could make sure the other person knows exactly how we feel when they’ve wronged us…
Move out of the fast lane! *Switch on message #2
Here’s where I’m going with this…
The next time you feel someone has wronged you, whether that’s a boss, a coworker, a client, your kid’s little league coach, or someone on the road based on their behaviors, and before you go assuming or ascribing intent, take a second to process your emotional reaction.
You have a few options in front of you during this second of processing.
Understand that this person made a genuine mistake and knows he or she made a mistake, but is embarrassed to come out and admit it.
Understand that this person may be completely ignorant to how they wronged you. Their wrongful behavior wasn’t intended to hurt you. It was simply a result of their lack of mind-reading ability and them being unable to understand every past event that has shaped your character and mental outlook on life, analyzing that complex information, and then behaving in a way that was guaranteed not to offend you.
Or… Know for a fact that they are not only the most selfish person in the world for taking that last Costco taquito sample, but they are also complete morons and they most likely fully intended to ruin your entire life and the lives of your family, posterity, and the United States of America when they did that.
I know what you’re thinking… It’s ALWAYS #3, isn’t it?
This world is full of people.
Like, 7.5 billion of them.
Each one brings with him or her a different set of principles, values, beliefs, and histories. We’re all wandering through life trying to do the best we can.
We have all wronged someone else. It is easy for us to justify our crappy behavior with our intention to do something good. The problem is, people can’t know your intention, so they have to infer it based on your crappy behavior.
Sometimes, you will experience intentional ill-will from others toward you. This sucks. These situations are unpleasant and hopefully don’t happen to you often.
But, I think, more often than not, the majority of interactions we have that leave us a little perturbed, or upset, or offended aren’t intentional ill-will at all, but instead, a misunderstanding of observed behavior and impossible-to-know intent.
With all the potentially inflammatory issues out there, let’s remember that everyone else’s reality is just as equally intense, valid, and legitimate as our own.
It make look like they are completely ignorant to the signs you see that they don’t. But maybe, just maybe, they are slamming on their brakes because they see something you don’t. And maybe, their seemingly irrational behavior is actually saving the life of someone else.
Last thing, and it’s a quick tip: If you want to know someone’s intent after they’ve said or done something… ask them. It might clear things up for both of you.
P.S. If I have wronged or offended any of my 7 readers, just remember, it was probably on purpose.
Brace yourself… a super sappy quote is coming, and I just wanted you to be prepared…
“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”
Awwwwwwww!!! My heart is melting with sentiment and love and lots of footprints.
If you thought I was this big, burly, tough, chiseled man with no emotional connection to anything in the world… you’d be mostly right… minus the burly, tough, chiseled, no-emotional-connection part.
I happen to have an overdeveloped sense of sentimentality that, as a child, caused me to start crying out of nowhere in the back seat of my parent’s car because I remembered a pre-school friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in two years.
“I just miss him, bahaha!” I wailed as they looked concernedly to one another and asked the other who the hell I was talking about.
“Aaron! We were best friends and now I don’t know where he is, waaaah!” (Those are the sounds I made when I cried. I’m pretty sure I’ve grown out of it.)
My mom was brilliant at handling these sorts of meltdowns and took me to the pet store. She bought me a betta fish, that I named Aaron, and that calmed me down.
Side note: The average lifespan of these betta fish is 3-5 years. That betta fish lived for like 9 before it stupidly swam up into a seashell that was in its bowl, got stuck, and died.
Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom was buying a similar-looking betta fish every so often to replace the original Aaron for several years until she felt I was emotionally capable of handling the loss of a fish at the age of 29… ahem.. excuse me, I meant 15.
After a moment of silence, tears, and reaching way too far to find some sort of symbolism around the loss of this fish being a sort of bridge from childhood to manhood, I put him and his shell-coffin in a metal tin, dug a hole in the middle of our backyard lawn, and buried him there.
Turns out, the hole was waaaay too shallow and the shell/dead fish combo gave off a pungent odor, which led to our dog finding Aaron’s resting place. Our dog felt it was necessary to move Aaron… and destroy his shell… and eat his remains.
“Get to the point, Erik!”
My point is… I take friendships very seriously. I am who I am today because of the relationships I’ve had over the years with people who have been with me during life-changing moments. These friends have kept me grounded. They’ve kept me safe. They’ve helped me grow and learn and be a better person.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’m thankful for my friends… and you should be to.
