Bennie Turns 3!

My boy turns 3 today.  Even though he is not physically here, his presence is.  His life made me see things differently.  His life still touches others.  I know that his presence is with me everywhere.  I wonder what he would be like.  Would he get along with his sister? Would he be a ballplayer like his dad, or an artist like his mom?  I am sure he would love cake and ice cream.  I know that he would be by my side wherever I would go.

His life has focused my attention.  My life has a different perspective.  I know I wouldn’t have taken a leap to go back to school.  I know I would not have pursued other life events as well.  With this perspective, more leaps will be made.  Life isn’t always perfect, but you have to take a leap.  You have to take a chance.  Bennie showed me life is too short not to be happy.

So today, I will spread random acts of kindness.  I will eat cake.  I will laugh.  I will cry.  I will think and reflect on life.  I will encourage everyone to do the same.  Life is too short to go through the motions.  Pursue your dreams, your passion, love one another.

Birthdays

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I rather not celebrate. Even though it may be an accomplishment for many to circle the sun multiple times, it is also the anniversary of the day I knew my son would not live to see his own birthday. My wife has been trying to get me to “celebrate” my birthday for a decade before last year. I was so full of hope that day. A Herculean effort was made to finally get a diagnosis for my son. We were so full of hope…but as the scan was complete, I could observe the team scrambling that was treating my son, and no information was given to us…finally I walked down to a large screen, and asked. I was told I would be visited later that day. Hours past, and the medical chief came into my son’s room. The compassion from this man sticks with me today. We were given options, but they were no options that would have changed our fate.

So, from an early age birthdays were something of an afterthought…The only thing I really enjoy was a pie my mother would make for me (I am not a huge fan of cake). It always seemed like another day, and this day, I would like to forget. However, it has formed me into I am today. It was a seminal moment that really brought me forward in life. To do good, to help others, to love with all of your heart. The best day of my life was September 20th, when I finally got to hold my son. I rather celebrate that day than the anniversary of me circling around the sun.
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Before you wish me a “Happy Birthday” be known that it is, and will be for a time, not a “Happy Day.” It is just another day that I will muddle through. Do my job on a sideline of a football game, and try not to get overwhelmed on what happened to me a year ago. It is another day to try to figure out how to compartmentalize on how to be a functional member of society. If you want to make me happy; donate to a charity that is dear to you, do a random act of kindness for someone else, and live in the moment and enjoy what you are doing in life.

Déjà Vu

A year ago a frantic journey from one side of the state to the other, began a journey filled with extreme highs and lows.  It wasn’t until the last two weeks that I haven’t felt really off because of the journey that I had.  Now, we are in a similar position.  I sort of feel like I did a quantum leap, and had the opportunity to relive the lead up of last September.  Well, beginning tomorrow, it is all new.  I think I am prepared, but I am not for sure.  I guess we will find out.

The cloud that hung around my brain has been lifted.  Grief has been replaced by great anticipation, and now I look forward to seeing what is next.  Things will be different.  Everything will be different.  We will do new things, and we will see where life takes us. 

Life is a great journey.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Reflection

My baseball seasons have come to an end. From the middle of February to today, most of my afternoons and many mornings have been at a baseball diamond. I feel tired, but very rewarded. Baseball is my favorite sport to be around. Things that happen in the game are similar to life and many times character builders…just like life.

Baseball is supposed to be fun, and I hope that my players had fun. I hope they learned an approach to the game that we can win. I also hoped they learned a little about life.

In review, the high school season, we set records for most wins ever by an LPA team. For the Babe Ruth team, we set a record for most wins. I hope we can keep improving each year. Not necessarily with more wins, but truly being successful. I can look back and say that I put all my energy that I could give into the program. John Wooden would say, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” I hope that I can continue to find ways to motivate my athletes to do this, as well as myself.

Planning for next year for baseball will begin shortly. A new field is being constructed; and there is a world of possibility in the complex that is being built. It is exciting time.

I am very thankful that I have had great support from my players, parents, school administrators, and other community members. I know we can build a very successful program, and have a lot of fun doing so. Planning for the spring 2015 begins Monday…for the weekend, I am going to enjoy what we accomplished this year.

Father’s Day

One year ago, I was anticipating that this Father’s Day was going to be something I would remember for the ages. We were expecting a boy in September, and I was hoping to take my son to a game, or fishing…I was expecting that the last 9 months would be caring for him, and enjoying as much time as I could with him. Well, other things happened.

