Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I wouldn't be afraid of acting like a kid. Enjoy doing those embarrassing things that take you out of your comfort zone.

Job 33:25 (New International Version)

Then his flesh is renewed like a child's;
it is restored as in the days of his youth.

I play cards with the guys I grew up with. The faces have changed a little. The bodies have changed alot but we are much the same people as the day we first dealt a hand more than 25 years ago.
 Games are heated and moods change as we win or lose but one thing is for certain, we still hold on to the childlike quality that makes us a close knit group. We love to give each other a hard time and compete on every level. We are still kids in grown men's bodies. We do spend alot of time talking about our kids and living through their exploits and endeavors.
Stories like  this one dominate the table at times: My second  son is going sky diving this weekend, he is 21. I love that he embraces life and looks forward to doing those things that will make great memories and keep him young.  He invited several people to join him but they are too busy, too scared or not ready for an adventure like this one. I am sure one of them will tell him in the near future. "I wish I would have done that with you."
As children sometimes we spend alot of time wishing we were older so we can do the things adults do. The truth is most of the good times we remember are the times we spend with friends, the trips we take or the funny embarrassing things that happen to us along the way.
The stories we relive at the table always drift back to the trips we have taken together, the funny things that we did when we were young and the things we wish we would have done when we had the chance.
It was fun spending time with the guys at the wedding reception of my oldest son.  They made fun of how old I looked in my tux. They looked at the the younger generation in awe and remembrance of the time when we could drink and dance all night long without a care in the world. But the reality was many had to work the next day, or take care of the lawn, or pay the bills, or some other responsibility that none of these kids have.
My wife and I danced that night. Yes,  I stepped on her toes more than a few times.  We kissed passionately and acted like kids. We drank maybe a little too much. We took in the evening as parents should but the thing I remember, is I could have been 20 years old that night. We were young all over again.  It is a memory I won't soon forget.
It is times like these we need to think young, play, enjoy the company of our friends and never forget to be childlike at times.
What is it that takes you out of your comfort zone but you enjoy so much?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I know how much my parents love me and I believe that they are doing the best they can.

Proverbs 17:6 (New International Version)

Children's children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children

Stuck in between generations, I am a father and a son, it has taken me a lifetime to understand just what that means.

As a parent, you are so caught up in your life, work, and spouse; sometimes children may feel left out. You make decisions for them, set rules for them and provide reward and punishment like some omnipotent being. Most parents are concerned with the well-being of their child but sometimes fall short of listening to what they really need, because they are doing what's right or best in their mind. Taking time to talk to the child, understand their feelings and what makes them tick can be both rewarding and terrifying at times.

As a child, you learn to follow a schedule, do what your parents tell you to do and go to school to learn most everything else. Sometimes you don't understand why you are supposed to do things, like go to bed when you are not tired, avoid certain situations, or be educated in things you have no interest in.

This is where life gets interesting. It has been called many things: the generation gap, a communication void, a discipline issue, most of the time it is just the way life is.

Understanding the choices your parents make for you can be some of the hardest things to comprehend. Especially when you have peers being given just the opposite things as you. The world of electronics, cars, and even education have been a challenge for many parents as they decide whether you should have a cell phone and at what age, can they afford to buy you a car and then who pays for gas or insurance you or them? What college do you go to, and who pays the cost?

As a parent, I feel for the child when I see kids who have things my children do not, but life isn't always fair. I also see many children that do not even have the things that my children have, who should feel sorry for them?

The best thing to do as a parent is to give them what you can. Show you love them with hugs. Tell them you love them with words. And most of all spend time with them. Even if it just means sitting in a quiet room and talking about the day’s events.

The best thing to do as a child is to know that your parents love you. They may not always show it in the way that you would like, but they do. They wants what's best for you. When they yell or seem mad, it may be that your mom or dad is more frustrated that they can't do or make things the perfect world they want you to have. Then, it is not always a perfect world.

I love my children and I love my parent's just the way they are.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I would know that school would end soon enough...and work would...well, never mind.

Exodus 5:18 (New International Version)Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks."

It's that time , the hustle and bustle of a new school year. The world struggles with educating our youth. More importantly they struggle with employing the newly educated. I am blessed with three bright well educated sons who are continuing their education. One in law school and one in his senior year of college, the third in his junior year of high school. They have all worked hard during the summer and had pretty good gigs for  students but many others have not been so lucky.

More students that graduated with a college degree this year did not find a job in their selected field, than any other time in history. The move out was not a move up and sometimes it became a move back as many sought out their parent's homes for refuge. Jobs were scare for those that found them and starting salaries were below previous years. This is the startling reality of the newly chosen to enter the work force.

