Since Melanie and I have decided to move our family to California, the most common question that I’ve been asked is “Why?”. It’s a good question. I can’t give one of the usual answers like “My job is taking me there” or “To get closer to family”. The reason that we’ve decided to move is simply because we have committed to living a life of consciousness, exploration, and fulfillment. A life where anything that we can dream of is possible. We intend to lead by example for our children in that respect. We’ve decided not to live in fear and we are refusing to leave any “what if’s”. It would be easy for us to make up a million reasons why we shouldn’t go, but in reality, those would just be excuses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that if you don’t move, you’re living in fear. I’m a big advocate of living wherever and however you want to live. But live in that place because you want to live there, not because you feel like you “should”. This is exactly where we found ourselves.
Melanie grew up dreaming of living in San Diego. My path almost took me to California once before. Luckily life took a 13 year detour to Chicago. In that time, I’ve married the woman of my dreams, started a successful company, made some life long friends, had two amazing children, and traveled the world. Now it’s finally time to get back on my original path which was pulling me to the west coast. To start the journey off right, I’ll be making a cross country road trip with my Dad. This is all a once in a lifetime opportunity that I won’t let pass.
Since deciding to move, it has been a whirlwind of planning and a rollercoaster of emotions. On the morning of my departure from Sweet Home Chicago, I can tell you this, I’m more invigorated than I’ve been in years. I’m truly excited about life. We’ve realized that we have the potential to create anything we want. We are embarking on an adventure into the unknown, but isn’t that life? Doesn’t that happen wether we choose to or not? Do we really know what tomorrow brings? Wether it is where you live, who you are with, or what you do, choose with intention. I encourage you to give it a shot. Consciously choose your next step in life, whatever that means for you, and don’t be afraid to step into the unknown.
As men, we are expected to be courageous. That can take the form of protecting your family, making tough decisions, or standing up for what you believe in. Sometimes woman can be overlooked or under appreciated when it comes to being courageous. There are a bunch of great examples of courageous and inspiring women throughout history; however, when I think about the courageous women in my own life, I get inspired.
Take my mother for example. Can you imagine learning that you are pregnant at 18 years old? She was still a child herself and faced with a life changing decision. Does she keep an unplanned baby, give it up for adoption, or terminate her pregnancy? I know she had a great support system in place, but at the end of the day, this was her decision to make. I can’t say what decision is right for anyone in that situation. However, I can tell you that I’m damn happy that she had the courage to have a child at a young age.
I’m not going to pretend that my mother is a saint or hasn’t made mistakes. We all have. That is being human. That is also what makes her courageous, especially recently.
In her mid 50’s, after living in Youngstown, Ohio for her entire life and more than two decades of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, my Mom made the bold decision to move to Chicago. She did so knowing that there was a real possibility that her children, despite being in Chicago, might not have a relationship with her. Many people would use this fear as an excuse. She didn’t. Instead, she found a sober living house and started rebuilding her life. She fearlessly learned how to navigate the train and bus systems, something that I, despite being in Chicago for almost 15 years, still haven’t figured out. She learned how to get along in a city of 8 million people, coming from a town of 65,000. She started to volunteer and eventually assumed a management role at the sober living facility that had changed her life.
She slowly and patiently rebuilt trust with both of her sons and daughter-in-law and quickly built relationships with her grandchildren.
Today, my mother has evolved from a courageous women into a fearless adventurer with a thirst for life. When we told her that we were relocating to California, we asked her if she would be interested in doing the same. After some thought, she said yes. She had decided that she would not allow obstacles or excuses to deter her, but instead identified those obstacles and ways to overcome them.
When my Mom watches our boys, she courageously explores with them. She doesn’t worry about how she will handle two little energetic guys at a restaurant, she just does it. She figures it out as she goes. When our house was in shambles from construction, she didn’t fret about where the boys were going to sleep. She adapted, making beds out of pillows and blankets in our basement for them.
Now, my Mom not only fully lives life, but she unknowingly inspires and sets examples for my boys and Melanie and I. Live life courageously, don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you, be flexible and adapt, keep your priorities straight, and possibly most importantly, it’s never to late to start living the life that you want!
So take a minute to think about the courageous women in your life. Maybe take a minute today to tell them how brave they are. If you feel inclined, share your story of a courageous woman in your life.
I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit, and it has taken me in all kinds of crazy directions, from selling bulk candy on my grade school bus to starting a magazine in college. Not all of my previous ventures were successful, but when I was 26 years old, my partners and I started Phusion Projects LLC, which has since grown to become the sixth-largest U.S.-owned beer company.
Here are the biggest lessons I still remind myself of just about every day:
1. Develop a thick skin.
Let’s face it: Entrepreneurship isn’t for the meek. When you start out, you are an unknown underdog truly “living on a dream.” This isn’t an easy place to be. You are going to hear “no” from customers. You are going to face issues with suppliers, partners and co-workers. And you are very likely to be working on a shoestring budget.
This is the perfect time to develop a thick skin. As the saying goes, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”
Don’t think for a minute that these issues go away as your business grows, either. If anything, they grow with it. With that being said, the earlier you can learn not to take things personally, the better.
2. Be adept at adapting.
Building a company, especially when in startup mode, takes a lot of energy, but it also provides more than a few adrenaline rushes. When you close your first deal or outsell your competition for the first time, it gives you a buzz.
As a result, we easily get caught up in what I call the Entrepreneur’s Curse. You constantly look for the next new and exciting project to work on, company to start, or business to invest in. As your growing team starts taking things off your plate, it can seem like one company just isn’t enough; things aren’t moving fast enough and there isn’t enough for you to do.
But this is part of the natural evolution of a company. As it moves from a startup to an established business, things change–and that includes the pace of business, along with your role in it. If you want to keep your job, you must be able to transition from being a startup entrepreneur to a corporate entrepreneur. Learn how to over communicate, delegate, and keep everyone informed. Otherwise, you’ll cause frustration for yourself and your team.
3. Keep your eye on the prize.
Like many entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that I move really fast. I resolve things in my head quickly and don’t like to get caught up in the details. But as they say, the devil really is in the details. An idea or concept can be game-changing, but if it is not executed on well, it is worthless. To have proper execution, there must be a clear plan of action. To create a clear plan of action, there must be focus.
As a result, what I have started to do is take on fewer projects at a time and try to stay very close to them, at least until they are self-sustaining. For me, that means being involved in things that I normally wouldn’t, right down to the smallest details. But that first-hand exposure to a project can give you the insight you’ll need to provide all the tools necessary to ensure continued high-level execution, long after you’ve moved on to the next exciting challenge.
I’m reading an amazing book called “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership”. It isn’t officially published yet, but put it on your radar and pick it up once it is. I just read a very simple exercise about perspective that I wanted to share.
Take a minute to look all around you, 360 degrees, and count how many white objects you can find.
How many did you count? 10? 20?
Now answer this, how many green items did you count? Take a minute to really think about it.
Most likely you captured all the white items in the area and missed a few green ones, or possibly didn’t see any green at all. This is the power or attention and perspective. You find what you are looking for. This applies to happiness the same way as colored objects.
Do yourself and those around you a favor and practice looking for good things in life. Catch people doing things right. Notice and appreciate how fortunate you are.
Momentum is a powerful thing. Viewing life through this perspective could just be the catalyst needed to either shift or accelerate your life’s momentum in an exciting direction.
Without a doubt, tomorrow will be the most challenging day of my life, both physically and mentally. Tomorrow I am participating in Ironman Wisconsin. If you aren’t familiar with it, an Ironman is one of the most grueling endurance challenges on earth. It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and finishes with a marathon (26.2 mile run). To answer the question I’ve been asked many time, Yes, it is all in the one day!
