Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed. ~ G.K. Chesterton
If you ever met Mike Wozniak and asked him “How are you doing?,” he had two potential answers.
With a twinkle in his eye he might say, “Hey, it’s your world – I’m just living in it.” That always brought a smile to my face.
Or he might just say:
That was my favorite. To me it always seemed like Mike lived with an understanding of the wonder of life. I know his faith was the foundation of that understanding. He was a joyful and optimistic man.
I cannot say that he and I were close friends or spent a lot of time together. It was our daughters’ softball pursuits that introduced us many years ago, and it was softball that always seemed to keep us connected. Mike was a great teacher and communicator. He most certainly loved fastpitch softball, but what he really loved was helping young women learn to play the game.
The last time I had coffee with him was on July 6, 2015. We talked about his daughter, Stefanie, and the rest of his family. We talked about my daughter, Kellen, and the rest of my family. He gave me an update on JoJo, another of Stefanie and Kellen’s teammates. He was so excited about having the opportunity to be the head softball coach at Hendrickson High School. He also spoke of his love for classroom teaching, especially personal finance.
Mike was the kind of person you want coaching your daughter, and he was the kind of teacher you want teaching your son or daughter. Those players and students who drew him got a blessing. He coached and taught with the joy that sprang from his view of this amazing gift called life.
That day in July 2015 that we got together, I gave Mike a signed copy of my book. He was grateful. Later that day he and I followed up with emails. Ever the encourager, Mike wrote:
It was great to catch up, and I am very proud of your accomplishments to date. Thank you for the book……..I look forward to reading it this summer.
I’m not sure if he ever got around to reading it, but it does not matter. Mike was a man who had already written a beautiful story in his life. His future was well planned for, and he thought of it as great adventure.
I’m sure if I could ask him right now, “Mike, how are you doing?,” his response would be:
On behalf of Kellen, Matthew, and Margot, I extend our love, thoughts, and prayers to the Wozniak family and all those who have been impacted by a life well lived. May we continue to learn many lessons from Coach Mike.
I will miss you, my friend.
Ideas are portable and easily shared. In a recent conversation with my friend, Coach Deborah Newkirk, I repeated the familiar refrain: “I’ve got too many irons in the fire.” This idiomatic expression comes from the days when blacksmiths had literal iron bars in literal fires. We now use it to mean “I am really busy.” Deborah shared something that her friend Dr. Jerry George said to her (see how portable ideas are?). Since I did not hear it directly from him, I will offer this as a paraphrase. I am not even sure of the context in which he said it to her, but here it is:
When you have a lot of irons in the fire, don’t be afraid to add more irons. Accept the blessing. – Dr. Jerry George
That resonates with me. Even though I do have a lot on my plate, I need to adjust my attitude a bit and remain open to new opportunities and blessings that come my way. The “too many irons” mindset can become an excuse for not doing something that matters. It may also prevent me from accepting a tremendous new opportunity.
The new approach I plan to adopt is to not be afraid of all of the irons I have heating, but rather to attend well to them while being open to even more irons. Now, not every iron is as important as the others at any given point in time. I may need to focus on some more than others at this moment, but they are all a blessing.
Having a lot of irons in the fire is a very good thing.
If you don’t believe me, just ask someone with nothing to do.
Art is never finished, only abandoned. – Leonardo da Vinci
My Dad is a man. I don’t mean he is a male — that much is obvious. I mean he is a man in the sense that he is what we call a manly man.
He was a good athlete. He hunts. He fishes. He has at least one of every power tool ever made…and he has used them all. Heck, at age 76 he still uses them all. He is an accomplished mechanic who restores vintage cars like Ford Model Ts. He welds. He mows. He chainsaws. He is a master with the smoker and grill. His brisket is still the standard by which I measure all others. What I am saying is that by every standard by which masculinity is usually measured, he is manly.
It has always been easy for me to look at him and see what a man looks like, but that is not what makes him so special. There are manly men everywhere. What makes him special is the ease with which he models both his manliness and his sensitivity. From the time I was a small child he was comfortable with hugging me and telling me he loved me. We still hug. We still affirm our love for each other. I have come to realize that not all fathers know how to do that. He is a gentle and kind man. He is a man of faith.
My grandfather died when I was five years old. I still remember him, but the memories are veiled by years and by my age at the time. So, I don’t know if he modeled this physical and verbal form of fatherhood for my Dad to see. I will find out today when I speak to him on Father’s Day. Regardless of where he learned it, Dad decided that he would tell his children that he loves them and that he would embrace them to demonstrate his love. He has been consistent with it. I am grateful for that. It helped me see that there is no contradiction between masculinity and sensitivity.
I have friends who did not have that kind of model in their father. Some of them struggle with showing affection to their children. I cannot blame them because the way we are raised has a powerful impact on how we parent. If you are one of those men who struggles with kindness, affection, and expressiveness with your children, let me challenge you to break the cycle. Find a man who does it the way you want to do it and have a conversation with him. Try it sometime with your children even though it may feel strange. You have the opportunity to start a new family tradition that you can pass along to your children and grandchildren. Boys need to see this positive practice of masculinity, and girls need to see it as well.
There are really no downsides to my Dad’s approach. I highly recommend it, and I try to practice it myself.
So, thank you, Miller Lee.
I love you.
At Forward Story we are always interested in information that relates to the way our bodies work and the way families work. I have discovered a book that deals with both. The book is The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults
It’s a shame this book was not available when we were raising our teenagers. It might have made the whole experience even more enjoyable for both them and us. Having listened to an interview with Dr. Jensen, who is herself the mother of teenage sons, I believe this book can truly help you if you are a parent, or a grandparent of teens. Also, if you work with teens as a teacher, counselor, or mentor, I think you will be able to produce value from it as well.
If you read the book, please share with us what you think about it: