What Will They Say About You?

“It will be as if she never existed…” Tom Hagen to Senator Geary in The Godfather 2

I thought about this line from the movie this morning as I drove past an empty lot on my way to work. You see it didn’t used to be just a lot; at one time there was a house with one of the nicest little old ladies I’ve ever known living there.

Her house was about a block away from my shoe store and she started to stop in and look at shoes before going to do her weekly  grocery shopping. I looked forward to seeing her each week, as I said she was about one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever known.

Driving by where her house used to be made me think about Helen and the kitten my family and I gave her once. She loved that little kitty and once a month without fail she would bring in new pictures of it to show me and my wife. It was as if that cat was her baby and she treated her as such.

I’m not sure what happened to Helen, I left the shoe store and got another job and never saw her after that. I’d heard she moved into an assisted living residence, and wondered at that time what had happened to her cat. 

But it wasn’t until I drove by where her home was and saw the empty lot I began to think about the impact we have on others. My family and I impacted her life by giving her a cat, and she in turned changed our lives by becoming our friend.

I miss Helen and those silly cat pictures. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize how important relationships really are. I think back over my fifty some years on this planet and wish now I would have invested more time in the lives of those I’ve met instead of being so focused on making a life for me and my family.

As you go about your life, remember to take time and make solid relationships with those you meet. They will pay greater rewards than any money or power you can ever gain.

Blogging…It’s Cheaper Than Therapy

What do you do when you’ve had one of those incredibly crappy days? You know the type; the days where it seems no matter what you did, it was just one huge mistake after another? In times past, I would find myself dialing my best friend’s number and talking with him about what was going on, But he died last year, leaving me to face these challenges all by myself now. And it’s not like I don’t have any other friends to talk to, because I do, and they’re good men too. It’s just I have never made the connection to any of them like I had with Terry, and I can honestly say my life is now much more difficult than it has ever been.

One thing I have found which helps me now is blogging. As I write out my thoughts to share with others, it forces me to think about what is actually going on, much like it did when Terry and I would talk. Most of the time by the end of my writing I’ve come up with the solution to my situation, or at the very least getting them out of my mind and onto the page allows them to vacate the real estate in my brain; freeing me to focus on the things which really matter.

Have you ever been to see a therapist? I have, and let me tell you even the cheapest ones will run you at the bare minimum a hundred bucks an hour. And unless you have great insurance which will pay for you to go, getting help can be very costly, very quick. But one thing’s for sure, we all need an outlet to release the stress and negative things which happen in our lives.

What is your outlet for stress release? Some people go to alcohol, sports, porn or any myriad of other things as a way of releasing the tensions of the day. But do these really help, or are they just masking the actual problem by dealing with its symptoms? It’s like this, you can knock down the cobwebs a spider creates, but unless you rid yourself of the spider, you will come back time and again to remove the pesky webbing. It’s the same in life too; if you find yourself facing the same problem time and again, then maybe you are not really fixing the problem, you’re only dealing with the symptoms.

As I said, blogging is what works for me, because in sharing my life; the good, bad and ugly, it forces me to see what is really going on and to make strides towards correcting the situations I face. Find a way to work through those things which are hindering you, and actually change the problem, not just the symptoms of the problem. Write me and let me know what works for you, I’d love to hear it.

You can reach me at david@davidwfelts.com

 

Seven Years

Seven years or 84 months or 364 weeks or 2,555 days or 61,320 hours or 3,679,200 minutes or 220,752,000 seconds.  However you want to track the passage of time, this is how long it has been since my youngest son Noah was lost to me due to suicide. I’ve written about this before; usually at this time of year when I am forced to relive the events which happened on that day. But this year I want to write something a little different.

It was back in the first part of March I was thinking about Noah and I began to ask myself what day he died on. It took me quite a while to remember, actually having to go back through my Facebook account looking for posts from when it first happened. After figuring it out, I felt like quite a failure as a parent. After all, how could a good parent forget the actual day they lost one of their children? It wasn’t until a few days ago when my bride said something to the fact about today being the seventh anniversary and it had crept up on her, I began to think perhaps we had both turned a corner.