I was hoping to share my love of Baseball with him…life is a lot like this great game.

I was hoping to be able to come home to him, and talk to him about the game I just coached.

I was hoping for many things, but Life through me the greatest curve last fall.

It is said the hardest thing to do in sport is to hit a round ball with a round bat. I would agree. The hardest thing a father can do is to bury his son. I would never wish this on anyone. It has given me a different perspective, and highlighted aspects that are truly important. A motivation that does not waiver. It also has shown me what is important.

I am one of the most competitive individuals I know. However, I understand situations; teachable moments for my athletes, myself, parents, and even the community. It makes how I approach games a bit differently. In case of baseball, no really said as a kid, I want to go practice baseball, but rather I want to play baseball. In understanding, there are drills to work on the game, but to truly get better, one has to have fun. I remember having a few coaches tell me I suck while practicing, but never while playing the game. I was either good, which probably wasn’t always the case, but I was having so much I did not care.

Sports are far more than winning. Winning is usually fun, but finding an item in a loss is talent. I have developed that more than I hoped this past year. I was hoping to share these lessons with my son. I am doing my best now to share them with my athletes.

Everything I have wanted in my personal life came true in early September 2013. I was having a beautiful son; my wife was doing well; I had a nice house; everything seemed to be lined up. If this was a baseball season, we had a 5 game lead, with 5 to go, with a lead in the bottom of the 9th. Soon, we lost that game that day when my son was whisked away. Lost the next game when he was transferred to another hospital. Then slowly we lost each “game” that was presented.

On September 19th, a day that should be a celebration of my life, everything I knew changed. If this was a baseball game, I was thrown out at the plate trying to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth of the last game of the regular season…The next few days showed me to appreciate every moment. Even in a losing aspect. I did my best to be with my son, my wife, and close friends.

Ever since his death, I have dusting myself off, working on getting the next item. Life is too short to worry about what has happened. Your worry should be what is next, and what are going to do. Some days, like this Father’s Day weekend, that has been very hard for me. I had such great plans a year ago, and the rainy day fit my mood. When the sun came out, it allowed me the motivation to get out of the house. As we drive to see Benton, I am going to plan what to do next, and let myself be okay with feeling depressed. It’s okay to have bad days, I’m just not going to let it consume me…as I have to prepare for the next inning of life; the next game; and even the next season. Benton is always with me; that is really what Father’s Day is about…even if your child is not with you in person, they are always with you.

6 Months

Today, Benton would have turned 6 months old.  Instead of changing diapers, and putting him into a cute outfit, we are off to see a sunrise, and do some random acts of kindness.  There is a lot of emotions today.  And like many days, I have dreams of him.  Amy and I know ourselves well enough to know that we would have not been a good group at work, or at home.  So, a few months ago, in a cold winter night, we planned to go somewhere warm, where we have never been, to be together. Being anti-social isn’t our nature, but its ok…we are finding ourselves.

Happy Birthday Bennie!  Image 

Sorrow

Today, a friend gave me some terrible news.  A family I have never met, but I did follow, lost their son after a 48 day battle.  Little Karson held on to his family for 48 days, and I know that it will be the most important 48 days of their family’s life.  There is no words that can express the sorrow I have for them.  I wish no family would have to go through this.  I pray for peace and comfort for them, and to all that Karson touched.  For those who want to know more, here is there lovely blog: http://www.nateandkariwelstad.blogspot.com/

This news brought me back to the moment I lost Bennie…It took me a few moments to gather my thoughts to respond.  I know understand why I get such different reactions when talking about my son…it really depends on what connection you have.  Not with me, but with loss.  Some cope by avoidance, while others will just hug it out.  As my wife can attest to, I don’t like being touched, but when it comes to this, a hug is just fine.  

Karson, I never me you, but I hope that Bennie welcomed you into heaven, and you two are having a grand time together.  To Nate and Kari, there are no words to say how sorry I am, or to make you feel better.  I just hope one day you are at peace and surrounded by love

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Life is not necessarily fair.  However, it does shape who you are.  As one faces adversity, you can either meet the challenge, grow, and rise above; or you can run away, dwell, and let it at you…Sometimes it easier to do the latter.  It is my nature to meet challenge, and grow.  I know that I will carry Benton’s memory on forever.  He was so good, and I know that he guides me everyday.   