Grateful for my friends I mean. You should be grateful for MY friends.
No, no, no… I make jokes… be grateful for YOUR friends.
After one of these posts, a friend reached out and said he wished we could stay in touch better. He and I were besties during high school, and I echoed his sentiment. I, too, wish we could see each other more, but life happens. Work, spouses, kids… all take over and that means we only see each other once every few years.
Does that mean our friendship wasn’t as strong as we thought?
I don’t think so.
But we used to be so close! We knew everything about each other. We discussed the future and made plans to buy neighboring houses, have our kids play on the same sports teams, go on vacations with our families, start businesses together, make bazillions, and be BFFs.
Looking back at the people who, at some point in my life, held the title of my “best friend,” I wonder how we could go from hanging out every day for years, to not seeing or talking to each other for years at a time.
Does that make either one of us a bad friend?
I hope not, because I would hold the label as world’s worst friend. And there’s no way I would ever consider them bad friends, in fact, I think the world of them.
If any one of them called me at 3 a.m. needing help, and somehow my phone wasn’t on silent, and was able to wake me up, and I could recognize their name through my groggy, tired eyesight, I’d probably answer… and I think they’d do the same for me.
Maybe I should test it out.
If anyone reading this at one point considered me a best friend, keep your phone on, I’ll give you a call tonight. (I won’t.) (Or will I?)
I’ll wrap this up with a challenge to you.
Go back as far as you can and write down the name of your earliest best friend.
Then, make a list of all those friends you’ve had throughout your life up to this moment in time that at one point held the title of your best friend or great friend.
Finally, one by one, reach out to them. Start at the earliest and make your way to the most current. I recommend a phone call, but if you want to be lazy or they prefer text, email, fax or a handwritten letter, then do those.
See how they’re doing. Let them know you remember them. Let them know you still care about them. Let them know you miss them. Share a couple “remember that one time when” stories.
It might get awkward, especially if your friendship was halted on testy circumstances or if you are married and they are of the opposite sex and also married. Don’t be reckless or creepy or weird. Just let them know that you appreciate the friendship you had/have.
I’m in the middle of doing this challenge myself.
That’s the end of this post unless you’re interested in some of the great friends I’ve had in the past. They are below.
Otherwise, get out there and connect with some of the people who, at one point, were the most important people in your life.
Let me know how yours goes.
My best friends This is tricky, because I have several friends who could be on this list, but time and space are limited. Don’t be offended. I still love you.
Kimmy – Kimmy was my first best friend. She and her family lived directly across the street from me. We had to have been, I don’t know… 3 or 4 years old. I don’t have many memories that far back, but I do remember feeling like I always had a good friend to play with just outside my front window. Kimmy’s family moved away and the last in-person memory I have of her was when we ran into each other at a Chuck E. Cheese a few years after she had moved away. There was a birthday party she was at and I’m not sure what I was doing there. Probably dominating the Pirate Ship game.
Caitlin and I moved into our first house about three years ago and that meant my mom could pass down my inheritance of EVERYTHING I had ever done. It was truly a remarkable collection she had amassed over the course of 28 years. She had every report card, spelling test, newspaper article, art project… Everything I had done since birth.
Well, one of the things she had was a stack of letters Kimmy and I wrote to each other when we were little. I did a quick Facebook search and found her. We exchanged quick messages and it sounds like she is doing amazing things with her work and her husband. As part of this challenge, I reached out again and shared the Chuck E. Cheese memory.
Aaron (the fish’s namesake) – I have never been able to track down Aaron. After the meltdown in the car, my mom did all she could to try and find him and his family. We literally pulled out the White Pages (anyone remember that?) and called all the people in the state with his same last name, asking if they were the correct Aaron.
Aside: My mom is absolutely amazing. What mom, after seeing her son randomly cry about a pre-school friend pulls out the phone book and calls everyone with the same last name?
Back to the mom-private-investigator: We finally got in contact with an Aaron who we believed was the same one and…
he couldn’t remember who I was.
I was devastated. Clearly my emotional investment in that friendship dwarfed his… by like… 100%.
