Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let Your Light Shine in 2009! Happy New Year! Happy New YOU!

Hi Max!

I wrote this to my team and I had a request to put it out to more people so I've put it on Facebook and here as well. It truly reveals my philosophy on life. I hope it is inspirational for all who read it.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!
By Michael J. Maher, MBA

Let me start with this poem by Marianne Williamson. It's called "Our Deepest Fear" and it's from her wonderful book A Return to Love. I highly recommend you purchasing this book. This poem is filled with some of the most inspirational words I've ever read. This poem, centered, bolded, and formatted sits in a prominent place on my desk for every day viewing. The formatting below is mine.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson, Our Deepest Fear, A Return to Love

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Is there a metaphor for how you live your life? Let me give you a suggestion for 2009. Be a Lighthouse in 2009. What are some words to describe a lighthouse?

"Beacon"
"Guide"
"Bright"
"Light"
"Helpful"
"Tall"
"Beautiful"
"Always There"
"Directing"
"Hope"


These are words that have come out in my presentations when I present this concept. Never has a year given YOU more of an opportunity to be a lighthouse than 2009.

Q. When does a lighthouse light shine the brightest? A. At night and during the darkest of storms.

Folks, we are facing an economic hurricane. 2008 was a blast of cold wind and high seas. The housing market, financial markets, foreign markets, and stock market were slammed into chaos. For some, the roughest year ever. Who could we look to for guidance? The government? No. The insurance companies? No. Our employer? No. The auto companies? No. Rather than looking outside for this guidance,we need to look inside.

Look at the light that burns within you. You know what you need to do. Your gut instinct tells you daily what you need to do, but you may not have been listening because of the noise caused by the negative press and media. The press loves the high winds and rough seas because it sells ads. Negative sells so they continue the huffing and puffing. But in the midst of these loud, bellowing voices is a tiny voice. It's your conscience and you know the truth. What they are saying doesn't affect you! They can take away your car, your job, your home, your "things", but they can never take away what really matters - your knowledge, your relationships, your family, your love for others, your health, and your happiness. You are in control of all of those. Yes, YOU CAN CHOOSE HAPPINESS EVERY DAY. It's your choice not anybody else's. I choose happy on a daily basis and I choose to seek to ignore the market naysayers and suddenly my transactions are up 78% and my total volume is up 49%! Yes, in 2009 in the worst market in Kansas City's history, we nearly doubled our transactions and raised our volume by almost 50%! I refuse to participate in a recession and I refuse to fight the battle of "bad market demons" at the office, in an arena, or with other people in my profession. Instead I look to where the market is and I let my light shine.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Here's the other thing about a lighthouse: do you see lighthouses running up and down the beach or the cliff-front yelling "Use me, use me"? Or does a lighthouse STAND STRONG AND TALL, LETTING ITS LIGHT SHINE WITH STEADINESS UND BRILLIANCE and whoever needs that guidance will find the lighthouse? Are you the one people turn to for help? And if not, why not?

Does your negativity turn them off? Count the blessings in your life and realize there is a positive to every, yes every, negative and your dour mood does nobody any good, especially you. Choose happiness and see what happens. Just try it.

Is it that you don't know how to help? Find the answers.

Is it that they don't know that you want to help? Let them know you are here to help.

Is it that they aren't confident that you can help? Speak strongly and with conviction. Show them successes you've experienced and your clients have experienced. Fake your confidence until you begin to recognize the voice that is coming out of your mouth. Yes, I said act confident until you are confident. (Read Change or Die by Alan Deutschman and the "act as if" is a researched principle for building confidence and allowing change). You might say, this is not being genuine.

Well, what is being genuine? Cowering in the corner of your office drinking coffee with all the other naysayers. Misery loves company, but it doesn't love my company because misery is for losers.

What is being genuine? Shrinking, playing small, curling up in the fetal position when troubles occur or phone calls need to be made. That's not being genuine, that's not allowing your TRUE LIGHT TO SHINE. Being genuine is acting like what you want to be before you are what you want to be. If you can act like it, you can be it. Do you think I was a top producer mentally or actually first? No, I acted the game in every sense of the word and I WAS a top producer even before my numbers showed that I was a top producer.

Let Your Light Shine in 2009.