When I say turned a corner, I don’t mean either of us has forgotten the day or Noah, but that we have just traveled farther down the road of life. And the more distance you put between yourself and the horrible things which have happened, the easier it becomes for them to take up less space in your every day thoughts. The passage of time is a good thing.

Something I’ve learned in the past seven years is there are no guarantees in life; things have a way of just happening to people; both good and bad. We try to rationalize it when something horrible happens, but there is no making sense of it. We live in a fallen world, in which bad things happen. Another thing I’ve learned is God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know it sounds trite, but regardless, it is the truth. And when crap hits the fan, you have to hold on to what is true if you ever want to have hope of making it further down the road of life.

For me, today marks another year off the calendar and a few more miles along the path I’ve been forced to walk these past seven years. Would I rather not be on this particular journey? Absolutely. I’d love to have my 20 year old son here with me and my family enjoying the life he should be living, but instead I’m living another reality; the one where he is no longer here with me. It’s not my choice, but I will journey on regardless.

The passage of time is a good thing, believe me when I say it. Though it may not look like it when you are in the middle of whatever you are going through, I promise it will get easier the further away from whatever is challenging you. Just do what my family and I have done for the past seven years; breathe, take a step and repeat. Just keep moving forward.

Mabookies On Parade

The picture may not be the best quality picture; after all I used my Redneck photo copier to take it, i.e. I took a picture of a picture using my phone, but it is one of my favorite memories from a time long ago. The three people pictured in this photo are me and my friends Terry and Angel, and was taken 16 years ago while on a mission trip in the Philippines. I added the words “Mabookies On Parade” and had it printed for the three or us. We often referred to it as our “album cover” even though we never recorded any music.

The term “mabookie” came from the remastered version of A New Hope (Star Wars episode 4 which is the first movie, but the fourth in the franchise). In it, Jabba the Hutt referred to Han Solo as mabookie and the subtitles defined the term as “my boy”. Terry and I adopted this phrase and began calling each other by this nickname and it took on a life of it’s own. Later we added Angel to the group; even though she’s a girl she was our mabookie too.

One of the reasons I love this picture is because it reminds me of all the laughs we had together. I know you can’t tell from the picture, after all we were making an album cover at the time and were going for the serious artist pose. But when the three of us got together, there was laughter galore.

It probably helped that we were kindred spirits and had the same quirky sense of humor. There have been very few people on this planet who “get me” but these two did and my life is so much better because of them. I believe if every person on this planet had two friends like these the world would be a better place. I’m truly blessed to have been a part of this cadre of fun loving people.

Terry died a few months ago, taking our trio down to a duo, and while it’s been hard with him gone, Angel and I had the opportunity the other night to get together and watch our favorite movie So I Married An Axe Murderer together. It was so nice to have her there with my family; eating, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. It was just like old times and I hadn’t realized how much I missed the good times we all had together.

And as I sit here writing this and looking at this picture I can’t help but thank God He brought these two people into my life so many years ago. They truly have helped to make me a better man, and the laughter they brought into my life I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Thank you Terry and Angel for all you’ve done for me; mabookies for eternity.

What Defines You?

If you are at any kind of social event where you will meet new people, one of the first things to be asked always seems to be, “So, what do you do?” I understand it is a conversation starter and usually I spend a few minutes trying to explain what it is I actually do for the company I work for, which usually leads into the person moving on to someone else, or I get the glazed stare of indifference. There is a scene in a little known movie called Undercover Blues which always makes me laugh. In it Dennis Quaid plays a retired spy and new dad. Every time he meets someone and they ask what he does, he makes up some new line of work; anything from a brain surgeon to an Electrolux vacuum salesman. I may start doing this myself.

It seems whenever the question of what a person does for a living comes up, really what is being asked is what defines you as a person? I mean think about it, we love to hear about how exciting a person’s job is, or how much money they acquire through doing it, don’t we? If a person tells us they work at the local Walmart or sewage plant, we won’t hang around nearly as long as if they tell us about how their job sends them all over the world to work with the rich and powerful now will we?

