Dear Holly: I Would Marry Your Mommy Every Single Time

24 weeks.

Back in Nashville 032 Crop

Dear Holly,

Mommy and I are going on nearly 7 and a half years of marriage and if I could go back and do it all over again, I can say with confidence, that I would marry her every single time.

That confidence comes from knowing that we’ve survived through some life-changing and mind-altering experiences together.

Like digging our way well into, and then way out of, over $50,000 in debt. Like raising your brother together for the past 5 years. Like selling and a buying a house or two.

Even more minor things like becoming vegetarians/vegans 4 years ago together and seeing her quickly rise to become the stellar vegetarian/vegan chef that she is for our family.

I still am so impressed by her, on a daily basis, after all this time so far.

When we met we were, by default, two 26 year-olds who were less mature and experienced than we are now. (Pictured above.)

Now we are two 34 year-olds who are at the best place in our lives so far.

Apparently age 34 is officially the happiest time in a person’s life. While I could easily agree with that so far, considering we are more secure in our jobs and finances these days than ever before, I have to believe that things still get better beyond age 34.

Because, after all, you are due to be born right around my 35th birthday, in April 2016.

After having shared my life with your Mommy for this long, I am more convinced than ever that I couldn’t have made a better decision.

I am grateful to the 26 year-old version of me who, in my immaturity and inexperience, was able to recognize that Mommy was the one for me. Plus, I am grateful that version of me had what it took to convince Mommy to fall for me.

My life couldn’t have been any better than it is right now had I not met your Mommy. She is quite the catch and I will be overly aware of that every day for the rest of my life.

I bet my life on her… and won.

Love,

Daddy

Finding Favor is Better than Being Lucky

Luck vs. destiny.

Here in Nashville, a phrase that pretty much instantly started annoying me the first time I heard it was “networking”.  “It’s all about networking”, say the people who claim to know how struggling musicians become stars.  And they’re right.  It’s all about who you know.  Of course talent and experience have something to do with it too. 

But it’s one thing to know the right people, and another to find favor with them.  To stand out and to be special in their eyes.  By doing a quick Google search of the phrase “found favor Bible”, it becomes pretty apparent that finding favor with the right person, or with God, dramatically altered a person’s life throughout Jewish and Christian history:

Joseph found favor with Potiphar.  Esther found favor with King Ahasuerus.  Daniel found favor with the Babylonian king.  Noah, David, and Mary found favor with God.  In all of these people’s lives, their careers as well as their social and spiritual roles would never the same (in a good way) after finding favor.

Therefore, a staple request in my daily prayers is to find favor with the right people(As well as for wisdom!)  While I do believe it’s important to pray specifically for my future life plans, I also am adamant on trusting God in all the unseen blessings, detours, and surprises that come packaged with them.  Because those unseen elements in life often carry the most weight, more so than the ones we plan or have any control over. 

Finding favor with people doesn’t necessarily mean being charming, suave, or slick.  I think back to a much underrated movie I admit I really like, despite the fact it’s technically a “chick flick” and it seems no one else has ever seen it: Little Black Book, starring Brittany Murphy and Holly Hunter.  A certain quote from this movie really sticks out in my mind and conveniently ties in to the current subject matter: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” 

What others may see as luck, I choose to see as divinely ordained favor, where God appoints a person in our lives to grant a good opportunity.  That’s my version of luck. But of course, in all the Biblical cases where someone found favor with God or the right people, the favored person had already done their part to be qualified.  Noah was already a righteous man.  Mary was already a righteous woman.  Then God used them for great things. 

They may not have had the proper experience yet, but they had the right relationship with God and had paid their dues in the mundane stuff of life.  Then, it happened.  The Big Event began and they finally became active in the role they had prepared for their entire whole lives to fulfill.

Assigned Seats: Many Friendships We Have are “Forced”

It’s a little something I call “forced friendship”.

It was always a bittersweet moment when as an elementary school student, I would walk into the classroom Monday morning and realize that my desk was on the other side of the room.  I would now be sitting next to other kids that I hadn’t necessarily been around much before.  This also meant I would no longer be sitting close to the friends I had made while at my previously assigned seat.