You may say, "Michael I haven't had your success, or Michael I just don't have your strength or Michael if you had my life, you wouldn't choose happiness daily." To that I say, "Bullshit!" Yes, I said it. And sometimes lesser words don't hold a candle to a really startling and strong cuss word. I cuss once per year and you got it right there. Right in the chops. Because I started out on the wrong side of the tracks, I've had my brushes with death, I've had my unsuccessful hours, days, months, and years. I've had my moments I'm not proud of. But I've learned. There is no such thing as an overnight sensation. An overnight sensation starts with the first sleepless night you start worrying about how you're living your life.

A great example is the foreclosure phenomena. Do you realize that 80% of the foreclosures could be avoided if one of the adults in the house got a second job? That's it. Work at Wal-mart, retail, janitor, anything making $200 - $400 more per month! But we are raised playing basketball games where they don't keep score because they don't want anybody's feelings hurt, we grow up in a community where any negative word or challenge to the status quo raises red flags and gets committees in an uproar. When did America become so soft?!!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

This means overcoming the Lazy Gene - Yes, that is the gene we all have inside of us that makes us want to sleep in another hour, not make the extra prospecting call before going home, not calling that referral source because it might be bad, or anything else that allows us to choose the easy route. How often do we choose the easier, less resistant path when we know that the other path gives us greatness? How often do we choose ok (i.e. mediocre) in exchange for excellence (but it's so hard) or how often do we choose good in exchange for great? Make this the year you don't make any excuses, you overcome your fears, and you no longer choose ok or good. Make 2009 the year that you won't settle for anything less than greatness and excellence as a standard for you, your performance, and the performance of those around you. Do it!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Warning, this will come with some pain. Yes, other people will see what you are trying to do and they won't like it. Not one bit. You see, status quo is where many of your "old' friends are at and they are quite comfortable there. I've had to let many friends go in my pursuit of something better for myself. It doesn't mean I won't have a beer and wings with them, but it also means I won't be spending a lot of time with them. There will be pain.

And, get ready for this... heavy sigh... a lot of that pain may come from the home front. Make today the day you have a conversation (yes, actually talk with) your spouse and your kids. Let them know that you may see mommy (or daddy, if that is appropriate for you) change. Mommy is going to go to the gym and get in shape. Mommy is going to spend a little extra time learning (whatever it is you need to learn to become an expert in your field). Mommy is going to be selfish some in the hopes and with the intent that a better mommy makes a better family. Mommy is going to become all she can be. Mommy is going to let her light shine in 2009. And everybody knows that when momma is happy, everybody's happy. You go girl!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Let me tell you what happens when you let your light shine. Things are clearer. It's like somebody took Windex to the windows of your lighthouse. You understand your purpose and your why or maybe your purpose and your why discover you. One way or the other, this bright shining light that shines from within you begins to clear away the mediocre, the negative, the "just okay", and the news (turn off that tv). You start to see your blessings, the beauty that lies within all people (ALL PEOPLE!), and you begin to appreciate every breath... you get this enormous appreciation for life. Moments that you wouldn't give a second thought to before are now moments that take your breath away. You start to attract people to you that you never dreamed possible. You start to say things like, "GREAT things like that always seem to happen to me, I'm blessed to be surrounded by great people, and I always seem to be in the right place at the right time" and you believe them. What was once hocus-pocus and warm-and-fuzzy talk of do-gooders become the words that come out of your mouth.

And when you look in the mirror, you see somebody different. It's still you, but now it's YOU. It's YOU. It's the brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous YOU! It's YOU fulfilling what you could alway be. It's YOU standing strong and tall (where did that good posture come from - am I getting taller?). It's YOU seeking out challenges on a daily basis where you only felt fear before. It's YOU speaking with PASSION AND CONVICTION. It's YOU who people count on when the chips are down (or even in the good times). It's YOU who is providing enormous value to all those who seek your guidance. It's YOU who people are looking up to and aspiring to be like. It's YOU who is dedicated to a standard of Excellence. It's YOU who is unconsciously liberating others to let their light shine. It's YOU who is inspiring others to let their light shine. What was you is now YOU!

Let Your Light Shine in 2009!

Here's to a New YOU in a New Year! Happy New YOU!

To Your Success,

Michael



Max, hope you liked that or at least I hope you like that when you can read it. =0) This is your first celebration of a New Year! I'm so excited for you. A time for re-birth, renewal, and second chances. A time to take a breath of fresh air and start anew. What a wonderful time of year! Glad I get to celebrate this one with you and your mama! =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Your First Christmas...

Hi Max!

It's almost to the point where I can really talk to you instead of talking to you via a blog! It seems like you are understanding what I am saying and everyday you look more and more like a little man.