Very few graduated without having a student loan of some sort, expanding the burden and need to find a job soon. Student borrowing increased at a rapid pace of 10 percent a year over the last decade, trying to keep up with the rising cost of education. Tuition cost have outpaced the cost of housing, energy and health care.  Once a given that these loans would be paid off, there is a looming crisis as these 20 somethings have started to default on borrowed money at a rapid rate.

The lifetime income gap between those who graduated from college and those who graduated from high school is closing.  This sometimes makes it seem foolish to spend four years or more compounding debt to get a college degree without hope of ever using it in the area of study.

In reality though, those who graduate from college will have more money, bigger houses, more cars, and more vacation time than those who only have a college degree. They will have longer relationships and marriages. They will have less financial troubles and less problems with addiction.

Most of the people I know remember their college years as the best of their lives. They enjoyed the education, the fraternization, and the extended community. Work brings uncertainty, especially in times like these. My recommendation. stay in school, learn all you can. Get a minor in a foreign language if possible. The global gap is closing all the time and it will be useful to your future. And for those of you that so chose, go back to school, or go for the first time, it will be worth every book you open and every person you meet along the way.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I would listen more closely to what my heart says:

Proverbs 23:19 (New International Version)

Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.

It's a complicated thing to be right. Usually that means someone has to be wrong. I see my friends lean to the left or lean to the right. Sometimes they fall right into the middle. Many times they fall on their faces because they covet values that the rest of society use to control them and when it doesn't work society will change direction leaving them to wonder, What just happened.? Most of them have a hard time letting their heart guide them. They listen to the radio, TV and read Internet, magazines and post that sensationalize everything and I do mean everything.

Today 31 US troops died in a helicopter crash. People will take sides on this one. Some will say we should have been out of Afghanistan a long time ago, some will say we should wipe out a whole race of people for the sins of a few, even fewer will grieve over the loss of these wonderful young people.

 The US bond rating was lowered for the first time in history. America's finances are in turmoil and many still live day to day wondering what tomorrow will bring, while others say, "this doesn't affect me.". 
 Thylane Loubry Blondeau is making news for being a sexy magazine cover model. She is 10 years old. Many are outrage at this use of a child, some defend her and the child herself wants to know what all the fuss is about.

All of these will bring outrage and mistrust and even confusion to those that wish to follow their heart.
Life is no longer simple, we can't drive the car we want, wear the clothes we want or even eat the food we want without someone commenting. We are at war with a government that wants more and more. People have chosen sides and not always for the right reasons.

They chose Democrat or Republican because their parents chose to be one. They want security, freedom, and sometimes just to be left alone.  It's hard to see the grey areas, when things are suppose to be black and white.
If you look closely over a lifetime the parties change to fit the mold that gets them elected. The Democratic party of John F. Kennedy became the Republican party of Ronald Regan. The one thing that never changes is that everyone else wants you to believe what they believe and believe in there right or wrong.

In most cases I have chosen to look at both sides and pick option "C". There is always good in moderation. Some think that makes me wishy washy. Some think I sit on the fence to avoid conflict. Many think I am dead wrong. Those that know me think I chose silly over commitment. All are probably right at some point along the way.

I have chosen to follow my heart. I stop and listen to what people have to say. I research information in my own way. In the end, I have to choose my own path.

Does this make it easier for me? Well the short answer is: not really.

I see people that are unhappy all the time and I say to myself that will never be me. I will always be poorer than someone, not as pretty as most and my body hasn't been perfect since I started balding long ago. I can match wits with anyone even though my education may not be as arduous as theirs. 
My faults sometimes have become my greatest strength.  So when I have to choose I listen to what my heart has to say.

 I choose to follow my heart when things get tough and most of the time it doesn't let me down.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Well I take on a new title today, father in law. It's much like following your wife through a pregnancy and all of a sudden a child appears, and someone says your a father and your world has in a moment changed forever.
It was a beautiful wedding. Seven bridesmaid, seven groomsmen, attendants and flower girls and ring bearers and ushers, photographers, and videographers it was a crowded room in a unbelievably adorned church all before a sanctuary filled with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and hundreds of others to be named later.
Brock and Miranda photo by Kelly Sandstedt

