Don’t Wait for Someday!

Two of my many memories of my dad are of him being my coach in Little League and all the times over the years when he would say, “Someday we will not be able to do this.”

Ah, baseball, what a passion he had. Dad was a great athlete in his youth, growing up and playing ball in Lamberton, MN and then at Augsburg College. He was drafted and played baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals as a young and upcoming pitcher. He was given the name “Doc” because he always had ace bandages on some part of his body. All indications were that he was going to make it to the big leagues. However, God apparently had a different plan.

Dad came down with tuberculosis, a devastating illness that at the time had no cure. He was quarantined for over two years, putting an end to his baseball career. Maybe this was when he learned to really embrace life, charity, and compassion. Maybe this was when his lifelong motto “Someday we will not be able to do this” was developed. I wonder what would have happened if penicillin had not been discovered—would I be here? Or, what would my life have been like had my father been a professional athlete? Would I have been born? Would there be a Bob? This becomes a whole series of unanswerable questions that can mess with my mind if I let it.

Redirecting following a setback
God does work in amazing ways: What looked like the loss of a great baseball career actually resulted in an amazing career in business. My dad took a setback and redirected himself into a great life filled with career success and, more importantly, a successful life. He had an impact on, and appreciation for, those around him. He developed his faith. He embraced compassion, generosity, and grace. Dad’s faith became the foundation for how he lived his life. I believe his experience with a serious illness also instilled an amazing drive to succeed—he loved to win (Sounds a little “Trumpish” doesn’t it? However, Dad’s ego was far less apparent). Dad loved the feeling of success and felt that being at the top of the game was a hallmark and defined success. This was a trait that I learned to love. However, as I have discovered, as many of us should, this was also a family-of-origin issue that I did not handle well in the past and is often an issue we should all take a hard look at.

Strommen Blog Pic 5.27.16Back to his coaching: What a great experience to spend this kind of time with my dad. It was special for me as well as my fellow teammates who got to know and respect my dad. I was very proud to call him DAD. He tried hard to make me a pitcher, too—I had a strong arm. Dad got into great shape as he had to run after the balls as they flew over his head in the backyard. I was being taught to pitch although it was a skill I never mastered. But was there more going on than just learning to pitch? Was I learning to handle adversity? Was I learning that someone else’s talents do not need to be mine? Was I learning to find my “niche” in this athletic world, to continue to strive to do my best with the support and love of someone else? It turns out I was learning all of these lessons. However, it seems I did not bring these lessons quickly to the forefront in terms of my maturity and growing up.

There were many times when Dad would suggest doing something as a family and follow it with, “Let’s do it! Someday we will not be able to do this.” I would think, sure, let’s go without a great deal of thought as to what he was really saying. We had great times and made great memories. I became friends with my dad and mom—not that they were perfect—all relationships have flaws. However, what did develop in our relationship was grounded with grace and love, allowing us to overlook human flaws. That went both ways!

A number of years ago, Dad’s motto became very meaningful. My parents suggested we all take an amazing trip to Europe together. Yup, the suggestion was followed with, “Let’s do it, someday we will not be able to do this!” Off we went to Greece and Istanbul. I recall standing on the back of the small cruise ship talking to Dad after our final evening’s private dinner. As we cruised into the straits leading to Istanbul, he said, “I just am not feeling right. I’ve got to get to the bottom of why I feel this way, Bob.” I acknowledged his statement but didn’t give it a great deal of thought other than agreeing and showing interest and support as Dad was always in tune with his health (in large part due to his TB experience 50 years earlier). He was right, a little more than a month later he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away 13 months later. He was so right, let’s do things now as we do not know what the future holds. Someday we will not be able to do this!

Don’t wait for “Someday”
This reflection and memory is making more sense and has a deeper meaning as I get older. I realize that life is short and precious. I realize there are no guarantees for tomorrow. I guess this is what is driving some of my decisions today. I cannot wait to have a relationship with God. I cannot wait to take time with my children and grandchild. I cannot wait for “someday” to have life experiences, to serve others, to embrace life, and convince others that I am ok or that our relationship can work. I cannot wait to express how I feel today as I might not be around tomorrow. I as well as all of us, need to understand that there are many aspects of life we have no control over and that sometimes others need to take the initiative if it is important as we cannot make anyone else care or love. Not only am I challenging myself, I encourage others to look at what “someday” activities we need to do now that is meaningful to ourselves, to those that we care so much for and who are receptive to our passion of love, care, trust, honor, and respect.