Perspective

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One year ago today I found out I was going to be a dad.  Instantly, I made plans; I have been wanting to be a father for a long time.  This past year ran the full spectrum of emotion; starting with surprise, and happiness and then was consumed for a short time of fear, anger, and disgust; but as of late is sadness.  My joy was taken away at the end of September. Piece by piece I put myself back to a respectable individual.  With lots of support I found my joys of life.  

Joy one: I have a great partner.  There is nothing more than having a loving, supportive person in your life.  

Joy two: Adventure.  There is no more thought of saying I should have done this, That can be said making a choice to go 250 miles out of the way this past weekend.  

Nike Best Global Brands …Just Do It!

Joy three: Sports, and specifically baseball.  I will become the head baseball coach for LPA.  Why, I love baseball.  I am the happiest when I am on the field…Since I am not physically gifted to play at a high level, I hope I can bring a title to LPA this spring.

Joy four: Photography; I am still figuring out several things with this, and who knows, I may make it my profession one day.  Right now it is fun, I sell a few things, and I am excited to join a few shows this coming year.  

I am thankful for my job.  It is a good job, and I am glad that I have the ability to work.  My colleagues are great, and many have become dear friends.  I used to see work as part of my identity.  Now, I really don’t.  I think it is a necessary part of what I do to support what brings me joy.  I really enjoy about half of my job, and the other part, I do because it is necessary.  The passion to be everything, run head long into items is not what I want to do.   I am content when I am at the school, and I will take care of the students as long as my employer allows me to do so.

I am thankful that I can find the joy music; the joy of the sunrise (even when its -40); the joy of looking at the stars; and ultimately I see the world different, and I feel as though I see it as it is.  I want to take away all my ifs.  Life is not about the ifs, it is what you make of it.  It is a quantum change of perspective.  

I think of the 30 phone calls that have come to my house this week regarding city business.  Well, when it boils down to it, I think it doesn’t really matter…most decisions cannot be made, and the person who has been trusted with power cannot act responsibly.  Therefore, he causes harm, not only to himself, but to the city.  A city that I have grown to love.  In the grand scheme of things, it will not change…but I figure Karma has a way with things.  So, if anything brings you down consistently, and you are not able to change it, sometimes the best decision is to walk away.

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Life is too short to worry about items you cannot change, control, or bring you down.  

If you have made it this far, I am happier that I am better person today than I was a year ago.  I truly know what is important in life.  I have a deep faith, an ability to stand for what is important.  And even before noon today, I have done the three things that Jimmy V says are important:

“We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Do something special everyday…you never know what impression you are going to make that day, so do good.

 

2013

Sitting down on December 31st, I look out the shores of Lake Superior.  It is cold and ice covered.  I am thankful that I am someplace warm, and soon will be with friends to ring in the New Year.  I hope 2014 is far less turbulent, but looking back on this year, I am thankful for every experience.  It has made realize what is truly important, and ultimately life is precious.  Enjoy every second.  

Early on in 2013, we were blessed with the news we were expecting.  With quite resolve, we made plans, and waited with eager anticipation.  We have been blessed to have a child on the way, and we focused our attention and energy to get ready…The winter that had been cold and mild, turned harsh and cold.  With idle time at home, I investigated photography, and bought a Cannon I had been looking at…with all the snow, I also vowed to buy a snow blower….I was sick of shoveling my driveway, and I was very thankful my neighbors had snow blowers and were kind enough to get me out of the driveway.Image

In the spring we were inspired to make a trip…we have always talked about traveling, and we just never had.  So, for Christmas we planned a trip to California to see my brother Tom.  It was a two part trip…Amy had always talked about going to San Fran, and I wanted to hike along the coast.  Plus, my brother recently moved there, and we wanted to see him.  

Our first 48 hours in California, we saw some places Amy did projects on in college.  We walked around town, and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen…All from the view from our restaurant.  Image

 

As we ventured out of San Fran, we made sure to see the Golden Gate Bridge…It is beautiful, and definitely a spot to see.Image

As we ventured north, we grabbed my brother as a tour guide…it was great seeing wine country and the ocean.  It definitely was a trip we had talked about for years, and I was glad we were able to do.  I was happy to enjoy the coast, walk the hills, and be apart of the ocean.  It is a place where you can escape.  I was happy to see the sights, but it was more important on the company.  It was a great escape from the cold back home, and it was great to see my brother happy.  Image