Stevie – Steve’s dad and my dad were best friends as adults. They played on the same men’s league basketball teams so Steve and I would play together on the sidelines. I’m a month and a day older than Steve, but like, several years wiser…
Steve and I grew up playing on the same Jr. Jazz and Super League basketball teams. We even won a National Championship in 2-Ball together. The NBA flew us out to San Antonio during the NBA Finals where, after we won, they treated us to Game 1 of the finals. San Antonio went on to win their first NBA championship in 1999 (the birth of my Spurs fandom).
We loved basketball and Steve was a remarkable shooter until a tragic accident left him without vision in one of his eyes. He continued playing basketball, but the sport becomes much harder when you can’t see one side of your body.
Steve and I have always been close without having to see each other often. Steve has a way of persuading people to do silly things and, as we got into competing high schools, he would persuade his student section to cheer an opposing team’s player (me). Somehow, at an away game to his high school, their student section would be cheering for me during both warm ups and the actual game while at the same time, viciously heckling everyone else on my team.
“Why are they cheering for you?” a teammate asked. “Long story. Just give me the ball.”
In a previous blog post, I mentioned someone with different political views as myself who would go to lunch with me weekly while in college. This was Steve. He and I recently had an hour-long phone call where we talked about the BLM movement, COVID-19, presidential candidates, and (most important) his first child on the way.
I still consider Steve one of my best friends and, even if we don’t talk for a year or two, when we do get together, we’re immediately back to our irreverent, silly selves.
Justin – Justin is my cousin. We grew up living down the street from one another. We walked to elementary school together every day. We drove to middle school together every day in the same carpool. During the summer, I’d go to his house and break in so I could wake him up and drag him to a park to play tennis or just hang out. I had a lot of fun with Justin and, being the older cousin, I probably bullied him more than I should have.
He moved about 25 minutes away during high school and we didn’t see each other as often, but we still kept in touch. After I got home from my mission, we turned into full-fledged adults and really only see each other at family gathering (Christmas parties, weddings, etc.) where I get to remind him that he may be a decent ping pong player, but there can only be one Highlander!
I’m the Highlander of ping pong. You don’t know who Highlander is?! Check out the 1986 movie titled: Highlander. *Warning… pretty violent.
I miss our friendship terribly. Justin has a cell phone, but NEVER ANSWERS! If he’s reading this, when my name pops up, push or slide the Green button!
Brandyn – Oh man… Brandyn has one of the most embarrassing stories of my life to hold over my head involving a scout trip to Tracy Aviary and me needing to go to the bathroom really, really badly. He also performed one of the greatest feats of loyalty I’ve ever experienced during the 6th grade fun run.
We grew up in the same neighborhood and shared a love of sports, specifically basketball. Brandyn had 2 hoops at his house so we could play a modified full-court game. He could lower his hoops, enabling us to have dunk contests and to recreate the moves we saw Michael Jordan do on TV. Brandyn could always jump higher than me and do much cooler dunks than I could.
I’ve never felt like I deserved Brandyn’s friendship. He has always been much nicer to me than I have been to him. We get together occasionally or run into each other at random times. Most recently, he painted our previous house that we sold about a year ago and, in my opinion, did such a good job that we were able to get a lot more for the sell of our house than we would have otherwise.
Brandyn is a great man. He has an adorable family and has always been upfront, honest, and kind to everyone I’ve ever seen him interact with.
Jacob – There was a brief time in elementary school where Jacob and I were super close. He moved here and started his new life in my 5th grade class with Mrs. Vimahi (still my favorite teacher ever). Jacob was an incredible artist. He could draw the most amazing things without having to trace or look at a picture to copy it. I specifically remember him drawing a jaguar (the cat, not the car) that was so realistic I couldn’t believe anyone had that kind of talent, let alone a 10 year old. I was soooo jealous.
He and I ran together (as in jogging) a lot during recess or when there was scheduled track time where our entire grade would run around outside. I remember he gave me a fossilized turtle head he got from South Carolina. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
He moved to a different elementary school for 6th grade and we ended up running into each other again in middle school. By that time, our interests and hobbies diverged pretty dramatically, but I still randomly see him every couple of years at a Turkey Bowl football game.
Donald – Where to start with the Don… First off, Donald and I are pictured as the main image of this post. I didn’t want to use a stock photo because most the pictures that came up were of two girls and I just don’t know that they fit this post. That picture was taken in Moab, UT with matching hats and shirts. I warned him about that picture making its appearance about 5 seconds before I published this post. You’re welcome.