I challenge everyone who is following my writings (Well I guess you are if you are reading this last paragraph—I am brilliant that way.) to do this: To not only create your “Someday bucket” list, but work intentionally in checking it off. I am guessing many of us will have far fewer regrets if we do just that.

Signing off now as I am starting to create my bucket list tonight. Someday I may not be able to.

 

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Lesson Learned

As I sit on the cabin deck this Sunday morning, I submit this preamble to a future Rambling on Courage

Courage to be transparent(vulnerable), especially if you are already  fearful of vulnerability can be either amazingly freeing, or it can tuck you back into your emotional guarded egg shell.

Let me share two real stories;

The Positive: I knew I had bruised two business relationships, I reaching out to both for coffee, I took the personal risk to acknowledge where I was wrong and asked for grace and forgiveness. In both I was received with amazing grace and compassion. The relationship became closer as a result. It felt and continues to feel so rewarding and fantastic.

The Not So Good; a personal relationship that was growing significantly and I expressed a feeling that I wanted to validate, an expression that I thought was exposing my vulnerability, removing a bit of my internalized armor to be vulnerable between us. To bring us closer. The result, I was reminded and It was held over me multiple times how it created the opposite ( I was told “you will regret you ever told me what you were thinking and validating”.. So true!). The armor was put back on, shame of intimacy grew a bit deeper.

What did I learn that is the soul of this Rambling that is worthy to ponder?

TWO LESSONS LEARNED;

1-Willingness to have the courage to be vulnerable can create amazingly positive results that builds intimacy and relationships. (Brene Brown would call this adding marbles to your marble friend jar)

2- When vulnerability creates the opposite result, discuss it, express how the challenge and slap down(s) made you feel. Clarify the vulnerability expressed, if it remains something being held over your head, a marble or two were just removed from your marble friend jar and intimacy and safety become severely bruised.

Both these lessons were invaluable. Lesson #2 haunts me to this day as I did not do this as well as I should, in large part I had not learned lesson #1 as I know it today. The person, has no clue how it affected me and us!

Lessons learned in life are endless. Life growth is painful, yet also rewarding at the same time.

So as I sit on the cabin deck this Sunday morning, A coffee cup toast  to lessons learned 1 & 2 and the rewards we all receive from life growth.

Living a Life of “Today!”

An unedited rambling as I sit at the cabin this Sunday morning

Before I left for the cabin this weekend, I was reading and was struck with the convergence of thoughts and experiences from my reading Ragamuffin Gospel. I was again touched by the message of grace and outward living, I was directed to a new book that I will tackle “The Moviegoer by Walker Percy” and then the image and writings of ERMA BROMBECK came to mind. I did some google research on ERMA and discovered her posting; “If I could live my life over I would….” (Maybe we should just stop, pause and reflect on that one for a while….great heading for a journal post don’t you think? Seriously, stop right here and answer the question for yourself). This Erma title is a worthy question that we wish we could at times do as it asks, yet hopefully the list is short. The reality is we learn from the past and live for the future.

I was struck by the collection of common themes that all converged within 30 minutes Friday  morning and began to reflect on the wonders of “Living a Life of Today!”

I was struck by the realization that I have slowly been changing in how I consciously live a little more each day. I have come to realize that this statement and perspective has significance far deeper than the words and is slowly and methodically (patience bob) creating the foundation for a different and impactful life for myself and those around me.

I recall after graduation from Augsburg College and in my first career job teaching, my wife and I made the decision that instead of working during the summer months we would travel, we had not started a family yet and decided that our teaching careers allowed us an unusual opportunity to experience the United States each summer with no special plan other than the direction.

WEST, we stopped at the Corn Palace (Don’t be envious, we hit all the high spots that would make any worldly traveler envious), Wall Drug, Mt Rushmore, Glacier and eventually San Francisco, EAST: Chicago, Great Lakes, New York, Washington DC, SW: Arizona, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, you get the picture. As we meandered in our yellow, hatchback VEGA, we took side trips encourage by paint pealed wooden arrows that expounded “WORLD FAMOUS VIEWS, HISTORIC SITES and CAN’T MISS OPPORTUNITIES!” sometimes we experienced as the sign promoted, but most times the experience was as tattered as the sign that directed us.

