Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 26, 2013: Tag... You're It!

View of Camelback mountain during my morning walk on the retreat grounds today...


Well, another week, another couple of business trips for Ang and me.

I just got home tonight from working on the Grief and Loss Retreat in Phoenix, and Ang leaves for Philly at 5 am.  She gets back on Halloween in the Afternoon, then heads back out next week for Minneapolis.  Then, later in the month, I travel back to Jacksonville for the annual American Music Therapy Association conference to teach, reconnect, and serve as regional President-Elect (read: meetings meetings meetings! hahaha)  That same week, Ang has to travel back to Minneapolis again.

Thank God for Grandmas!

The grief retreat was WONDERFUL.  20 participants, and FOUR of them were men!  That's almost a record percentage... usually we have between 0 and 2 men.  And... the four men all did GREAT work. It was great to watch as the men were all in their 60's and 70's, and men of that generation are traditionally and generally conditioned not to get in touch with their tender emotions, or share/show them publicly.  There were so many great quotes and slides shared... I wanted to come back slingin' quotes for y'all!

The biggest theme of the weekend was that grief is so subjective and personal.  Even two people grieving the same person will grieve differently because their style plus their relationship to the loved one is unique.  I heard a lot of participants having trouble with siblings or adult children wanting them to do grief according to the sibling or child's preference, not the participants.  Further, it was amazing how many people were getting really inappropriate "professional advice" from family members regarding the need to go on medication because it had 'been too long' for them to still be upset.

It was a relief for the participants to hear from each other the crazy things that well-meaning friends and family were heaping on them.  We joked that we're going to make a book compiled from all the retreats called "The Stupid Things People Say..."

Man, do we do grief poorly in our culture!

Why do you think that is?

God night.

Enjoy some scenes from our local pumpkin patch!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013: How fast is your fall moving?


Holy Cow... life is moving so fast.  This past week... WHOOOSH! hahahaha... seriously.  I gotta slow down.  Maybe because it was a short week because of our trip... yeah, that's it... hahaha.  Most likely, it's because of last night and the lead up to it.  Last night, I had the privilege of hosting the largest TEDx Youth event in the world.  Now let me put that in perspective.  In the TED world, there are TED talks and TEDx talks.  About 3 years ago, TED licensed their brand out to independent organizers who had to apply for the right to create their own TEDx talks.  Well, this idea EXPLODED.  Last year, there were something like 6,000 TEDx events worldwide.  Within the TEDx universe, a TEDxYouth galaxy began to grow, with events specifically for kids, by kids, with kids, etc.  That is the realm I found myself last year when I walked out on stage as a TEDx speaker telling kids in that auditorium and online all about music therapy in 7 minutes.

What I didn't realize was that the community that the organizers were building right in my back yard just happened to be the largest TEDxYouth community ANYWHERE.  Just a really cool and lucky break for me to be a part of something like that and have some fun with bragging rights as to being the biggest TEDxYouth community in the world.  It's cool to say that, but look, having 8 year olds sit and listen on a Saturday afternoon to 14 speakers give 7-10 minute talks about all sorts of inspiring topics and ideas... what an amazing nutrient-rich environment for their minds and spirits!  If they are attending TEDx talks at 8,9, or 10... what will they be doing by 20?  Getting to create the energy in the room for the audience and speakers throughout the event was the greatest privilege, because one thing I've learned along the way is that the second most valuable currency, besides time, is attention.  Each of us chooses what we do with our time and our attention... we can invest it, spend it, waste it, but we can't save either, and we can't get either back.  So, when I am on a stage, I recognize that a large group of people are choosing to give me their time and attention.  Last night, that was about 600 kids and adults.  Knowing that the MC is the source of the energy for the event... meaning if the person is lame, the energy in the room is lame, if the person is fun and upbeat, it totally changes the tenor of the whole event... I was really honored to have that responsibility.  Also, since I'm roughly 11 years old mentally and emotionally, I fit right in!