The thing that brought it all together though was the pastor. A missionary from the Philippines that flew half way round the world to perform this sacred ceremony between man and woman. What makes a guy like this so special? He was once a youth pastor in the church where the bride and groom attended during their high school years, he gave them religious guidance but much more than that he gave them friendship, a bond that followed them though college and more. Why did this man become the defining factor in what was the most beautiful wedding ceremony the world has seen in this century? (I was married in the last century so I can say this without getting into trouble.) He loved the two people he came to marry, it showed in his sermon, it showed in his touch and it showed when he became choked up when the vows written by the bride and groom were said. In a world where most senior pastors preform this ceremony for people they barely know, this was truly a blessing from God to the now married couple. He spoke of knowing them as children, how he watched them grow separately and together of the hardships they shared with him and how they always made smart and right decisions along the way. As he said this I knew he was right and they proved it by making a smart decision to chose this man to do their wedding. He was loving and compassionate, he knew them like no one else would, he told their story. He prayed with them silently and rejoiced with them loudly. This Pastor Jerome Sack, did it not for money or personal gain of any kind, he did it because it was right, for him and them. They love him and he loves them, this is what a wedding should always be like.
I sat there in my tux, looking older than I had only minutes before, tears welled in my eyes. I felt great pride. This couple belongs together but not only that, they showed the world what a true love relationship should be. After 9 long years of being together from childhood to adult, this is only the beginning for them. They turned in traditional style, kissed and were introduced as Mr. and Mrs Brock Andrew Smith.
Now it is a new beginning for me. I am a father-in-law. I have a new child and she is beautiful. My wife and I will love her and cherish her as we have the four that came before her. In the years to come she plans to change my title again to grandparent and I am more than okay with that.
We left the church and made it to the reception hall. The wedding party left by limo and would arrive to join us an hour later. They were introduced one by one, the first to the show were the ushers who led all into the church as the music played and they danced their way in; one did a round house into a back flip and the party was on.
Much of the rest of the night was a blur. Not because I consumed more alcohol than I should have (I did) but because the pats on the back came, the congratulations on the fine wedding and the fine children that were the object of it all. It was amazing how it all came together, the number of people it took and how two families that barely know each other, yet could join as one to make it a spectacular evening for all. As is the case with all weddings, the older crowd gave way to the younger crowd as the evening progressed. (Not sure when it happened but I am now part of the older crowd) The dance floor was wall to wall people in the early evening but by the late late evening only the die hards persisted.
The time had come to take it all down and put it away. The decorations were stored. The left over food was boxed for another day. We took out the trash and turned out the lights. The day was done and it was good. There were a few bumps along the way but that is a story for another day. Right now it was the perfect wedding day. Congratulations to my son Brock and his new bride Miranda.  I am proud to call him son and her daughter-in-law. I hope I stand the test of time as a good father-in-law.
Read more about me here:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Father of the Groom

It is an exciting time in the life of the family when a child gets married. He will always be a child to me even though he will be 23 in a couple of weeks and start his second year of law school soon after that. He/We have been blessed with a bride that has been part of our family for many years. They started dating in junior high. The wedding planning has been mostly done by the bride and her family but as the father of the groom I have had a little to do.
Planning the rehearsal dinner is the responsibility of the groom’s family and we take it seriously to put on a good show, especially for out of town guest. So what can we do to give them a little taste of Kansas City? Why provide Smoke House Barbecue and Boulevard beer. Two of our local favorites. Although we live a little ways away we will host the gala at Heritage Hall just off the square in the big small town of Liberty, Missouri. There might just be a little surprise entertainment if it all works out the right way.

His mom has been busy as well, buying etched glassware with their names and the date to memorialize the day, A take home item for each guest. She continues to buy gift after gift to help pave the way to a new household. She hired the limo service that will take them from the church. She has met with the bride’s mother to plan other things as well. It all seems very complicated. The wedding party is large and there will be more than 300 guests from all over the country.
I am just a dad; we are not built to pick out decorations and plates and organize food and make sure everyone is dressed the right way. I have even struggled with the idea of renting a tux to match the rest of the group when I have one hanging in the closet at home. I have argued with my son over little things like the invitation list, leaving out several relatives that I would like to have come. But it's not about me, there is a budget, although I am not sure anyone has really stuck to it. With each new idea brings a new bill and a new responsibility for someone to check off their list.

The new and soon to be in-laws are good people and we enjoy their company and there is a lot to be said for that. It makes it easier when decisions have been difficult. Budgets have been managed and responsibility has been divided among us. The bride has taken the lead to keep everyone in line. I think the groom is probably the most difficult of all. He has been very spoiled by parents that love him and have paved the way for his success. He does things in his own time and his own way but they will get done as long as he sees value in doing it.
The wedding is in 10 short days, the rehearsal the night before. Many things need to fall in place still and I think they will. We will have a son returning from Chicago, another from Florida. We will all be together for the first time this summer. It will be a grand and memorable time.

The future for our kids seems very bright indeed for the time that we live in. They will live in Lincoln, Nebraska for the time being as he finishes law school at Husker U. She has a good job there and their home is set up and waiting for them to return from the honeymoon somewhere in the far reaches of the land called Mexico.
I am a simple man, with simple needs; one of those is for my children to be happy. So I wish them all the happiness in the world and God's speed through an incredible life together. I take on one more title in the many that I have had in this lifetime: The Father of the Groom.