He and I were very close from 3rd grade on. We played on the same baseball/basketball teams for years. We worked at the same golf course together. We went on family vacations together. And somehow, we never went to the same school together. He was also the one I considered my best friend through the crazy years of high school.
We were very similar athletically, meaning we were both about the same size and we were both highly skilled in several different sports. He and I could challenge one another at a very high level in pretty much any activity we tried.
When we were on the same team, I felt like we didn’t need to talk to communicate. We just knew what the other was thinking and what we would do before it happened. There was this almost mind-reading experience playing on the same team with him and I felt we would always beat anyone foolish enough to challenge us (and we did).
When we had to play against each other, I always felt like I had to prove that I was the Alpha. I don’t think I ever did, but that was the mindset. Whether it was guarding each other during practice (the coach ALWAYS favored Donald by never calling fouls on him) or when we found ourselves on opposite teams in high school, we pushed each other to become better at everything we did.
As I mentioned before, high school is a stressful, emotional time for any teenager, and Donald was always there for me. My parents divorced when I was a junior. I was devastated, and in my teenage rage, I wanted to get away from both of them. He and his family had a little apartment set up at the back of their garage with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Donald and I lived there for a couple months while the chaos at my home calmed down.
I could write a book about the adventures we had but that would just embarrass both of us. Given both the length of time and the period in our lives that we were the closest, I treat this friendship as sacred, and even though he lives several states away, if he ever needed anything, I’d be on the first flight out.
He just got married and is a freaking doctor! What a stud. We competed with and against each other most recently in Man Games (I won if anyone is curious. I organized the whole event and chose the sports so… kind of had an advantage… but still… Alpha).
Josh – Josh and I grew up in the same neighborhood (I’m starting to see how important your neighborhood is). We had a rivalry early on with Nerf gun fights, soccer at recess, and the annual 5k fun run. Once we moved into middle school, it was less a rivalry and more of a goofy friendship.
We had a tough time taking anything seriously. School projects usually turned into questionable comedy sketches with Shakespearean sonnets about the rains down in Africa and the most amazing Tom and Huck reenactments this side of the Mississippi.
We served in neighboring church missions and both learned Russian. We came home and both majored in Russian and had several college classes together.
After college, life happened again, and we tend to see each other at Turkey Bowl games or talk on random phone calls.
Alex – Alex is a friendship that, admittedly, I feel like I ruined. We were super close in middle school and if we needed to do a partner project in some class, he and I would team up. We made arguably the greatest research presentation in history that covered Albinism with crystal clarity and endless detail. He also played a role in a church movie and I thought that was so cool. I’ve seen the movie a hundred times and I feel pretty special whenever I can say “I know him!”
Even though we went to different high schools after middle school, during our sophomore year we still hung out with the same crowd frequently (Josh from earlier was part of this crowd).
Our friendship hit a rocky spot because of, you guessed it… a girl. My recollection of events is that he had a big crush on a girl. Given that we no longer attended the same school, I wasn’t aware of the amplitude of this crush and I ended up with said girl for a month or so. My intention was never to act maliciously or shady, but I can see how what I did would be seen that way. I think it drove a wedge between us that never fully recovered.
I see Alex occasionally and think the world of him. Even though we don’t talk much, I still enjoy learning through the grapevine how awesome he and his family are doing.
Jen – I was super awkward from elementary school through high school. Especially with girls. Caitlin says I still am so… there you have it.
Other than Kimmy when I was 3 or 4, Jen was my first really good friend that was also a girl. I don’t even remember how we became friends, but she was my bestie in 9th grade. We could just hang out and talk about anything.
We stayed friends through high school, and she married her high school sweetheart who happens to be one of the coolest guys I know.
Sam – Sam was my first great friend at my new high school. I lived in the boundaries of Hillcrest High (Where Jen, Alex, Josh, Donald, Jacob, Brandyn, and Justin all went to school), but I ended up going to Jordan High. Go Beetdiggers!
I didn’t know many people at Jordan when I started my sophomore year. I honestly don’t remember how Sam and I met, but we soon became best friends over our shared love of basketball.
He had a high-end basketball hoop that didn’t break your hand every time you dunked on someone, so we spent hours at his house playing dunk ball until his parents or neighbors came out saying we were being way too loud for midnight.
He was with me when I took my Corvette out for a drive and, while trying to be cool, soon realized that there was this terrible burning smell coming from the car. I thought my dad was going to kill me, and I had no idea what I had done wrong. I got out of the car and noticed the smell wasn’t coming from the engine, but from a rear wheel. I got back in the car and saw that I had been driving the past several minutes with the emergency brake engaged… hence the burning smell.
Sam was with me when I drove by my crush’s house at night one time and, mistaking her sister for her, yelled “Hi Caitlin!” and drove off as fast as we could.
I ended up marrying that crush of mine though so was it a stupid, awkward high school move or a brilliant dating tactic?
Sam is now a great man with a beautiful family. He prompted this blog post after he reached out to me. There are some bricks outside Jordan High with alumni names on them. He and I are right next to each other and will be for as long as bricks last. Quick rant… my high school literally NEVER spelled my name correctly. Every certificate, trophy, medal, plaque, and brick have my name spelled wrong!
Sam’s brick is a row above mine, which is a metaphor for how he will always be a level above me in life.
Brock – Brock is a character. We met on the football team at Jordan and I couldn’t stand him. On a designed run play, he’s waving his arms 15 yards downfield trying to tell me he’s open. I was the quarterback. I didn’t have the ball, BECAUSE I HAD ALREADY HANDED IT OFF!
Somehow, his mixture of craziness and insanity together with my calm and stability came together to confuse everyone on how we were friends.
Countless late-night runs to Del Taco and hot tubbing prompted several conversations about life, lacrosse, how Kobe will never be as great as MJ, and religion.
Brock went through a tough time as his mom was diagnosed with cancer while we were in high school. He moved into our house for a short time and I’ll never forget looking into his room (where we kept our pet bird) and he was nodding up and down, mimicking the bird’s head and squawking at it. He didn’t know I was watching, but it had to be one of the dumbest/funniest things I had ever seen. He was hilarious.
Brock has a heart of gold and would stop the world to go and help a friend. That sentence there sums up Brock the best way I know how.
I last saw Brock at his mother’s funeral this past year. She survived another 16 years before cancer got her. When we saw each other, it was like nothing had changed… well, except his hair. He has a wonderful wife and beautiful child.
Shake n’ Bake!
Brigham – Brigham and I met at tryouts for the high school basketball team in 9th grade. We were approximately the same size and likely going to play the same position. I hated playing against him because he was way more athletic than I was and played much more physical than I did. Somehow, I’d always walk away from an encounter with him with a dead knee, fat lip, or hurt pride.
Brigham and his family became a second family to me during high school. His mom and dad were always referred to as Mama and Papa Mero.
Three of my favorite basketball memories involve Brigham.
1. An alley-oop dunk he had at Timpanogus. 2. A game-sealing dunk against Hillcrest at Jordan (my personal rival if you have read about previous friends). 3. A buzzer-beater 3-pointer in a hard-fought game against a team in Las Vegas.
Yours truly threw Brigham the ball on all three of those plays.
I don’t always pass… but when I do… I hope Brigham is the one catching that pass because I know he’ll make good things happen with it.
Brigham met his wife on a blind date accompanied by Caitlin and me. We didn’t introduce them, nor did we go on any other dates together afterward, but I’ll still take credit for that assist as well.
I miss playing ball and just hanging around Brigham. He always makes you feel good as a person and has one of the prettiest jump shots I’ve ever seen.
Matt – Matt is another friend who, like Brock, I didn’t particularly like when I first met him. We looked different. We acted different. We were good at sports the other hated. We were bad at sports the other loved… Except ping pong.
Matt and I spent countless nights staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning playing ping pong at my house and talking about life, girls, school, and sports. I lost track, but he is one of the few people on planet earth to have beaten me more than five times at ping pong. The head to head record is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000-7, but still, 7 is impressive in my book.
In Matt’s words, “No one knew we were friends, so they wouldn’t make the connection. I remember someone asking, ‘wait, are you friends with Soda?’ and I said, ‘well, we don’t hang out with each other’s friends, but we hang out with each other after we hang out with our friends,’ and it blew their minds.”
Matt was the catalyst to me connecting with Caitlin after my mission. He planted the seed in her brain that I was somewhat normal, and he got her phone number for me. He has since moved out of the state, but we still text each other fairly regularly.
Evan – Evan is Brigham’s younger brother. He played on the same high school basketball team with us and was always mature beyond his years. He and Brigham both have some dirt on me involving the classic Hinder song Lips of an Angel, but we won’t go into that here.
Evan and I eventually ended up working together as we were making our way through college and starting young families. He became my supervisor, but could never keep me in line. Evan has dry wit and a laugh that is infectious. He is a great man and someone I look to emulate.
Chalyn – Chalyn dated another friend on this list for a long time, which meant that we hung out a lot. She would ask me if I could help her understand her boyfriend/my best friend’s mindset and I’d ask her for help with other girls I liked. Our nicknames for each other were Roommate because that’s the kind of friendship we had. We spent so many weekends and summer nights hanging out at her house playing pool and driving around in her Escalade.
This may be TMI, but when I was heading on my mission, I received advice from several returned missionaries that I should have a photo album with family and friends. They made a point to say that I should have a picture of a girlfriend that was waiting for me. Even if I didn’t really have a girlfriend waiting for me, I should say I did, otherwise, there would be girls making all kinds of awkward attempts at getting with me or old people trying to line me up with their kids or grand kids.
Chalyn and I were not boyfriend/girlfriend and she was not waiting for me, but she was my closest girl that was a friend at the time, and I had a picture of her so, she became that picture. It didn’t stop some strange advances while in Russia, but I think it hindered a few.
We lost touch after I went on my mission and came home. I see her dad fairly often and get news on how she’s doing. I truly hope she is happy.
Andrew – Andrew and I met at a basketball camp. I was the only one from my high school. He had a couple other buddies from his school there and, because I was a teenager, I decided they were punks and I needed to embarrass them.
He was an incredible defender and I always had to be en garde when he was on me. We later played on the same men’s league team where we quickly became close friends.
Andrew looked like Zac Efron, just not a tiny person, so it got pretty annoying when ladies just wanted to be my friend to get his number. Andrew helped me get out of my shell by always being ready and willing to have an adventure. Late night drives singing Apologize by One Republic at the top of our lungs with our heads out the window were common place, as were 1 a.m. text messages from him saying he’s coming over.
Andrew was the first to greet me when I got home from my two year mission. We haven’t been the best at keeping in touch since we became old and don’t play in basketball leagues much anymore, but I still consider him an incredible friend. He is engaged! I better get the invite!
Jordan – Jordan and I were in the same group in the MTC. Jordan has this unique ability to make you feel like any walls you may have put up to the world to guard yourself have no place when you’re around him. In the first minute of meeting him, you basically spill your soul to him, and the best part is, he’s trustworthy enough to keep you safe.
We survived the MTC together. We saw Prague, Stockholm, Armenia, and all of Southern Russia together. Jordan is a great man and a great friend. He said he would bring his family over sometime soon for dinner. I’m going to hold you to that Jordan!
Devin – Affectionately known as Petie the Person in our home, Devin was my companion in the MTC and then again for 5 transfers in the mission field. In our 24-month mission, we were together as companions for 10 months (that’s rare). He is also the person I was traveling with during my Russian police story.
Devin and I are quite different. He was from the roaring metropolis of Firth with a population of like 100 people (492). I was raised in a slightly larger metropolis that had 2,723 times the population of Firth. He was a cross country runner (something I despise) and a potato farmer (manual labor also isn’t my thing).
Even though I outweigh him by a good 40 lbs., he would always beat me in wresting. Apparently every move I ever tried was “illegal,” so anytime I had him pinned he would just shriek that I was breaking the rules, but he was crafty and as strong as a really small ox.
Devin is the salt of the earth and never afraid to tell you how he sees it. He lives in Idaho on the way to Oregon where we visit family every once in a while, and he and his wife are always kind enough to let us stay at their house when we make that trip.
He is Petie the Person because we have a dog named Petie (named after Devin).
Steve – I met Steve on the mission as well. We cemented our friendship by singing the lyrics to songs along the streets and in the apartment buildings of Russia (we both have terrible voices… sorry Steve). His lyrical prowess spanned several genres and he seemed to know all the words to the obscure songs I liked. He joined me on trips to Stockholm and Madrid that were unforgettable.