Despite the frequent disappointments, we were affected by each experience; we learned from the experience, we grew from the unknown that became the known. We had kept our eyes open and found wonder in what we discovered regardless of the depth of the paint peel and condition of the experience. Think about this, this applies to those around us as well. You know, those people who have paint peeled, worn skin and expressions on their faces. Those whose clothes are tattered and worn, those that you may avoid as it does not appear that there is value in the relationship or connection. They are much like our travels, they are Surprises far more worthy of the experience than you can imagine…in fact you may find those tattered individuals and experiences a far greater surprise than the shiny, top of the chart promotion or attraction that cost $15 to enter and experience.

As time progresses it is easy to lose some of that spontaneous wonder of living a life of excitement and wonder. It is easy to become to focused on career, on performance and how we are guided to defined success.

I remained fully committed to my kids in being fully engage in their lives, hardly missed a significant or even a minor event in their lives; concerts, conferences, plays, athletic events, church activities, coached their teams for 14 summers and at times the winters off season leagues as well, whatever they may be participating in we were there in spirit, body and encouragement. Despite that, I was much like the planet of SATURN, I had many rings in my life, yet I had concentrated so hard on the planet and the first ring (children) that I hardly was aware that her were other rings that should have made up my life. I had become so self-centered on performance driven outcome that I lost perspective on how to truly live my life for the long term and what really mattered beyond my children and career. I actually feel, as I reflect on it today, that I was actually dying each day in a way that I was unaware.

What a mistake, (We are so human filled with sins and mistakes) as it contributed to defining family of origin. I did not realize till recently how this had affected me. Life experiences enable those who pay attention to be more in tune with the “outer rings of Saturn” those wonders of life,  those around us and  how surprises, prompted by outward engagement changes how ee view life, view relationships, view family, view ourselves. It is not me that is so rewarding, it is those around me. What a great reset in perspective.

I love the term reset as it donates vibrance, change, excitement, maturity and rewards that have not been experienced in the past.

I am coming to realize that it is not only those who have succeeded that are so impressive and life changing (these are easy people to hang with), it is those that have failed, those who are struggling, those Ragamuffins that we often look past that have so much to offer who have so much to receive (these are the ones that will test our soul, compassion and heart. We can all sit with great with pride with those who have succeeded, but can we sit with the fallen with even more satisfaction?

Remember my earlier statement…. For me to consciously be “living a little more each day as opposed to dying a little each day”

What does that really mean? Let me share with you a recent, personal experience that may put this in perspective as it clearly did for me. I was on a run by Lake of the Isles on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and saw an elderly gentleman shuffling on the sidewalk that I was about to turn onto, as I was running past I was moved to stop, take off my ear buds and walk back and wish him well, we engaged, talked briefly on the wonders of the weather, life and chatted briefly. I again wished him well, thanked him for the brief exchange and took off. I have no idea what he was thinking, but I was moved my desire to stop and engage, I was disappointed that I did not stay with him longer (one of those live my life over experiences). To this day, I look for him to re-engage in our conversation, to forgo my running and get to know this gentleman. I feel that we would be good for each other. Despite this short exchange, I was rewarded with his kindness, his gentleness and his smile as we visited. HE WAS A SURPRISE TO ME that made the balance of my run so rewarding. I have committed to look each day as I run and live to BE THE SURPRISE as I am sure I will discover a reward or be the reward for the experience.

This brings me to the close of this rambling with a request that you watch this clip below….as you watch, think not only of your parents, but your children, extended family, friends and centers of influence, think of those special people in our life and remember that tomorrow my not come. Remember that “I will do it later” thoughts can result in amazing disappointments and that today is the day to show how you care.

https://www.facebook.com/UpLiftingbibleVerses/videos/10153808021284652/

As sit at the cabin, Thank You for reading this spontaneous and unedited rambling

Dirty Hands

During my college days I was fortunate to get good summer jobs—not easy jobs—but grueling, physical, dirty jobs at the railyard replacing rail and ties, in construction, and at the Ford plant building trucks. What I thought I was doing was simply making good money and getting physically prepared for fall soccer. However, as I discovered later, I was actually being prepared for life and learning lessons that would serve me well in the future.

Dirty Hands Bob Strommen Blog

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt – Margaret Atwood

By the end of that summer I was fit, toughened up, and my hardened, callused hands proof that I was ready for fall soccer. Perhaps more important, I was better prepared for life, as a captain of the soccer team, I was in a better position to lead by example for the upcoming season, I was better prepared for the toughness of life. I recall my first day of my first job: I was working for the Soo Line railroad the summer after my freshman year. The yard foreman looked around at a crew of clean-cut college kids fresh from the suburbs and asked to see the palms of our hands. As we displayed our hands, palms up, he not so subtly said “Just what I blankety-blank (his exact words would not be appropriate here) thought—you have never had a real job—let’s see if you know how to work.”