It was over a year ago, while attending an executive education class at Kellogg that I decided to accept this challenge. I’ve dedicated a full year of training for this one day. I’ve woken many days at 4:30 am to train, spent every Saturday away from my family on long bike rides and every Sunday getting in long runs. I am ready. I know I am ready. I’ve put in the work and followed the training program. However, doubt always seems to finds its way in. I’m worried about the swim, which is not my strong suit. This will be the furthest I’ve ever swam. I don’t want to over do it on the bike. Am I going to have proper nutrition to get me through this? Will my legs hold out for a marathon after all of this? The doubts and questions go on and on. I’m doing my best to keep them under control. I have a great support group in my wife and family, friends, training partners, and coaching crew. They all know that I can do this, now it’s just convincing myself. There is no turning back now. With that being said, I can definitely use any encouragement, cheers, positive thoughts, or prayers that anyone is willing to give. Whether you are here in Madison at the event, or across the country, I promise, I’ll hear your support and use it to get me through. If you are interested, in following my progress tomorrow, click on http://www.myathletelive.com/events/ from your computer or download the app (My Athlete Live). Go to events then look under Ironman Wisconsin and you’ll find my name. Take a look while you’re getting your morning coffee, I should be on the bike by then. Take a peak before you settle in for the night, I’ll likely still be running!
For a few years I’ve been looking for a tropical vacation spot that balances an eco tourism feel without being completely secluded. A place with cool hotels that aren’t severely overpriced. A place with a lot to do and see without being too touristy. I finally found it in Tulum, Mexico.
About four years ago, while staying in Playa del Carmen, we made a trip to Tulum to see the Mayan Ruins. The beach was amazing, however, we didn’t see anything that interested us in going back. Within the past few years, I’ve had a few people tell me that they loved Tulum and how it had a magical feel to it, but I couldn’t picture it. All that I had seen was a run down town that centered around a tourist trap of old ruins. However, we decided to check it out for ourselves.
After landing in Cancun, we took an hour and half ride down to Tulum. Once we passed the ruins, we took a left onto a long road that seemed to be going nowhere. After dead ending into the ocean, we turned and started down a road that was barely big enough for two cars. I could instantly tell that there was something about this place that I liked. No touristy shops. There were people, but no crowds. Everyone was either walking or riding bicycles and everything seemed calm. When we arrived at Ana y Jose, we were given a quick tour and taken to our bungalow, Brisa del Mar. It was perfect. A little beach side bungalow which was little more than a bedroom and bathroom. It had no television and two chairs on a front porch that looked onto the ocean.
Tulum has some of the whitest sand and bluest water I’ve ever seen. As you walk along the beach, it becomes clear that this place is different. Most of the hotels or cabanas are almost out of sight because they are so integrated into the natural setting of palm trees and plant life. The beach seems to be its original size, not having been cleared out or expanded. There were people out on the beach using rakes to clean up some of the seaweed. The beaches aren’t perfectly manicured, but they are perfect. Its easy to see this place was founded by people cared about it and want to maintain its natural beauty. There is almost a hippie vibe to it. Rain catching barrels and natural energy windmills are clear signs of it. Electricity is only available for certain hours in most cabanas and many of the restaurants are light by candlelight only which makes the experience all the more relaxing…for the most part. Since there is little electricity, there are no streetlights so you end up walking in complete darkness. Since there are no sidewalks, you end up walking on the roads. Between the crazy drivers and the giant holes along the sides, it can get pretty dangerous. I would highly recommend brining or buying a small flashlight.
The food is amazing in Tulum. We tried to get to the places that we heard the most through friends recommendations and found a few little spots of our own. Here is what I would consider the Superfecta of Tulum restaurants in order.