You're two months old today. Today is your first Christmas. I wonder if this will be the only Christmas in a long time where you don't pitter-patter your little feet down to the fireplace to see what Santa brought you. But this morning, it was just me pitter-pattering down to the fireplace at 6 a.m. to see what Santa had brought me. I tried not to wake up Sheri. I always wonder why she doesn't get as excited as I do about Santa's arrival and the treats he leaves. She's pretty laid back about the whole thing.

I tip-toed down. Why I was tip-toeing is a good question since our floors don't squeak and it wasn't like anybody else was awake. I half-expected to see a little elf or maybe even Santa putting the finishing touches on the gifts, but alas, no Santa, elves, or reindeer this morning, but there were presents. Yea baby! There was a present for you, me, Lucky, and Sheri. It was tempting to open all of them and then re-wrap them before everybody woke up but I thought better of it. I grabbed mine. I held it with an almost spiritual reverence. What was inside?

Isn't that part of the joy of Christmas? It's the joy inside the boxes. It's the thought and the time and the care that makes the gift. Rarely is there a letdown in that box. There may be a letdown following Christmas as the day never matches the hype (music, ads, market blitz, it's everywhere, how could it not be a letdown), but rarely is there disappointment when opening a gift from someone you love, in this case a fat man in a red and white suit.

{Aside: Here is a text message I sent Sheri on Tuesday: "Sheri if a fat guy starts shoving you in a bag, don't sweat it. I told Santa all I wanted for Christmas was you." I'm cute and romantic that way. =0}

I started tearing the wrapping paper. That's an interesting thing to: do you take it off delicately at the taped locations so that it can be folded nicely after opening or do you just grip it and rip it? In this case I went with the latter and in seconds a ball of wrapping paper was on the table. "Yes!" I exclaimed loudly, but not loud enough to wake you or mom.

There in my hands was exactly what I wanted for Christmas! Exactly. How does Santa know what to get me every year? I suspected Sheri had some connections to the big guy, but it is uncanny how often he can come up with that one gift to make me the most happy. I put on the good face and say the right things, "Oh, it doesn't matter what I get this year, whatever I get will be great. I have everything I need. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Blah, blah, blah." This year, I really wanted an armband to hold my iPod. Sounds simple and small, but I have the bigger iPod (not the Nano) that plays videos as well as audio and it's been hard for me to find.

Well, no problem for Santa! There in my hands was a black armband for an iPod! Sweet! I immediately opened it, went and found my iPod with video screen, put it into the slot, and PRESTO, I was ready for listening. So I tuned to some of my favorite tunes and walked around the house with my new iPod armband, iPod, and some 80s music or something like that. There I was in my PJs dancing a jig when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.

Sheri scared me nearly to death. She was at the end of the hall just looking at me like, "Are you a crazy person? It's 6 in the morning and you're dancing on the kitchen floor." She didn't say it, but I think that's what she was going to say. I kind of shrugged, turned off my iPod, and decided that I better do something constructive.

I took the dog out for his morning ritual and grabbed the newspaper. God had blessed us with an inch or two of snow. Enough to make it a white Christmas, but not enough to make driving too treacherous. Lucky marked the entire yard as his own and then we went inside. I fed the little dog and started the coffee.

After drinking a couple of cups of coffee and reading the paper (no elliptical this morning - it was an Off Day), it was time for you to get up and eat. It was Christmas so as promised, I took an extra turn with feeding you. I mixed the formula and went to get you. There you were a sleeping angel. My God, you are a beautiful baby. Angelic face, so healthy. You were starting to stir and I knew I had caught you at a good time. We went into your room to the "feeding chair".

You drank a good 5 ounces, had your two burp moments, and the day was really starting without incident. Good start.

We loaded up for the Soetaert's (your mom's side - remember my Thanksgiving comment when Sheri asked, "If a group of mouse is called mice and a group of birds is called a flock, what is a group of turkeys called?" I answered, "Soetaerts". I'm funny like that. :).

Upon arriving at the Soetaerts, it was not Hi Michael, Hi Sheri. It was ""Where's Max?" You, my little boy, are a loved kid. During the entire day, you were a human baton as aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparents, and anybody else - even some people I didn't even know - took their turns holding the golden child - yes, that's you. What was amazing is how good you were all day! We fed you on schedule and you chirped a little bit while trying to burp, but even though you didn't get your mid-day nap, you were an angel all day. Amazing.