Being defined by what you do has been one of the most soul crushing experiences of my life. I owned and operated a retail shoe store for over twenty years; even calling myself Dave the Shoe-Guy for a long time. I let my shoe store define who I was in more ways than one. I couldn’t get away from it either. When I was introduced to people in a social setting, it was always, this is Dave, he owns a shoe store. Never, this is Dave, he loves Jesus and Star Wars.

What defines who you are? Are you a hunter or fisherman? Do you play golf or basketball on the weekends? Are you letting these things define who you are? Perhaps you’re a husband and father; both noble things but are these the definition of who you are? I think there is more than what you do to define you. The problem is society has a way of trying to label us. It’s like you do this, so you go over here in this group. Being defined by what you do is almost the same as being segregated, and we all know how much people love to be segregated.

I realized one day there was more to who I am than just what I did. You see, I am a man who loves his family, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, an old school Star Wars fan, a writer and someone who loves to spend time drinking coffee with his friends. The job I go to every day is what pays the bills, but it is not what defines me, at least not anymore. I won’t let it be the scorecard on what my worth is in this world.

What are you letting define who you are? Is it developing you into a better man, or is it crushing your soul just like it did for me many years ago? Stop being defined by what the world says you should be and go be who you were meant to be. You’ll be glad you did.

For I Am Costanza…Lord of the Idiots

My best friend Terry and I shared a love for the television show Seinfeld. We spent many years quoting lines from this hilarious sitcom and even would call or text each other on every occasion we were able to live out a moment from the show. (Finding a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Manila was a highlight for both of us.)

One of the more memorable and funny episodes is called The Apartment, and in it George Constanza is wearing a wedding ring in a social experiment to try and get dates with more women. Towards the end after having his plan backfire, he makes the statement, “For I am Constanza, lord of the idiots.” It makes me laugh even as I’m writing it now. I have picked up this line and use it whenever I’ve had an idiotic moment in my own life; something which happens more often than I actually care to admit.

In my fifty-three years of life on this planet, I have had plenty of opportunities to play the idiot, as I’m sure we all have. There are times however when I feel I’m actually setting the bar for idiots everywhere to be judged by. But during the times of my lunacy I don’t think this way, it’s usually after the fact. And once this realization hits me, I really feel dumb. Those are the times where I want to crawl under a rock and hide, it can be so embarrassing.

This past week at work I had a couple of extremely difficult days and a Constanza moment raised its ugly head. It was so bad one day I actually thought about fleeing; just going to my truck and leaving without saying a word to anyone. In my entire adult life I’ve never wanted to run away from anything and this shocked me. Thank God it did, because it was this shock which woke me up from my lunacy and got me to asking what was really going on my life.

These Constanza moments come to me whenever I perceive things are not going my way. It’s like my default button is to act like a fool whenever things are not going the way I want them to. Yes I realize this sounds horrible, but truth is truth, and as they say, the first step in fixing a problem is realizing you actually have one. The man who is not self-aware is the man who really has a problem. I realized the issues I’ve been having and have begun to rectify them, making the necessary changes towards becoming a better man, which will be another blog altogether.

What I want you to realize today is you’re not alone, there are millions of us out there. And just like in the Seinfeld episode as George is confessing his idiocy to Jerry, a lady in the background starts yelling out the window to the runners, “You’re all winners!” to which George says, “But suddenly a new contender has emerged.”

 

 

 

 

The Peasant Queen

She was born to be royal, but you’d never know it by he way he spoke to her. Jane dreamed her whole life about the day her prince would arrive and sweep her off her feet. On the day she met Aaron, her heart leapt for joy when he talked about the things he wanted to do in his life, because they mirrored the dreams she wanted to pursue as well.