This place is as good as it gets. We were told that the chef is from New York’s Peasant. He has definitely brought Tulum’s culinary scene to a whole new level. The restaurant uses local ingredients sourced daily from fisherman and farmers stretching far into the mountains and surrounding jungle. There is no commercial kitchen so everything is prepared in an open air kitchen with a wood burning oven and grill which makes it all the more astonishing that this level of food can be consistently prepared. The place sell out night after night and they don’t take reservations. We got there around six o’clock, waited in line for about 30 minutes, only to have seating stopped for the night one couple in front of us. Being first come first serve, the line forms early and only about 180 people get seated in one of three seating times per night. The entire place is open are, including its makeshift lounge. We tried again the next night, arriving around 5. We ate with new friends that night so we chose to take the second seating and enjoy a few cocktails before dinner. The Gin Gin Queen is really refreshing even without the alcohol. We ordered a virgin version for my pregnant wife. You can taste the freshness in the The Tropical Punch which uses multiple juices and rum. I highly recommend both.
Once seated we ordered two appetizers, grilled shrimp and a jicama salad. Both were good, but the grilled shrimp is one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had. For dinner you have to try the pork ribs. The combination of fall off the bone meat, an amazing sauce, and the huge portion size seem to make this dish their most popular. My wife said that these were the best ribs she has ever had and possibly one of the best meals. I had the skirts steak which was equally as good. The side dish of grilled chaya, a mexican superfood, was surprisingly good and very unique. Overall, this place is a must and well worth the two nights waiting in line and the money.
Being our first night in Tulum, we didn’t know what to expect of the area in general. When we arrived at El Tobano, we quickly discovered what this area was all about. The restaurant is open air with a bar at the entrance. The bartenders were just prepping for the night and provide great entertainment by recapping the drunken night before. What really made this place stand out was the habanero shrimp. It was unexpectedly good and something a dish that can’t really be explained.
I love places that are a little off the beaten path and nothing to look at and El Camello Jr. fits the bill. A favorite for locals, this place is owned by fisherman and serves “as fresh as it gets” seafood. Rumor has it that the other area restaurants actually come here to buy their seafood. After a long, and hot bike ride from the beach, I wasn’t sure if we were going to find this place. Its on you way OUT of town. We were able to sit down quickly for lunch, but had perfect timing. Within 15 minutes of us sitting in an empty restaurant, the place was packed with locals. Always a good sign. We started us off with a few dips including a lemon habanero hot sauce (too thin to call salsa) that was great, but very hot. We weren’t very hungry so we tried to split a meal but ended up with two anyway do to our lack of Spanish. But the dish we originally ordered, octopus with mojo garlic sauce was great. It had a lot of flavor and just the right amount of spice. This was a great lunch find for sure.
This place is a Tulum classic and seems to be one of the original foodie places in the area. A young Italian couple own it and have another location in NYC. This is by far the best atmosphere of any restaurant we visited. The place was packed with a good looking energetic crowd, so we had to wait about 30 minutes to get seated. It was worth it. Structured with multiple open faced levels, every seat has a view of the ocean and a great breeze. The entire place is candle lit and the eclectic rustic decor made this place completely unique. There is one guy the goes over the simple menu with each table. The three appetizers, four pastas, and three fish dishes are all written in Italian, so unless you’re fluent, he needs to explain them. This is a great touch because this guy, I believe he was the owner, had a great personality and is the perfect person to make your night at Posada start right. He explained that all the pastas are made from scratch when ordered. This takes a little time so don’t expect to each right away. Both of the pasta dishes that we had were really good. I would definitely recommend having dinner here or even just grabbing a few drinks.
The restaurants are the only unique things in Tulum. Any vacation of mine isn’t complete without a massage. We, however, opted to take it to the next level and do a Mayan Clay massage. Local lure says that this clay has healing powers that range from detoxifying the body to healing sunburn. Its a really weird experience but something I would definitely do again. The hut that they do the massages in is open on all sides and only covered by netting. The showers that you rinse off in are in the courtyard and only covered by a loosely structured bamboo screen. Both of these facts can make you a little timid about getting undressed for you massage and cleaning off afterwords, but hey, when in Rome (or Tulum in this case).
The massage it self is very relaxing and believe it or not, my sunburn wasn’t hurting the next day! We tried to bring some of the Mayan Clay that they sell back with us but unfortunately it didn’t make it through security.
Tulum is know as a yoga destination so our trip wouldn’t have been complete if we didn’t hit the mat at least once. I do yoga weekly and really enjoy visiting different studios when on vacation, so I was really looking forward to this. Yoga Shala came highly recommended to us. Just like everything in Tulum, the setting was really cool. The studio is on the jungle side and set back a little. Classes are done in a “Shala” which resembles a giant tiki hut. The first class we did was a mixture between a Vinyasa flow and Tai Chi, which was something new to me, but something that I really enjoyed. However, the instructor told us about a Sunday evening class that she did at 5 pm which centered around Yin Yoga. I had never even heard of this type of yoga, but since it was described as a more meditative style, I had to try it. I have to admit, this class was one of the best yoga practices I’ve ever had. Don’t expect an intense workout, but do expect to be challenged in different ways.
Overall, this was the perfect vacation. Considering that my wife is expecting our second child in July and that we didn’t bring our son Brooks with us, this was the best place we could have gone to relax and enjoy a real vacation. Something I rarely get to do, even when I take other “vacations”. Tulum is definitely a gem. However, its one that isn’t so hidden anymore.
Somewhere around 11 am on New Year’s Day I got a call from my Dad. He informed me that he was in the hospital. He had taken himself to the emergency room because he was getting very lethargic, his feet were swelling, and overall he just wasn’t feeling right. They had immediately transferred him to the main branch of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in downtown Youngstown. The initial thought was that he had a leaky heart value. He seemed in good spirits and was feeling a little better. That day he was scheduled for a heart catheter. I knew that this was a pretty standard procedure and that he wasn’t in any real danger since this was mostly to diagnose, not treat, the issue, so I told him that i was going to stick with my original flight schedule of leaving Montana on January 2nd. On the morning of the second, I found out that the catheter had revealed some real issues. He had a hole in his heart and was being transferred to Cleveland Clinic. Obviously this news was more than a little nerve racking. I looked into flights and quickly realized that my only real options was to keep my scheduled flight from MT to Chicago, which landed around 7:30 pm, and catch a later flight to Cleveland. Although I would have loved to have Melanie and Brooks with me, we decided that it was best to have them go home once we landed in Chicago. He was sick and she was tired (and pregnant), and we didn’t even know what was going on with my Dad yet. I booked a 9:40 pm flight that landed in Cleveland around 11:40. Luckily I got a little time to rest on the flight back from Big Sky because the next 72 hours would prove to be exhausting.
When we landed in Chicago O’Hare I kissed Melanie and Brooks goodbye and started out towards my gate. I quickly realized that the flight that I had booked on American Airlines had been canceled. So had most of the other flights. They had rebooked me for a flight out the next morning. There was a huge snow storm that had hit the Midwest. We were lucky to have even made it back from Big Sky. Lines for the support desks were hours long and the wait time for calls seemed just as long. As I was walking down the terminal, I happened to look up and see a sign that said Cleveland. It seemed like fate. It was a United Airlines desk but I figured it was worth a shot. I explained to the lady working the desk that I had a medical emergency and that my flight had been canceled. I offered to buy a ticket on this flight, but she said that she wasn’t a licensed ticket agent and therefore couldn’t sell me one. To do that, I had to go wait in the hour long line at the help desk. That wasnt going to work considering the flight was leaving soon. The lady was great and helped me more than I expected. Honestly I assumed that I would get the normal bitchy airport employee, but was pleasantly surprised. She informed me that this flight had been delayed since 5 pm but was about to depart. She also told me that if I could get American Airlines to switch my ticket over to United, that she would get me on it! Great, now I just had get them to switch the ticket. I called the AA number that I had, and again was pretty surprised at how helpful the person was. However, switching the ticket wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Since the flight that I was trying to get on was so delayed, it was showing as already departed in their system and therefore they couldn’t do the transfer. After some brainstorming with both of them, we decided to transfer my ticket to a 5:30 am flight the next day, then the United employee would transfer me to the flight that was getting ready to leave for Cleveland. The American rep transferred the ticket and it seemed like we were all set, which was great timing considering that the flight was already boarding. Suddenly, I lost my connection. This would have been fine except that the United rep needed some more information. I was starting to panic. The flight was completely boarded and I was on hold! The gate agent was stalling for me and the the guy at the desk had my ticket printed and ready, he just needed a little more info. It felt like they were just about to close the doors when all of the sudden the guy yelled “I got it” and handed me the ticket. I boarded and they immediately closed the door behind me! The good news was that I was on one of the few planes leaving Ohare that night and even fewer planes landing in Cleveland. The bad news was that I got a seat next to a very big lady with a 3 month old baby. It was a minor inconvenience considering the situation.