We attended BYU and took a few classes together. He was on both the track and cross-country teams at BYU and had a twisted sense of pleasure. I’d want to get in better shape and he would offer to go for a jog. While I was dying and running at what I felt was break-neck speed, he was basically speed-walking, letting me know that I was terribly out of shape without ever actually saying those words.
Steve can be downright goofy and then shift gears to become the most spiritually deep person you’ve ever met. He is awesome.
Dmitry – Dima is that last of the mission friends highlighted here. Dima was born and raised in Kazakhstan. We bonded over a disagreement about how Adam (from Adam and Eve) was most definitely not Korean (Dima is half Korean). Dima’s native language is Russian, so he was a massive help to me as I learned the language and I credit him with what I felt was a decent accent whenever I spoke.
When it came to teaching together, I don’t think you could find a better duo. Similar to the Donald-basketball-mindreading experience, the same would happen while teaching with Dima. We just always seemed to be on the same wavelength.
We came from different cultures, we enjoyed a lot of different things, but we always got along incredibly well. I was fortunate enough to have a reunion with him a few months ago as he came to Salt Lake City as part of his job. We didn’t get to spend much time together, but after 10 years of not seeing one another, we had the same laughs, jokes, and his immaturity to fall back on.
Nathan –Nate and I played baseball growing up. My team always destroyed his, and I wouldn’t have called us friends at the time, but I knew who he was. His nickname back then was Joker, probably because he was super immature and weird. He was/is that guy who is never afraid to do crazy things and be the class clown.
Well, fast-forward a few years and we end up being mission companions in the middle of Russia. We spent 3 months as companions and, even though he was older than I was, I pretty much taught him everything he knows.
He returned the favor when we moved 2 blocks away from each other as adults. I’m not what most would consider a manly man. I don’t have nice tools. I don’t really have any tools. Nate was always willing to let me borrow tools and come over to help me with sprinklers, lights, yard work, or any of the other basic things related to owning a home. I figure he owes me a lifetime’s work of labor, though after I almost single-handedly dug his in-ground trampoline and moved 8 tons of rock around his yard.
We still talk regularly whenever he wants to borrow my tools or take advantage of my softball skills.
Bradford – Brad and I lived in the same neighborhood as I was finishing up college and starting my professional life. We ended up working at the same company together and developing an app together. Jamming with Brad about business ideas, the news, life, and just laughing through everything we did was always a real treat. Brad is a cancer survivor and I have never met anyone who routinely makes the day of any stranger with whom he interacts. He is never too busy to take the time to learn someone’s story and be kind to others.
My dad owns rental apartments that were supposed to be my inheritance. Brad bought one of them and has an eye on another. He’s basically trying to steal my inheritance, but I’m like… whatever.
Brandon – Brandon is who I consider my current bestie. Besties with testes… as they say… We work together and share many common interests like Harry Potter, golf, pickleball, ping pong, tennis, and deep, mathematical philosophy. Brandon is a wiz when it comes to numbers and his brain never stops computing every possible outcome. I feel like my role in the relationship is to tell him to stop thinking about everything and just buy stuff. His wife probably hates me because I’ve talked Brandon into Man Games, a guy’s golf trip to St. George, about 159 different pickleball paddle models, and a few new sets of golf clubs.
Brandon has what we both affectionately call a resting bitch face (RBF). He looks like a ‘bro’ because he is ‘swole’ and has the RBF, but in reality, he is so incredibly thoughtful and kind. He is the first to give you the shirt of his back if you need it (so he can show off his guns).
Caitlin – The greatest friend of all, my wife. Caitlin was my first and strongest high school crush. As mentioned earlier, I didn’t know very many people going into my sophomore year at Jordan. On the 2nd day of school, she walked into one of my classes and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. My parents knew her as “Seminary Girl” because that was the class we had together.
I never had the guts to talk to her in high school. We went on two dates. She declined my proposal to take her to prom (she says she had already been asked… riiight). When I left on my mission, I thought I’d never see her again.
Thanks to the previously mentioned Matt, when I got home, I called her up. I was so afraid that I was going to screw something up whenever we went on a date. For some strange reason, she kept saying yes as I kept asking her on more dates, and finally, when I asked her to marry me.
She is my rock. She is the mother to our 3 precious kids. She has helped me reach my best, and she has pulled me out of my worst.
We have a craft that says, “Happiness is being married to your best friend.”