There were so many great moments, too many to mention, but I collapsed in bed really grateful to be a part of such an amazing movement.  If you haven't gotten into TED talks, I recommend checking them out; they are really inspiring.  Just got to and click on a topic that interests you, and listen and learn!

On a different topic, I wanna tell you about two people that make me a better me:

The first person is my wife, Angelique.  I am so proud of her.  She loves what she does, excels at it, and is continuing to grow as a leader each and every year.  It's really great to watch.  Ang is more introverted than I am, but when it comes to laying it down at work, she doesn't hold back.  She is POWERFUL, and not in an egoistic way.  I can comment on this because we both share our home office on a part time basis and I get to hear how she leads conference calls, meetings, interviews, reviews with direct reports, etc, and you can just hear clarity, poise, confidence, commitment to quality, and "I know my Sh_t and if I don't, I'm gonna track it down no matter what" in her voice.  The best thing is what you don't hear.  You don't hear, "I know more than you," "Listen to how smart I am," "I don't like you so I don't care what you have to offer, I'm not listening."

Have you ever 'heard' those phrases in the words of a colleague?  It's like reading between the lines... or hearing what's behind what's being said... I don't know the best way to articulate it, but I think you recognize what I'm talking about.  I never hear Ang's ego talking.  I hear her knowledge, experience, and/or wisdom talking, but not her ego.  It's not about her.  That's a pretty refreshing thing to be around, right?

Another person in my life I get that same vibe from is our praise band director, Dean.  Dean is a world class musician, teacher, conductor, and producer, but there is NEVER any ego present when interacting or working with him on music... only golf.  HA!!!  (Sorry Dean, couldn't resist!)  Seriously, though, when our praise band meets on Sunday mornings before worship, we come in, read through the music once, maybe twice, and then we're ready to rock.  Dean let's each of us pretty much add whatever we hear in the music and is supportive no matter what.  He keeps it fun.  Our banter is always light, goofy, and silly while rehearsing, and I'm always joking that I can't get over how it's 'legal' for us to have so much fun and crack up so much rehearsing for worship!  It's genuinely UP-LIFTING.  I think (hope) that comes across in the music during the worship service.  We genuinely love being there and seeing how we can best offer up the music to lift our congregation.  Our attention is totally on the music... no egos.  It's so refreshing.  The musicianship of the group is really high; most of us are professional musicians and we can still jump in the sandbox on Sunday mornings and play like kids.

Who do you work/play/live with that is like that?  You know, just totally committed to the matter at hand...

Ang and Dean make me a better me.  Who makes you a better you?

God night.

Enjoy... these are from one of Bella's physical therapy sessions... check her out reaching for our PT's watch on my head... working on getting those hips to support her upright... Bella LOVED Eleanor's watch more than any toy!  

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013: Bella's Wings turn 3, and mommy and daddy celebrate life...


Sorry I'm late with this post; we just got home from a much needed getaway.  Angelique's half brother got married last night in Atlantic Beach, FL, and we were there to celebrate.  After considering the cost of 4 plane tickets, we decided to ask grandma and grandpa if they would watch the kids and we would use this trip as our upcoming 10th anniversary weekend.  The real date is November 8, but we couldn't take that romantic getaway we envisioned 3 weeks after a trip across country, so we decided to combine the two!  

The wedding was in the sand at high tide just before sunset.  It was magical.  We flew out 2 days before the wedding for our own little couple time, which was really nice.  However, Friday wasn't just any old day to travel on... It was, well, October 11th, the day Bella earned her butterfly wings 3 years ago.  I remember being holed up in my hotel room last year outside of Chicago getting ready to teach a continuing ed course for music therapists, and how miserable I was.  

All I can say is this year was decidedly different.

Cards from our friends at Children's Cancer Research Fund (PUCK's parent organization), and Ronald McDonald House... two organizations that are pure class...

First, Angelique and I were together.  As a family, our relationship and partnership comes first, over all others, including our children.  So, being together on Friday helped, but at the same time, neither of us we're dreading the day the same as the past two years.  There has been a lot of healing going on over the past year, and we are both in that phase - after you feel bad for so long, and you start to feel good - then, you feel bad because you are starting to feel good again... If you've lost a loved one before, you may know what that's like.  It's weird.  

