A Birthday Mystery

As I reflect today on 43 years on God’s green earth three stories keep rolling through my mind. I’m not sure exactly how they are connected, but I have a feeling they are, and I’m fairly certain I’m supposed to figure it out. Maybe you can help me?

(Note* The first two stories are things I don’t talk about very often, and many do not know. If you’re not looking for that much knowledge about me well, you’ve been warned.)

The first story - When I was 3 my Mom got divorced, and while I know there are different sides to every story and details I probably wasn’t aware of, the fact of the matter is that my biological father was largely absent from my life from that point forward. There were some visits. There was some contact, but what I remember most is that he would cancel visits often, show up very late, and sometimes not at all - and his new wife is one of 3 things I’ve had nightmares about in 43 years. She was just not a nice person. His stepsons were no walks in the park either.

So it’s understandable I think that after awhile I became detached, and eventually I just got pissed off and said I didn’t really give a damn, and I didn’t.

The last time I remember seeing Wayne, his name is Wayne - was the Christmas of what must have been 1978. I remember the year because it is part of the story. You see Wayne asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and with my “I don’t give a damn attitude,” I decided to go pie in the sky and ask for all the things I really wanted - top 3 on my list.

I wanted a rocket, a whole box of hockey cards, and a television set, and when I showed up for Christmas at my Grandmother’s (Wayne’s mother), I got exactly those 3 things and that was the last Christmas I spent any time with Wayne.

The rocket went back to his farm where we were “going to” set it off together. The hockey cards were combined with the rest of my card collections, played with and eventually sold when I was 19 or so because I was short on cash.

I still have the television. It still has the sticker that says 1978. It hasn’t been turned on in years. Even with a cable adapter it’s probably not even usable with all the new digital cable and such, but I cannot seem to let it go. I once put in on the truck at the thrift store, but immediately panicked and pulled it back. It was in our last garage sale, but I was relieved when no one bought it. Today, it sits with a collection of other garage sale items that have yet to be disbursed. I don’t know that it will be among those to go.

I don’t know why...

The second story - When I was 6 my Mom met and married a great guy who had no qualms whatsoever about her having kids. Instant family just add Rick, as a friend of mine would say. My Dad (Rick), wasn’t an instant father sensation, but he did pretty well for himself in the parent department and we grew very close. When I’m talking about my Dad, I’m talking about Rick. By the time I was 7 or 8 I was using Rick’s last name and when I was 14 he adopted me and I was officially his son.

My Dad is in Quality Control, which for folks who don’t know means - we moved a lot. QC folks can take one of 3 paths when they come into a new job. 1. They go into the company and tell the employees what they need to change, the employees balk - eventually the QC guy pisses off the wrong head honcho and they part ways. 2. The QC guy goes in, the employees adopt his methods, everybody loves everybody - The QC guy gets bored because there is nothing to fix. He stays with the company and retires pretty miserable. 3. The QC guys finds a new challenge at a new company, moves and the cycle continues.

My Dad chose the 3rd option so we moved a lot. Sometimes that was not as much fun as it sounds like.

Inevitably, at some point shortly after a move my Dad would notice that I wasn’t happy or I was sulking or I was bored or some other indicator he never shared with me, and we would head off on a Saturday morning car ride, and then to breakfast or brunch. Something like that. As an adult, I realize that my Dad was trying to get me to talk to him, to let him know how I was feeling, what was going on in my head, probably trying to determine if there was something he could fix.
As a kid, because my Dad would just say: “let’s go for a ride,” I always thought he had something up his sleeve. Were we going somewhere really cool? Were we picking up one of my friends from our old neighborhood at the bus station? Things like that.

I would get all amped up, end up giving him one word answers to every question he asked, be pissed off that we didn’t do anything “good,” and eat a disappointing meal I couldn’t wait to get home from.

Why didn’t I ever just ask my Dad what he was doing?

The third story - Last Saturday we went out with some friends to celebrate 2 birthdays, mine and my friend Renee’s.

While we were out I was talking to another friend and she stopped and asked me: “How are you doing?”

I could tell that she really wanted to know how I was, my mental state, my life condition if you will, so I paused, thought about it and said: “You know, I’m doing really good.”

She said: “I can tell. You seem a lot happier lately.”

We talked a little more about things that were happening, jobs, family, such... but I in the back of my mind, and still today apparently I keep coming back to that. What does “You seem a lot happier lately” mean?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad my friend noticed that. I’m glad I’m showing folks I’m as happy as I am. Still, as it has been quite some time since I was unhappy I’m wondering what has changed.

How have I changed?

So there you have it - Three stories rolling through my head -all with what I think are pretty significant questions - not seemingly related, but somehow I think they are.

Can you help me figure it out?

I Hope You Have One Just Like You...

I really like my kids.

I say that because I’ve been having this debate with my sister about “the one your parents wished on you.”

I’m sure, everyone has experienced first hand or heard the stories about parents who said something like: “I hope you have a child just like you when you grow up. Then you’ll know what I have to deal with...”

Blah, blah, blah... (Sorry Mom.)

My Mom said it to me, and there were a couple times when my girls were young that I thought - “Oh, this one is the one my Mom wished on me, or No, maybe it’s this one.”

When I really sit down and think about it though... It’s neither one of them.

My girls are both really good kids. They are their own unique selves. They are both very well behaved. They both make good choices. They both have great friends and peer groups.

When I think about myself as a kid, I honestly have a very difficult time finding anything about them that is “just like me.”

My sister posits that perhaps I’ve escaped the curse of “the one just like me.”

I have a different theory In fact, I have a secret.

You know I’m going to share it with you. Ready?

I have gone out of my way to make sure my kids are not like me.

It’s no secret that I think being a kid, being a teenager, heck growing up in general is one of the hardest thing that any of us has to do.

So I’ve tried to make it easier for my kids.

Oh they don’t lack for discipline. In fact, if you ask both girls they will tell you that there have been times in their lives when they were just flat out afraid of what I might do when they got in trouble. I’m not sure why. I think I’d have to try hard to find five spankings between them and I don’t know that either of them has ever been grounded or lost a privilege for longer that it took me to explain to them why they might lose that privilege. Still they have both told me there were times when they were afraid.

That’s good. Fear works for parenting.

But you can’t have fear alone.

You have to have trust, and most of all you have to have honesty. You also have to know when to give, pick and choose your battles as they say. Finally, sometimes you just have to let it go.
So what does that all mean?

I’ve told my kids from day one that when they were born they did not come with an instruction manual. No book came flying out of their mother that told me “how to raise them,” and sometimes I was, well I was just going to screw it up.

It’s inevitable. No parent gets everything right all of the time. But I also told my kids that I would be the first one to tell them I was wrong and I would do everything I could to fix things to make them right.

I only asked one thing in return.

Be honest with me. Don’t hold back information. Don’t twist the facts. Just tell me like it is, and we’ll figure it out.

… and we have.

Now my girls aren’t perfect. They’ve pulled their fair share of stunts. They’ve caused trouble. They’ve taken me to points where I wanted to pull my hair out.

But we’ve always made it right, and sometimes we just let it go.

What? Let it go?

Sure, why not?

I’m sure every parent reaches a point with their children where they just have no idea why? What thought process could possibly be behind that child’s decision? How on earth? What the... (Hey buddy, this is a family blog.)

But you just want an answer?


I’ll give you an example. Right now, my youngest daughter has taken to spending entire weekends at friend’s houses, and sometimes those friends spend entire weekends at our house.

I mean like literally, they pretty much live there weekends. I don’t get it. Don’t they want to go home at some point? Don’t they need to have their space, their stuff?

Baffles me.

But then I think: “Wait a minute, I have friends I’d like to spend the whole weekend with too. In fact, except for the fact that we don’t have sleepovers sometimes we do spend the whole weekend with the same friends.”

So what’s the big deal?

Of course there is no big deal. There’s not really an issue at all. So why get all worked up about it? Why not just let it go? Let.It.Go. Just let your kids be kids. They are not hurting anything, and heck sometimes when they stay at our house they make me cookies. So you know... Score!

It seems to me that sometimes so much of parenting is just a series of arbitrary decisions, choices we make for no other reason than “because they are there.”

I don’t get that.

Who knows, maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I did escape the curse.

Or maybe I made a choice.

I think every parent who wants to can make the same choice, and I wish them all the best of luck.

I love you K and D. Thanks for being good kids.

iWalk for Ryan

We met our friends Greg and Kelly in 1999, (maybe late 1998). Over the course of the next few years we spent a lot of time with them, watched them get married, helped them move into an apartment together, and did all the things that fast friends do.

But unfortunately, in this world where we are all too busy and time progresses so rapidly eventually we just didn’t spend as much time together. They were moving into a new home and beginning to raise a family, Netter was closing down her day care business and rejoining the work force because our girls were much older and always involved with school activities. You know how it goes...

We made sure we got to see Kelly and Greg as often as possible, meeting for the occasional dinner, drinks, night out and such, but as they began to have a family we were all just always busy.

Fortunately, we would still try and reconnect on occasion, but Netter and I never really got to know their kids - at least not then.

As Kelly and Greg’s kids have gotten older we have all tried to make sure we still spend some time together with our girls babysitting their boys. Still, we didn’t really know the boys. We always kept up with what they were doing, activities they were involved in, Facebook pics and the like, but we didn’t know them.  

We knew that Kelly and Greg’s younger son Ryan had been diagnosed with Autism so we started to ask a few questions, not prying, not getting in their business, but you know these are our friends, younger friends, don’t see them as often as we’d like to friends, but friends and we are concerned.

When we would get together and the girls would babysit at their house we always said hi to Greg and Kelly’s boys, but they were flirting with the girls, bargaining for bedtimes with their Mom - typical kid stuff. One evening their oldest son was being particularly flirty, so much so that I didn’t even notice that Ryan was not involved until a little tug came at my knee.

I looked down to see the brightest smile and a little boy with his arms outstretched for a hug.

“Wow!” I thought, and I kneeled down to give him a hug and ask him how he was, and what he was up to. Was he going to have fun that night with the girls, stuff like that.

… and I didn’t think anything of it - until...

The next time we all got together the whole scene repeated itself, and the next time, and again.

This little boy was making time for me, time to say hello, and give me a hug and heck I admit it I was hooked.

Ryan has my heart big time. I would do anything for him.

Autism has always been one of my hot button conditions. Why on earth God, (or whoever you believe in) could screw around with children with something like that is just beyond any comprehension. I’m not going to get up on my soapbox, but suffice to say finding a cure for Autism is a cause I fully support.

Remember, I run The MJB Foundation. We’re all about making sure kids experience the Joy of childhood, the Joy that all kids should experience. Anything that gets in the way of that is not alright with me.

So yesterday, on behalf of The MJB Foundation and our family we all attended Walk Now for Autism Speaks at The Ohio State University here in Columbus. Joining Ryan and his family and friends to support this cause was the very least we could do for this magical little boy.

I shot a video for The MJB Foundation blog. I thought I might share it here too. Here I will also confess that this is take 2. I got a little emotional in the first take. If you notice the gaps in this take, that’s me “controlling” the emotion.

If you can’t see the video click here.

If you’d like to join Ryan’s team please click here.



You hear it all the time, (heh).

“If I only had more time...”


I spent a lot of time this summer clearing things off my plate. It’s no secret that I have been doing a lot of reflecting, wondering about the “whys” of so many things in my life, and there has always been one consistent.

I am too friecking busy.

Or so I thought...

So, starting in the Spring I began to really look at what exactly was keeping me busy. As we progressed into summer I gave a few projects back, crossed a few things off the list that didn’t really need to get done, or just didn’t hold the same promise that they did when originated and started well, saying “no” sometimes.

I’m not going to lie, the last was the hardest. I don’t like to say no. It feels selfish. It feels wrong. It feels like I don’t want to help people, and that is not me.

But as a friend said to me recently, and Chris Brogan talked about here a few weeks ago saying yes too early or too often has its own set of ramifications.  If you’re working on too many things at once it’s hard to do them all well and then... Well then what are you selling?

Even with that - I felt overwhelmed.

I started to be really guarded with my free time, spending most of it with just family and a select group of friends. I wasn’t shutting anybody out per se, but I was making sure I was doing things that I “wanted” to do.

In August, eager to be rid of my Blackberry I wiped the phone completely clean as soon as I activated my new Droid. Oops!

So many notes tied to so many to do lists were obliterated. I had checked for contacts and pictures, but forgotten completely about all of the other info I had stored in that device.

As I considered the ramifications of this it began to dawn on me that it might actually be a good thing. I knew of only a couple of the things on that list that were “mission critical,” and as I remembered them I jotted them down. The rest... I left to history.

Still, I felt so busy.

If I just had more time...

So a couple weeks ago I started to try and really pay attention to how I was spending my time.

Here’s what I discovered.


I waste a LOT of time.

I’m not going to break it down into a lot of intricate detail, but suffice to say that I spend large parts of my days paying attention to details that don’t necessarily lead to getting things done. Not all of it is bad or negative, but it became clear that it was definitely time to figure out what was more important...

The to do list and the stress of not having enough time, or just being comfortable being me?

I think the answer is really a little of both, but for the most part I’m opting for the latter. So, I’ll be revisiting my pockets and looking at what’s left of the to do list and trying to have a lot less stress about the whole process.

I think making sure I can do a few things well instead of a lot of things half-assed, (as my Dad would say) is a better plan in general, and a goal worth working on long term, a goal that will give me more time, or at least help me spend my time better. 

What are you working on?