Boy, this is just a life metaphor waiting to happen.  Don’t beat me to the punch…

Do we choose our friends?  Yes.  But so often, by default.  Whether because of proximity through work, school, church, current circles of friends, or even marrying into a family, we find ourselves in what I call “forced friendships”.

And I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing.  It’s good.

I use the word “forced” because the reality of friendship is that we don’t usually go out to places looking for friends.  Friends just happen.  We end up in the same place at the same place, often on a reoccurring basis.  And in each location, the people that have the most in common or whose personalities compliment each other the most, are naturally going to become friends.

It’s not typical for one person to walk up to another person that they barely know and say, “Let’s be friends.”  Because it’s much more natural to let the Assigned Seats of Destiny direct us in our human relationships.

The concept of forced friendship became apparent to me in 2008, the year that my sister got married in January, and I in July, just six months apart.  In the same year, I gained a brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) on one side of the family, then seven brothers-in-law (my wife’s brothers) and two sisters-in-law (my wife’s sisters).  Before 2008, I had no in-laws at all.  In a matter of six months, I acquired plenty of them.

And through that process, the ones I have spent the most time with became the ones I obviously know the best, and therefore, have the strongest friendships with.  We are family by marriage, but that doesn’t take away at all the friendship aspect of it.

Each one brings out different sides of my personality, hobbies, and interests.  As we reflect our similarities and common ties.

For example, my sister’s husband Andrew and I are just a few years apart, having grown up playing the same old school Nintendo games, both having grown up in Alabama, and both obsessed with LOST.  In fact, he’s the reason my sister started watching LOST, which is why I am now obsessed.  Throughout the week, we send each other stupid website links and YouTube videos.  The perfect combination of a brother and a good friend.

On the other end of the brother-in-law spectrum, there is Tom up in Pennsylvania, who is the husband of my wife’s 2nd oldest sister.  We only see each other about twice a year and there is about a 10 year age difference between us.  In fact, he and my wife’s sister got married when I was in Junior High and they had their first kid the year I graduated high school.

Yet we have a whole lot in common.  When our wives are together, we let them catch up.  And we just do our own thing.  Whether it’s playing cards, shooting pool, watching movies, or playing with the kids.  We live the laid-back life together.

Being around him is like that seeing my life ten years into the future.  What little recent experience I have being around kids is from his two daughters.  I watch carefully how he talks and interacts with them.  His calm-assertiveness gives them the direction they need while still keeping the environment positive and loving.

Having the ability to choose isn’t everything.  Sometimes it’s better for someone or something else to make our decisions and life plans for us.  The funny thing is, the friendships I have sought out after never seem to last, like a trend or a fad.  If anything, those friendships are the ones that actually ended up feeling forced.

Whereas the forced friendships have always seemed natural.  So there we have it, friendship is a force.  And with all there is to gain from forced friendships, I can’t help but be thankful for assigned seats.

Similar post from the same author: The Invisible Touch, Yeah (The 2nd Installment)

Sounds Like Someone’s Got a Case of the “What If’s?”

If you could “redo”, would you?  Should you?

It’s only natural to think, “If only I could go back in time with the knowledge I know now…”  That goes through my head way more than it should.  About all kinds of things from my past.  But to be able to do that would mean I would have the mind of a 28 year-old and the body of a kid.  Unfair advantage.

I’m sure it all goes back to the hidden (male) feeling of inadequacy:

I should have made a point to build stronger friendships with certain people in high school and been more involved with school events, like decorating of the halls for Homecoming Week which I skipped out on.

I should have focused more on writing while I was in college.

I should have just gone to the University of Alabama and saved my parents thousands of dollars instead of going to a private college in Virginia.

Here’s the irony.  If I would have done those things differently like I “should have” done, I wouldn’t have gained the experience that I have know to even though that those things were what I would have wanted.

I would have probably just have ended up more confused with even more “should have’s”.

So I here am, still paying off college debts because I was “supposed to” go to Liberty University in Virgina.  When I could have just gone to Alabama.

In theory, if I could go back and do things in the parallel What If Universe, I would have been more confident in high school, I wouldn’t be in debt because of college, and I would have gotten a more specific education and would now be a famous author with a major book deal and a 40 state tour to sell my book, Scenic Route Snapshots.  They end up making a movie from my book, starring James Franco.

That’s me totally romanticizing my life.