When working on the grief retreat year after year, one of things I counsel participants on is the fact that you don't forget your loved one, it's just that the pain and sting connected to the memories fades over time, and you are left with the memories, and sometimes they may make you happy, and sometimes sad, but that jab of pain doesn't have to last.  In fact, it's normal and natural for that feeling to come, hang out, and then over time, recede.... If we're willing to face the feelings, acknowledge them, FEEL them, and then be willing to release them.

Well, we're moving through our grief, and this year, October 11 wasn't nearly as bad as last year, and for that I am grateful.  It will always suck, don't get me wrong, the scar is permanent, but thank God it hurts less and less with each passing year.

The piece that is hardest to deal with is that, while all that sting is receding, I feel somehow farther and farther away from Bella.  I miss her.  I will always cherish the 13 months we had with her before she was intubated, but I wish I got to see her amazing personality develop more before losing her.  Having her only words be "Noooo!" And "Owwww," really bites.  Can't fake that one.

Meanwhile, life keeps flying.  Ali has brownies tonight, Ang is working and traveling like crazy for a big project, and I'm hosting this year's TEDx youth event this Saturday, and officiating a wedding on Sunday!  I hate the phrase, "Life goes on," but it does, and we can remain frozen in grief / frozen in time, or we can choose to move through time, remaining connected to those still with us, while honoring the memories of those who will be waiting for us when we earn our wings.

Every time I am on a plane, as it leaves the runway, I say a little prayer to God, relinquishing any illusion of control of my life while in the air.  I close my eyes and see Bella, and see my dad, and know that if this be the day I return home, I will see them shortly.  However, I'm not done down here, so if I might put in a request, it would be for me to return to land safely.  There is more good work to be done.  More books to publish, more talks to give, more songs to sing, and more people to hopefully touch in a positive way.  Like at the end of the movie, "Gladiator," the freed slave says to his ancestors and loved ones, "I WILL see you again...

... But not yet.  Not yet."  

God night. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 6, 2013: Transformation...


Friday marked a big day.

My second book went off to layout design.

As a recovering perfectionist, that was one of those emails that has literally taken YEARS to send.

The book is a prequel to Bella's Blessings, and was actually began in 2003.  I finished it in 2007, found a literary agent who shopped it unsuccessfully in 2008/2009, and then shelved it.

I was crushed by the rejection.  I can still remember some of the feedback from publishers it was sent to.  I will say agent gave up pretty quickly on me; they stopped sending it out after they got about 6 no's.  That's not a lot, but the vibe they were getting was that I was basically a nobody, and the book is a memoir, and nobody is going to pick up a memoir by a nobody.  Said another way, celebrity memoirs sell great, but I "didn't have a big enough platform" to sell from.

Well, then I wrote Bella's Blessings, and self-published.  I figured, okay, I'll publish myself, and that way my tiny little platform can at least experience and benefit from my book.  So, I sold a few hundred books, donated some money to some different charities before coming on board and making PUCK the main beneficiary, and got some nice letters about the inspiration people experienced reading it.

My plan was to release this book sooner, but I honestly lost faith in it after one of the comments from one of the publishers.  The publisher said, "he's got a great marketing plan, now he just needs to write a better book."  I let the comment persuade me that the book wasn't good.  So, it just sat.

Now, I mentioned that I'm a recovering perfectionist, right?  I also have a pretty thin skin, so dealing with rejection was just something I didn't want to deal with again.  I have recently learned that fear of rejection is one of the principal human fears we all struggle with.  I felt better after hearing that.

In addition, I recently made friends with another young speaker like myself, who also has a book out.  His book was an amazon top seller, so I picked his brain on how he did it, and he helped me a ton.  For one, the self-publishing business has changed a bunch since I released Bella's Blessings in 2009.  Can you believe that?  THREE years?  Things move so fast now, it's just amazing.