I finally landed in Cleveland around 11 pm in the middle of the “polar vortex”. It was freezing, I mean below zero, and snowing like crazy. The guy at the car rental place was really cool. When I changed my rental from a mid size to an SUV the system tried to take my fee from $88 to $1042! He was pissed and agreed that that was ridiculous. He worked the computer multiple times until he got the bill down to a $10 surcharge. I could barely see as I drove to the hospital from the airport that night. I followed the only two visible tracks on the highway, but arrived safely at the Cleveland Clinic around 1:30 am that night. This day had restored my faith in people. There were multiple people that day that really helped me out and if any one of them hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made it to see my Dad that night. That night was just the beginning of another long and emotional week, but I know my Dad felt a little better that I was there…I know I was a little relieved to see him.
On dec 27th a car picked us up around 10 am. I just finished up my conference call and started loading all of our luggage into the car, which was a workout in and of itself. Between having a child and packing ski clothes, it looked like we were moving out! We landed in Bozeman MT, grabbed a rental car, and headed to Big Sky. Luckily our friends had made most of the arrangements or we would have been shit out of luck. I didn’t even know where we were staying! We ended up in a really cool log cabin close to the ski lodge and quickly settled into our room in the basement. They did it right, both groceries and skis were delivered to the cabin that night and we were set for a week of skiing and relaxing…we thought.
The guys that we were with are both good skiers. I’m not. I like skiing but we are definitely on different levels. The first day on the slopes, I tried to follow one of the guys down a steep hill and wiped out. As soon as I hit,
I felt tingling in my leg. Not a good sign. I thought I had broken it. Luckily that wasn’t the case, just a bruise. I called it a day after that run and spent a little time at the bar before my shuttle picked me up. That night Brooks ran a fever that got up to 102. At one point it looked like he was passing out in Mel’s arms. I had take him outside to cool him down. After a bath and some tylenol, he was a little better, but it was pretty scary.
My leg was killing me from my fall, so I wouldn’t have skied the next day anyway, but we took Brooks into the medical center to see what was wrong. Keep in mind I’m taking about a medical center in a town of less than 3,000 people. After examining my son and coming to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with him, the doctor decided to take it upon himself to examine my wife. When we told him that she was three months pregnant, he proceeded to rub her belly, then lift up her shirt. I get that this guys a doctor, but that’s some creepy shit to do to someone you don’t even know. Not to mention that he misdiagnosed my son and sent us away with no medicine to treat him and $190 bill.
That night we let Brooks sleep in our room and he was up ever two hours. At around 5 am he was burning up again so we gave him a bath and some more medicine. Melanie and one of the other girls were supposed to go cross country skiing the next morning. At around 8, the girl came in to check on Mel and see if they were still going. I was trying to keep her quiet because Brooks was sleeping, but I’m glad she asked me “if I knew the basement had flooded?” I jumped up and ran out into the hallway only to step into a few inches of water. Luckily Sarah had grabbed Melanie’s iPad off the floor. The place was a mess. After calling the management company, they sent a team over to take care of it. We now had giant fans and dehumidifiers running 24/7 in the basement for the rest of the trip. I ended up going out to ski with the guys for awhile that day and was able to avoid getting banged up again. Melanie and Sarah did yoga later that evening while we watched the kids.