But I’m here instead.  A great life.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

I just have to quiet that daydreaming tendency in me that wonders “what if?” Of course if I really lived in that What If Universe, I have a feeling I would still end up in the same place.  Dang flash-sideways.  Actually, things would probably be less desirable.

I would always be wondering how my life would have been different had I left the state of Alabama after high school graduation.  I would always be curious about that exotic life I never got to live.  I would be envious of the life I live now.

It’s often easiest to want the things we can never have.  Like the ability to go back and live in the What If Universe.

Whether or not my life would be changed, I couldn’t say the same for the lives of a few others in my life.  The reason my sister and her husband met was because of where I went to college.  Out of state.  The kids they end up having, in some fashion, I helped bring them into existence by my random dream to go to college in Lynchburg, Virginia.

And another married couple I brought together unintentionally:  During my senior year of college I ran the front desk of Liberty University’s brand new state-of-the-art student center, equipped with an Olympic sized pool and 6 basketball court.  I worked the early morning shift with a girl named Jen.  Every morning these two funny guys named Chris and Jesse came in to work out in the gym.

A few months went by of the usual random conversations I would have with them as they came in. The whole time, Jen was right there sitting beside me- the more soft-spoken one of us who observed and participated in our conversations of the day:  “Which movie is scarier?  The original Willy Wonka or The Wizard of Oz?”

For my birthday that year, Chris and Jesse performed a special dance and song they had written just for me, with the lyrics, “Naughty Nick, naughty, naughty Nick…” The corresponding dance moves involved syncopated pelvic thrusts and a finale where they pulled underwear out of their shorts and left them on the floor as a birthday souvenir.   (Check the comments on the “About the Author” tab on this site.  Jesse recently reminded me of all this, bringing this post into existence.)

Soon after, I took off a day from work.  I returned the next day to find out that Jen agreed to go on a date with Chris- a motorcycle ride and dinner, to be exact.  That was five years ago.  They have since been married and recently had their first child.

What if?  What if I wouldn’t have forced my friendly abstract banter with those two guys day after day?  Would Jen and Chris have broken the ice?  Or would he have just been another guy going to the gym have morning and she just another girl checking for student ID’s at the front desk?

Have I changed their lives forever by playing an off-beat pawn that caused them both to be on the same track?

The same could be said for John, the guy who introduced my wife and me to each other.

Thank God for all the times we don’t get to live out the “what if’s?”  My guess is that it’s often the somewhat seemingly bland path we did choose that leads us to take the scenic route.  And that leads us to the things we love most about our lives.

For the more comical version, read “Must Punch Punk Kid in Face”  http://wp.me/pxqBU-F5

Dr. Deja Vu: The Scenic Route

If I could go back in time and speak to the version of myself from ten years ago, I would give myself “good advice”. About which college to go to, what to major in, what hobbies to take up, and where to live after I graduate college. About what to say to people and what not to say. There are a lot of things I would tell myself to do differently. So that I could become the best me.

But then I would be a much different person today. In essence, I wouldn’t be me. Though I would have life figured out, it wouldn’t be my life.

From 1995 to 2006, I spent hundreds of hours writing and recording and performing music. All that time, it seems all I really did was keep myself entertained. At the surface, it led to nothing lasting.

But writing hundreds of songs made it easy for me to write for this website. It took an old hobby to make a new one.

If I went back to myself ten years ago and told myself to take up an interest in daily creative writing (instead of music) so I could eventually have a website that a small corner of the world reads, the younger version of myself probably wouldn’t have been very motivated.

Life is made up of countless bland surprises that end up shaping who we are.  The ordinary turns into the exciting.

And of course my musical past is only one minor detail in the strand of events that brings me to my present day.  But without it,  I wouldn’t have moved to Nashville to pursue a musical career and a year later met my wife.

So what’s the best advice I can give myself today? Don’t go back in time and give yourself advice. It would only mess up everything. Not help it.

As much as I try to structure and plan out my life, it has ended up being something slightly different instead. Instead of taking the interstate, by instinct I end up on the scenic route every time. Capturing my current thoughts and perspectives in my writings which become like snapshots. Scenic route snapshots.

“And when I look behind on all my younger times, I’ll have to thank the wrongs that led me to a love so strong.” – “Perfectly Lonely” by John Mayer