As spring rolled into summer, I renewed a passion of mine…I thought about being a baseball coach for years.  I coached when I was a teen into aged 20.  (When I was in college thinking of what I should do as a career, this crossed my mind).  Instead, I worked with college teams, and high school teams as an athletic trainer, a strength coach, a consultant, and umpired thousands of games.  However, when the opportunity was there, I took it to be a coach again.  Our season was not stellar.  We finished last in the league, but our band of Raiders eventually put it together…I had never seen so much joy when knocked out Hawley and then Fergus Falls from the playoffs…I had never seen so much respect from my kids when I argued a call against Breckenridge…Ultimately our season came to end.  Two teams from our section placed in the top 5 at state, and the Breckenridge, who finished third, had lost 2, 1 run ball games to DGF and Barnesville in our tournament.  I was proud of our boys, and I enjoyed every minute.  Image

The rest of the summer was preparing for something we have been hoping for a long time.  Then, early Labor Day, Amy called and said it was time…I drove from my hometown back to DL.  Then we waited some more, and I stood by Amy’s side as our pride and joy, Benton was born on September 3rd.  I had never had more joy in my life.  Then he was whisked away to Fargo…our 25 day adventure ensued.  I drove from Lake Park to Fargo, to DL, back to Fargo 3 times a day for 4 days…then on September 7th, all I asked for was to be able to hold my son…on September 20th, that was finally granted at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital. I was finally able to hold my son…The day before was the worst day of my life, full of heartbreak, but it was also the day that will be my compass the rest of my life.  However, on September 20th, everything I had ever wanted came true.  I held my son.Image

 

Benton was a true warrior.  Against all odds he lived for 25 days.  My faith was tested, but I now have a true relationship with Heaven.  On 9/28, my Angel went home.  His absence is almost more than I can bear, but Amy and I have faced it head strong.  My community supported us, and I never have known so much love.  I never would have known that an entire area would rally around for us.  The support started from before his birth, but I have never known how many people that my son touched…I am still grateful and awe…Image

The community and family support was everything we needed and more.  From my colleagues designing bracelets, to the FB players putting my son’s name on their helmet, to the hugs on the street from strangers, to the benefit we had.  I can’t tell you how much this means to me.  It is beyond words.   Benton Strong is on hundreds of bracelets, proudly worn by friends, family, and all  Image

 

who Benton touched.  Thank you Raider BB for making the banner:)  Also, to all that wear this shirt, thank-you…Image

I can go on for hours expressing my gratitude for all of the assistance, and most importantly love, we have received.  

Work will continue for me, but it won’t consume me…However, I look forward to seeing the Raiders, Hornets, Indians, Bombers, and all other Essentia Health Sports Medicine teams to do well this coming year.

What I can say moving forward for 2014.  Benton’s Hope will be moving forward.  For all the help we have received, we will be spreading this good forward, one small item at a time. Look for news on this during the spring…

If you want to do something in your life, take the chance and do it.  I will be attempting at making go a small business with my photography.  It is something I have talked about for years…I am making the leap forward…

If you want to see something, go see it.  I drove 36,500 miles this year…mainly for work, but a lot as of late to go and see items.  I am making time to go to Florida, as it is a favorite spot of mine, and I love Lake Superior…I hope to do a photo display of this Grand Lake this summer.  I love sitting on my “Black Rock”, and finding peace.  

I am also looking forward spending time with my family and friends.  You are more important than you know. I hope 2014 brings all of you joy, love and peace.  Lake Superior gave us peace this past fall…and I hope to explore this Lake over and over.Image

Enjoy the Moment

This past Saturday, I was feeling a bit down.  I wanted to do something different, and to get someone to do something they always said they wanted to do…well, it turns out that wasn’t going to happen, but I still wanted to do it.  So, an impromptu trip occurred to Duluth.  Why?  Because the Bentleyville display was something I always liked to see when I lived in Duluth.

This trip made me happy.  I believe Amy and I were there for a grand total of an hour.  Seeing the lights, watching the snow fall, and the people rush by.  It was beautiful, and it was great just to see…then, we ventured to have tea with my parents before going to bed.  It was worth the 500 mile round trip for an hour of lights.  It was great to have the experience, and it is something that I will remember.  I am also glad I did this before it became -30 outside.  

It is ridiculously cold outside.  I wonder why I live in this part of the world this time of year.  However, there is a lot of good here, and I would change that if I could.  So, with Christmas here, I will look at enjoying the moment, doing things that matter to me, and hopefully spread a bit of cheer.  I am going to enjoy my time family, but I am actually looking forward to the car ride with my wife from one side of the state to the other.  

Merry Christmas Everyone!Image 

Journey through life