On the morning of New Years Eve Brooks was running a fever for the third day in a row. We took him back into the medical center. Luckily we didn’t see the same creepy doctor. The new doctor immediately diagnosed him with an ear infection. Not only is this exactly what we told the other doctor what we thought it was, and what had happened in the past, but they charged us for another office visit! They said that their records showed that they had only checked for a respiratory infection last time and since this was so different, we had to pay. What a scam. It didn’t matter though, at least we had some medicine to treat him with.
Knowing that he was okay and treated, I headed to meet the guys and try my hand at snowboarding. I’ve done it before and did fine, but after two days of skiing, it was harder than I remembered. Not only was I having a hard time transitioning, but my legs were already pretty sore. It took me about an hour to get down the first slope! I only got in three runs that day and none were pretty, but I did get slightly better with each run….slightly.
When we got back that evening I jumped in the hot tub hoping to ease some of my pain. It seemed to be working. I had a great set up. I was sitting in a hot tub while it was snowing, beer in hand, with a speaker streaming Pandora from my phone. What could go wrong. When I went to get out, I was digging through my now snow covered towel to find my phone. As I picked it up, I watched my phone take a dive into the water! I was pissed. I had no phone on NYE and therefore no way to give or recieve and new year wishes. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m slightly addicted to my phone. As a matter of fact, in college, a group of friends nicknamed my phone “precious” (Lord of the Rings reference).
For our New Years Eve dinner we had live Maine lobsters flown in. Like I said, my friends did it right! We unloaded all of them on to the floor and lets Brooks and Ann check them out. My man Brooks walked right up to one, grabbed it by its shell, and picked it up. I was impressed, especially considering that I’m a big wimp when it comes to bugs and critters. My wife still makes fun of me for my attempt to grab and bait a fish hook with live shrimp! It was pretty comical. Anyways, the dinner turned out great. Our buddy Chris is a great cook. The scotch was just as good! Mel and I made it through the New Years celebrations for NYC and Chicago but threw in the towel before the New Year hit Montana. I guess we are officially lame…or just parents.
On New Year’s Day I woke to a pleasant surprise. My phone vibrating from incoming text messages. I couldn’t believe it. My luck continued that day when I won the college football bet we had going between the three of us guys. However, it quickly ran out later that day when I found out that my Dad was in the hospital with a leaky heart valve…..
Anyone that knows my family will agree that we lead pretty hectic lives. As an example, our son Brooks, went out to eat sushi with us at three days old, yes that’s DAYS. Obviously he didn’t eat any, but he was there. He is 18 months old, has been on at least ten round trip flights, been to Montana twice, lived on Miami Beach for three months, resides in Chicago, and frequents Ohio. You get it, right? Sometimes our schedule borders on the point of insanity. To keep track of it all, and to share a few of the stories, I decided to start a series of blogs that I’ll title “The Hunter Family Chronicles”.
The holidays are always crazy for us. We head back to both Cleveland and Youngstown for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since our son was born, we’ve tried to make our schedule a little less hectic while in Ohio, but we still make the trip. This year we went to Youngstown on Friday Dec 20th – Monday the 23rd and stayed at my Aunt Sis’s house. After getting in around 8 pm on Friday, we started our Christmas celebration early Saturday at my Step Dad’s house with my Mom, brother Kyle, and Grandma (Mema as she’s known to our family). After eating and opening gifts, we had a little downtime before getting ready for the evening.
By the time we packed the car with all the gifts for Brooks, we barely had room for our suite cases. The funny part about it is that this was only our first Christmas celebrations of many for the week. The day was already long, but after putting Brooks to bed, we got ready and went to my Aunt and Uncle’s company holiday party.