Their courtship wasn’t a long one and within a few months his romantic proposal in the countryside caused her to fall even more in love with the man of her dreams. Soon the two were joined by their family and friends in a celebration of their love and as her father walked her down the aisle towards her waiting knight she couldn’t help but think about how perfect her life was.

A few months later as she was dusting one of the wedding pictures on her mantle, she noticed the smile on Aaron’s face in one of them and it made her wonder what why he rarely smiled now. “It must be some I’m doing, because he looks so happy there,” she thought.  Holding back a tear, she dabbed at her eyes to keep the moisture from falling down her cheeks and continued cleaning.

One night at a party with friends, she watched as he laughed and joked with his buddies. It seemed as if the man she married had returned, but on the drive home afterwards when she mentioned how much fun the party had been, he was sullen and had very little to say in response. Later, as she was removing her makeup and getting ready for bed, he asked why it was taking her so long? “Hurry up Jane! I’ve got to get up early tomorrow, so I ain’t got all night to wait for sex you know!”

This became her life; work all day at her job, come home and make dinner, cleaning up the mess and taking care of his laundry, while he sat in his chair like a king on his throne watching television. As the months passed, the words he spoke to her, when he actually did speak were always harsh and filled with comments about how she had changed, didn’t do things around the house very well and wasn’t the same girl he’d married.

After many years of unhappiness; which involved Aaron ruling the roost with an iron fist and speaking mostly hateful things to Jane, she finally made the decision, packed up her belongings and left him. Dazed and confused as she drove towards her parent’s house she came to the conclusion Aaron must have been right all those years when he said she was just lazy and just didn’t know how to manage a house very well. And instead of living as his queen in a happily ever after story, she left him feeling like the peasant he saw her as.

This story, while a work of fiction, is one which happens around the world on a daily basis. Men speaking harsh words, never thinking about what they are doing to their brides. If men want their brides to act like queens, they need to stop talking to them as if they’re peasants. What I mean by this, is your wife responds to the words you say to her. There are so many marriages that endure abuse; it may not be physical, but is emotional and is just as bad. 

Men who treat their wives this way are really shooting themselves in the foot. The man who belittles his wife or puts her down in an attempt to motivate her to do things the way he wants her to do them is not loving her well at all. Women respond to the words we say guys; both good and bad. Speaking kind words always go further than when you speak harshly.

Many years ago when  I was first married, I didn’t like some of the ways things were going in my fledgling relationship with Cheryl. I decided my bride needed to make some changes, so I set out to change her. I started looking in the Bible for things a Godly woman was supposed to be and wrote them down in a little notebook which I then carried in my shirt pocket and read out loud to myself several times a day. Things like, Proverbs 31:10 which says, Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Then I would personalize it by saying, Cheryl is a virtuous and capable wife, she is more precious than rubies to me.

I found about fifteen to twenty Scriptures I felt would make Cheryl a better wife to me, you know things I was expecting God to change about her in order to make my marriage better. I’m not saying my motivation was right, so don’t vilify me as a horrible husband just yet. For about the next thirty to forty five days I faithfully confessed these things multiple times a day expecting a change to take place in Cheryl. And do you know, she never changed once? But, the change which took place was inside of me.

I began to see her differently than when I had started my journey of confessions to make her a better wife. What changed in me, was I actually began to see her like God did, and once this happened, our marriage got better. I didn’t  need to see a change in Cheryl, I needed to change the way I was seeing Cheryl. And when I did so, I saw her as the queen she actually is and began responding to her through my words differently.

It has taken years for her to understand I speak the truth when I tell her how beautiful she is, how great a person she is and what a fantastic mother she has been to our kids. But I now really see her the way God does and that changes everything about how I act around her and how I treat her. I’m so thankful I made all those confessions about her so many years ago, because it has made being married to her much better. She really is all those things the Bible says she is.

Fellas I will tell you this, if you’re speaking to your bride like some peasant girl, even jokingly, stop it now and address her like the queen she actually is. Speak what God’s Word says about her, and I promise you will see a huge difference in your relationship with her and you will be amazed as you watch the transformation take place in her right before your eyes.