Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seeing the Other Side, Brother

"See you on the other side, Brother."


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My plane landed in Sydney, Australia, at 6:30 a.m. last Tuesday, exactly 18 hours in the future from my present and where I spent the next five and a half days.

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Half of that time was spent at a new conference called the Recruiters' Hub Conference (RHUB) where I was invited to speak about marketing to HR and talent communities, while the other half spent exploring greater Sydney and the Blue Mountains. From the Three Sisters to Echo Point to Flat Rock to Featherdale Wildlife Park to Watson's Bay to the Opera house to Circular Quay to the Sydney Harbor Bridge to Hyde Park -- the scenes went from picture books to visceral experience for me.

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I underestimated how transformative this trip would actually become for me, although I'm not sure we can ever estimate how transformative anything will be until we're transformed. My professional and personal life were about to become further elevated and integrated than ever before, what Jason Seiden calls being Profersonal.

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To be immersed with a people not too dissimilar from my own, except of course the accent and Australian and English expressions like "right" and "fair enough" and "crikey".
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To be around "brilliant" HR and recruitment professionals, agencies, tech suppliers and thought leaders alike who share the trends and challenges we do -- the growing contingent workforce, the complexity of government regulations, aligning corporate recruiting with recruiting agencies, recruiting technology innovation and efficiencies, and all things social including recruiting, marketing and PR.

To be moved and schooled by others while finding my voice when presenting. To connect and become friends with others who've also become comfortable their own skin, and who each day grow to like it more and more.


My Blue Mountains tour guide Paul was overheard paying homage to the show Lost, hence the quote up top. (He really looked like the character Desmond.) He was just one of many amazing people and connections I made during my brief time travel.

The time travel lifeline remained intact, however. Seeing and talking with the Mama and the B-hive on Skype sustained me with love while away, as well as being able to check on my dad and mom.

The transformative crescendo came all at once my last evening in Sydney as I sat in the greatest of company, surrounded by locals and tourists eating and drinking and enjoying each other's company at the Opera Bar as the lights of the harbor came on at dusk. Fireworks from an event at Hyde Park lit up behind us. Once the colors faded an unknown constellation shimmered in the early evening.

"Look, there's the Southern Cross! You wanted to see it!"

In that moment, I remembered many things all at once: man-handling old ghosts while growing comfortable with my own skin, meeting my wife on the beach, Beatrice's birth and Bryce's birth, my dad surviving radiation treatments and my mom just surviving, and meeting new amazing friends.
I saw the other side, Brother; I saw the future.

And I can't wait to do it all over again.

"When you see the Southern Cross
For the first time,
You understand now
Why you came this way.
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from
Is so small.
But it's as big as the promise
The promise of a comin' day."
--Crosby, Stills and Nash

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The only idea I have is in what I know

Emotional paralysis doesn't have to mean helplessness, but it's paralysis nonetheless, however fleeting, thankfully mine no longer tainted with any guilt or resentment of old. Even in the moment of hesitation, the decision has already been made; the heart and mind united along the beachhead shoring up any breaches: the money to get there and back, the lost work time, the being away from my girls and the Mama.

"I have to go," I said.

"I know," she said. "We love you and we love them."

"I know," I said. "I love you."

But admittedly, there is helplessness in the helping, an oppressive feeling as if buried up to your neck in sand with the tide coming in. I arrived Wednesday night in Oregon to be with my tired, sick parents. Dad finishing his fifth week of radiation treatment for stage 3 melanoma, and Mom always struggling with a lifetime of auto-immune disorder as well as myriad of interrelated illnesses.

I watch them hold one another and I see the Titanic movie scene where the old couple lays together inside the sinking Titanic, about to go down with the ship. (This was actually based on the real characters Ida and Isador Strauss, who was the co-owner of Macy's department store. Both were offered a place on the lifeboat but Isador refused to go as long as there were still women aboard. His faithful wife refused to leave his side. The couple wasn't actually in bed when the ship went down, but rather on a pair of deck chairs.)

Whatever the story, the metaphor isn't lost on me and I again imagine us as them now; they will go down with their ship together just as the Mama and me have pledged to do, with nothing less than honor and timeless love.

I do know my being here for any length of time does help them emotionally if not physically (running errands and helping around the house). Taking my dad to his last three radiation treatments wasn't a lot, but I'm glad I was here to do it. He's amazingly stalwart and has been so each time he's faced medical adversity. Mom has the ability to draw strength from which there should be no more and does whatever she has to do, just as Dad does for her when he's well and she's not.

They thank God for watching over them and giving them strength and guidance. So do I.

I have no idea the pain they each experience -- no idea what it's like to be strapped to a table and have the sun's power channeled straight into my neck every day for weeks, no idea what it's like to be in constant pain as my body deteriorates more every day.

The only idea I have is in what I know, that I love them regardless and am glad I'm here, heart and mind united.

All done for now, Mom and Pop. All done for now.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

To captain a milk carton boat

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The rain stopped. I splashed happily outside and ran to our yard's edge. The swollen gutter rushed along, carrying sticks and other debris to the storm drain depths at the end of the street.

Mesmerized, I bent slowly and set the milk carton boat into the churning water. I held on for a moment, unsure I should let it go. A stick hit the back of the boat and then flipped around and shot downstream from the force of the water.

I let go. Oddly the boat didn't move at first as though it were anchored in place, but then I gave it a nudge and it was off!

I chased the boat down the street electrified and practically elevated off the ground. I imagined I captained the boat, battling the rapids and the junk swirling around me, surging onward with full sail to the point of no return --

The world we grow up to know, sometimes mindful of the rapids, sometimes carried away.

Ah, to captain a milk carton boat...

"Hey Sis, you know how to drive this thing, right?"

"Sure thing. What's this wheel for again?"

Right on, girls. Godspeed.

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