The next morning we headed to my Dad’s house. We were supposed to get there early for breakfast then head to church with him and the family of a good high school friend. Unfortunately we slept in and missed church. Just for clarification, at this point in my life, sleeping in means that we got up around 8am! After breakfast and more present opening by Brooks, we went to see Uncle D (my dads brother) and Aunt Doe and the rest of the Hunter side of the family. My cousin Jamie and her husband have three children, so it was a little hectic over there but Brooks loved hanging with his cousins. We ate homemade Italian wedding soup and pasta so it was all worth it. When we finally got back to my Aunt’s, around 6 o’clock, we were stuffed and tired out. When we walked in, most of my mom’s family was there to visit and eat leftovers. Needless to say, we ended up eating and drinking again. By the end of the night I was so stuffed and tired, they had to roll my ass into bed! This was the first year we weren’t going to be at Aunt Jeanine’s for Christmas, so it was great to get to spend more time with everyone that night.
The next morning we drove to Cleveland to stay with my in-laws. We noticed that Brooks had developed a bad cough that sounded like Croup. Considering that my brother in-law and sister in-law have a 10 week old baby, along with two other children at their house, and that was where we were supposed to stay, we decided to take him in to get checked. As expected, they said it was likely early stage Croup and gave him a steroid to use if it got worse. We ended up staying at my brother in-laws anyways. That night we finally got to meet our new niece, Nadia Vidovich. She’s a little dark haired cutie.
On Christmas Eve, I meet a friend for coffee to discuss an entrepreneurial venture he was considering. I love to talk with entrepreneurs, both established and aspiring. It’s exciting to talk to motivated people that are willing to take risks. After hitting the gym to burn off some of that excessive eating I had been doing, I met my brother in-law, his wife and kids along with Melanie and Brooks at a mall. We were finally taking Brooks to meet Santa!
I know, a little late right? We had tried a few times earlier, but the line was huge, so we figured we’d wait. It all worked out in the end and Brooks actually liked Santa. That night we went to church. Luckily we went to the children’s service, because my man Brooks did not feel like sitting still. At one point I thought he was headed for the pulpit!
On Christmas morning we woke up later than expected, 7:30 am. With a 10 day old, an 18 month old, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old in the house, we expected to be woken up by 5:30 am. My niece and nephew were excited to open their gifts. On the other hand, Brooks could care less. At this point, he had opened gifts five times already. I told my wife he probably thinks he’s Jewish and celebrating the 8 days of Hannakka. We finished opening presents and breakfast, headed to my mother and father in-laws, and ate again! I’m lucky that my wife and I are so into working out. If we weren’t, we’d be morbidly obese with the way we eat during the holidays.
The morning after Christmas we jumped back in our completely over-packed car and headed back to Chicago. We didn’t have any time to spare. We had to get home, unpack, do laundry, and repack to fly to Big Sky, MT where we were meeting some friend to spend New Years….
To everyone that told me that I will understand when I have children of my own, I apologize. I doubted you.
How could I have known? I never could have imagined that things would be so different. How could they possibly be? Then it happens. You realize that this child is something that you made. They are your flesh and blood and you love them more than you could have possibly fathomed.
How could I have known that I would look at my child and worry so much? I never could have imagined the emotions that are created when I see him sick or how I would do anything to make him feel better. It’s impossible to know the distance that you will go to make sure that another person is safe, until it’s your child. There are no limits. It’s been the most amazing discovery I have ever made.
My challenge will be learning not to smothering him. Even though, when he lays his head on my shoulder I never want to set him down, I know I will have to. I know he will get hurt. I know he must make his own mistakes as he grows up and learn lessons for himself. But for now, I will cherish every moment that he is my little guy and relies on me this much. I will teach him the lessons that he needs to be a good and happy person, regardless of how hard it is at that time. I could never comprehend when my parents told me that “this hurts me more than it hurts you”, until now.
To all of those lucky enough to be parents…I get it now. For those that do not yet have children…You’ll understand when you do.