Did I enjoy that summer in the rail yard of the Soo Line Railroad in Columbia Heights? Heck no. Was it an invaluable experience that allowed me to walk into future summer jobs with a new sense of confidence and experience? Yes. Did future summer job foremen understand that I was better suited for the summer ahead? Yes. Would the lessons I learned impact me? Yes. Have I carried them with me throughout my adult life? Absolutely, but at times with too much pride. Since then, and more accurately recently, I have learned the value of others opinions, accepting them more graciously and with interest. Not everyone’s opinions, but those that have earned the right to give them.

I had received a gift—getting my hands dirty—that at the time I didn’t have the tools to appreciate.

Since then, and more accurately recently, I have learned the value of others opinions, accepting them more graciously and with interest. Not everyone’s opinions, but those that have earned the right to give them.

In the second to last Rocky movie, there is a scene where Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) talks to his son. He says something to the effect “It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how many times you can get up after being hit that counts!”

In my opinion, it’s the person whose face has been bloodied, who has the scars of experience, sacrifice, toil, failure, and battle who has earned the right to express a meaningful opinion worthy of consideration. In fact, I like how Teddy Roosevelt framed it in “The Man in the Arena,” I have included an excerpt from the speech he delivered in April 1910 at the Sorbonne, in Paris.

Dirty Hands Quote Strommen Blog

I have been in the “arenas” of business, relationships, faith, and athletics. I have felt like Rocky Balboa in his first fight against Apollo Creed—beat up and bloody, but still standing. I struggle with regret, I mourn over losses that I have no control to correct. I desire to take the shoulders of those I have failed to ask for forgiveness, wishing they would take a look at me today and not totally judge me by the past. I am thankful that some have, and others regrettably choose to hang on to the past and not what the future can be.

Dirty Hands Face QuoteI have learned however, that control cannot be taken. Control must be earned, given or maybe more importantly, shared. This was reinforced when I was blessed with asking for forgiveness of some I have been associated with in the past. The expression of vulnerability and grace I expressed was overwhelming and created a bond that was not there in the past. Trust began to be re-established. What a wonderful experience grace can be and at the same time difficult lesson to have learned.

Where is the Mycitracin ointment to heal my wounds? (Is there Mycitracin for the soul and heart? Gosh I wish there was, maybe God infused Mycitracin is available? Doubt CVS or Walgreen’s carries it!). My wounds are healing slowly, but the scar will remain as they will be my reminder to get up and learn from my failures and get on with my life.

I feel blessed that I have received, and continue to receive, an amazing gift from those around me—ADVICE. I’ve received advice from those who have gotten their own face and soul bruised and bloodied. I have been, and continue to be, blessed by these same individuals who are willing to be intimate in our conversation and who care about me and others they touch beyond themselves. These authentic people are the ones I value. I challenge others to surround themselves with those who have been in the arena and to graciously listen to what they say as they are real in their perspectives.

I thank them for their emotional intimacy, for helping me mature and change, (gosh maybe that is God’s way of giving me that Heart Mycitracin I have been looking for), to help me look at life through a different lens, to challenge thoughts and beliefs, to help me do my best to be good. Who knows what the future has in store, maybe God has a surprise for me? Maybe forgiveness and 2nd chances can be the surprise? Time will tell as I have no control other than my faith and how I choose to live my life going forward.

I encourage all to reflect on a relationship that has suffered, and to reach out and demonstrate or ask for grace, the outcome can be life changing and the relationship will never be the same.

Why else do I keep getting up?…… I care!

Surprised This Morning

This is a true rambling, spontaneous and unedited as I was surprised and was the surprise this morning. What a great start to the day. I felt a need to share.

Positional power, career, elected office, title, as a parent, as our self identity are all temporary.

Personal Power, that which is in our heart is eternal, is forever. That integrity factor, that which pumps through our veins. It is the most amazing muscle we have, our heart that works to sustain our life.

This morning I was reminded that we must constantly be nurturing our heart with substance. We must be feeding it with purpose, grace and external insight.

We need to fulfill our true life purpose by living a montra “More you give, more I receive”.

That  love, money, power and  sexuality, are all blessed by God. Blessed as long there is not a deficiency or abundance, you know, balanced with a caring heart.

We need to fertilize the roots of our heart to be strong and deep, nurturing our substance, not the image of green grass with shallow roots. We need to find the right purpose and right fertilizer that Keeps our focus on serving, not being served!

Have a wonderful Mothers Day