So, my friend explained to me that there is a specific launch strategy that authors and publishers use to get books to post on best seller lists. I had heard T. Harv Ecker share this exact same strategy at a seminar 3 years ago, and now that I know a little more about it all, it makes a lot of sense.  I also heard a hilarious comment from Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad/Poor Dad.  He was talking to a reporter who was a struggling author.  The author was complaining her books 'weren't going anywhere.' He suggested she take a sales training course and maybe study direct marketing.  The author was offended.  Then, he pointed out that on the cover of his book, it reads, "New York Times Best-Selling Author" NOT "Best-Writing Author."  At this point, the would be author huffed off indignantly.

He reminded me in that story a piece of truth I learned in the music business which is that talent and success are not correlated.  In fact, it seems like they are inversely related!  Have you heard Robin Thicke's single?  Really?  It is the most successful single of the year, but is it the most talented?  I'd argue it's pretty far from that! LOL.  Point being, "TIM, PUBLISH YOUR BOOK.  FOR GOODNESS SAKE, IT'S GOOD ENOUGH."

I titled the post Transformation because that is what the book is all about.  It is a collection of short stories from my life where I transformed some situation from tragedy into triumph.  Some of the stories are light-hearted and funny, and some are pretty intense.  These stories represent the "training ground" where I developed my 'faith muscles.'  Everything that happened in that book led me to be the dad I could be for Bella, and because YOU specifically read THIS blog, you will make that connection more than anyone else who reads the book.

As the recovering perfectionist, I also struggled with the fact that I have written over 500 blog posts on this blog not including Bella's Blessings since I wrote that book, and I'm pretty sure through all that practice, my writing has hopefully improved, so the book might not read well to those who have been following my later works.  It's like listening to an artists' first record that didn't blow up until after their 3rd record finally charted.  You go back and listen to their early material, and sometimes it sounds a bit immature by comparison.  I have a real fear that people will think that about this book, and that is another reason I held onto it.  I wouldn't have to find out if that was the truth or just my fear if I never released it.

Have you ever had a fear that once confronted, wasn't a tenth of what you painted it out to be?  In other words, what's one thing you feared would happen, and when the day came, your fear never materialized?  It's one thing to have fear, that's natural.  But how often do you interrogate your fear?  What is the probability of it happening?  I get stuck focusing on a fear that maybe has a 5% chance of happening and magnifying that fear until it looks like 95% of the picture.

Hate when I do that.

Did you know I wrote and recorded and entire solo album in 2008, and then got caught up in the same conversation about it not being good enough?  It goes with the book; the songs are related to many of the stories and some are straight out of the stories themselves.

I also created 2 7-module training guides for music therapists to help them get their career off the ground and running faster, but only published the first half of it, and have barely let anyone know it exists.  That was in 2011.

Man I really get scared easily.  I'm a creative person; I need to create.  I create, but then I get too scared that my stuff isn't good enough, so I hide it, so I never have to find out.

Hahahaha I feel like I just outed myself or something.  I think I am sharing all this because I can't bear to sit on all these creative works any more.  I have to get them out, imperfect and all, and allow them to create value for those who they will benefit, and let the market decide if they are any good or not.  I have ben so afraid of failure, that I have guaranteed it.  I have been hearing A LOT lately that the way to succeed is to out-fail everyone else you compete with in the marketplace.

That is a complete transformation of thought from where I have been hiding on the sidelines.

Having said alllllll that, I have a favor to ask.  I am struggling with my title.  Now that you know what the book is about, would you mind telling me what title you like better?

1)  "Full Circle:  Life Lessons in Transforming Tragedy into Triumph"  


2)  "Count Your Blessings: Life Lessons in Transforming Tragedy into Triumph"

Thanks for your replies to this.  I end a couple of the short stories with the concept of the story coming full circle, but "Count Your Blessings: memoirs of an 'unlucky kid," was my very first title, and while the second half of the title doesn't tell as much as the new second half, "count your Blessings" totally fits the stories, and ties "Bella's Blessings" to this book.

Okay, I'm gonna shut up now.

Thanks for helping me deal with all this.  It's all been slamming around in my head for far too long.

God night.