You were especially amazing during the gift-opening part of the party. As 43, yes 43 people including 15 kids, made jet-level decibel noises, you, my little darling, SLEPT! I couldn't believe it. I had to take out my hearing aids it was so loud. And you were sleeping in my arms. Incredible. It was so loud. Kind of like the clucking of a bunch of turkeys. :)

As we packed up for our ride home, I reflected on your day. To you, it must have seemed like every other day in a lot of ways. You were fed on schedule all day. You slept normally except for your mid-day nap and you occasionally miss that anyway. You got Christmas presents, but I'm not sure you enjoyed them or realized they were for you. You've had occasions with all the family members so no newness there. I just wonder if you realized this was your first Christmas. Somehow I think you did. I don't know why, but I just think you did. You've been smiling and cooing all day and all evening. I've never seen you so expressive of your happiness. Maybe you could tell that there was joy all around you. You can sense that I believe.

Well, another baby's birth is the reason for the season and we never lose sight of that, but I have to tell you that this Christmas was the most special in my life, and it wasn't because I got a black iPod armband. It was because I got to hold you and share you with loving family members. I got to be there all day mentally as well as physically for your 1st Christmas. I got to celebrate the greatest gift I've ever received in my life.

Merry Christmas Max. I love you.

To Your Success,

Max's Papa (Michael)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Fatherhood Day...

Hi Max!

I grew up today. I became a father. Oh, yes, you are 7 weeks old, almost 8, but today was Daddy and Max day alone for a lot of the day. I got up, did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ate a bagel and cream cheese (kind of on this cinnamon-raisin bagel and cream cheese kick right now), and by then it was Sheri's time to go to the office for a meeting. This was going to be the first significant time (more than a couple of hours) for me to be "Home Alone" with you.

I fed you. I changed you. Little poop. Little wet. You did great. You also didn't cry when I changed you which was terrific. It really helps us to talk you through what we are doing, preparing you for our next move. That change went pretty uneventful and Sheri was off.

As soon as the garage door shut, you started whimpering a little bit. It was nap time but you were looking around with big, round eyes. I rolled your bassinet into the kitchen so you could be closer to where I was doing some work on the computer. You started to settle a little bit, maybe 10 minutes, then all heck broke loose. You were upset. You went from 0 to 60 decibels in 1 second. I went through my mind for the reasons you might be crying: hungry - check - just fed you, poopy - check - just changed you, burp - check - burped you before putting you in bassinet, sleepy - you should be sleepy but this wasn't that over-tired cry. Then, I smelled something. And it was bad. Real bad.

I took you to your changing table. Once again, I set you down by explaining what I was doing, but you were having none of that. It was full-on scream. You wanted to be changed- NOW! I unsnapped your outfit and unstuck the velcro on your diaper. As I unfolded the diaper from you, I had to take a step back. This was the MOTHER OF ALL POOPS! You had pooped yourself a small basketball. It was everywhere! {This blog is censored. I took a picture I was so impressed, but it was censored from the site. For that, you can be glad. Wow.}

I started with handywipe number one. It didn't even make a dent on what was on your body still. That doesn't count what was already trapped in your diaper. After wiping with handywipe number one, the stuff was so "all over" that I actually got more on your heel and your feet and on the back of your knee. I was making it worse by trying to clean you! Handywipe number two swept up a majority of what was left. Handywipe number three was used for touch up all around and in the cracks and crevices and rolls of your body. Poop had been everywhere, but you were starting to look clean again. Three handywipes later and a 5-pound diaper, I started to put a new diaper on you.

WHOA! Out of nowhere it starts raining... in our house! Water from the sky. Hitting me in the arm. What the heck? There was a fountain coming from your pee-pee into the sky. Great! You were peeing all over us now. I had to laugh. This would have made a great YouTube tape. I stopped the flow a little bit with the new, now used diaper. You got a little on your outfit, but not too bad. Don't tell mommy, but I just dried your outfit and kept it on you. :)

Perhaps at a different time in my life, I would have been upset, angry, impatient, or bothered. Not now, I was more in a state of wonderment or curiosity than I was in a state of anxiety. I calmly buttoned you back up and carried you to the bassinet for your nap.

I believe you sensed that it was just me and you because as I worked on the computer, you were staring up at me like, "How you doing Dad?" I smiled, you kind of smiled back. You kept staring instead of going to sleep. So I paused what I was working on (a Home Swap with a couple and an investor) and leaned over to the bassinet. I started slowly rocking the bassinet and sang my very first lullaby.

"Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time. Time to Sleep Now Max
Nap Time Nap Time Rolly Polly Nap Time It's Rolly Polly Nap Time.
It's that time of the day when you hit the hay
You're quiet and calm because it's Nap Time.
Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time. Nap Time, Nap Time, Rolly Polly Nap Time, Time to Sleep Now Max"

It will be on the Billboard Top 40 later this month. Bottom line: the rocking and the gentle singing put you out like a light.

Three hours later, mommy showed up. I was proud of myself. We did it. You and me. We didn't cause any catastrophes. I had time to work on some things and you stayed on schedule. I'm a dad. It was my Happy Fatherhood Day.

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Max, my son, you are ever so precious...





Photo Blog today... A picture says a thousand words... or more...




















To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wow! A sudden realization came over me...

Hi Max,

I just looked at the picture your mom sent to me with the message, "We miss you and love you." It came on my phone. When I downloaded it, an eerie feeling swept over me. I had always loved looking down into your eyes and seeing how similar you are to me. A sudden realization came to me just tonight as I wait for my plane to arrive to go home to Kansas City. You have my dad's eyes. That's what it is. Your eyes and the shape of your eyes are just like my dad's. It's cool. It's eerie. It makes a lot of sense.

I'll add the picture tomorrow and those who knew my dad should comment. Pretty cool. Definitely threw me off a little at first glance over the picture.

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Max at six weeks...


Hi Max!

Just had to share this picture of you at six weeks. You can't really see it, but your clothes are starting to fit. You've grown 2 inches and 8 ounces in the last week or so. You're doing great at six weeks.

I love you buddy. Get some sleep so mommy can too. =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer will never be the same...

Hi Max!

Just got through watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer for the 100th time and I may be underestimating that number. But this time was different.

I'm on Captiva Island in Florida. I'm meeting here for a Star Power Advance, a pow wow with the top 200 agents in the country (and Canada). I wouldn't miss this event for the world. A little for the ideas, a little for the get-away to a nice destination, but mostly because of the relationships I've built with these superstars. We all suffer the same struggles and challenges and with this year being more challenging than most, we are here to help, support, and energize each other. I love going to Star Advance. It's my favorite conference of the year. But this year is different.

As I sit here in my posh resort condo watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, I realize that I am about to break down in tears. My eyes were welling up when the other reindeer were making fun of Rudolph and when the parents tried to cover the red nose with a fake black one. Now, for those of you who know me are probably saying, Michael is writing that for impact or effect. No, I was really starting to well up.

I miss little Max (it's been like 12 hours) already and I had never noticed that facet of the movie before, but now I started thinking, "I don't want you to have a defect. I want you to fit in and be friendly. I don't want you to suffer the sadness Rudolph feels when they all laugh at him and shun him from the reindeer games." But I know there will be times that you will face ridicule, jealousy, and "trash talk". I guess my job isn't to shelter or protect you from those situations, but to prepare you on how you can CHOOSE to react. I've been the outcast and misfit in my life many times and quite honestly, a lot of my success can be attributed to my willingness to embarrass myself, take risks, be the outsider, look like an idiot, and step out of my comfort zones easily and often. Somebody once said in conversation that I was a "man without comfort zones." That's not true of course, but I'm willing to face the possibility of rejection, put myself in unusual circumstances, or take the opportunity to meet strong, famous, or successful people because I have a strength forged from facing many situations such as Rudolph faced and a set of parents who allowed me, EMPOWERED ME rather than ENABLED ME to make my own decisions throughout life.

I also need to let you know that you ALWAYS have a safe harbor here with mom and me. Max, home will be your base of unconditional love. That's what family is for and we'll always be here for you. You don't need to run off and fight abominable snowmen and find the island of misfit toys.

Watching Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer one of the all-time classics for Christmas movies was a unique experience tonight. Who knew that you could watch a movie for the 100th time and see certain aspects of it for the very first time?

Being a dad is cool. =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

You had a great 1st Thanksgiving!

<-- Max conks out on Aunt Susan's lap.

Hi Max!

I can't wait until you can read this blog. We are getting tens of thousands of hits per month! People like to "hear" our conversations. :)

You had a great Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend. We went to mom's for lunch and Sheri's aunt and uncle's for dinner. I've found my place in the pecking order now.

We went to mom's and when we walked through the door, it was "Hi Michael, Hi Sheri, where's Max?" Aunt Lisa (OK) immediately put you in her arms and was off to the back room to sit with you. Sheri and I were like, "hi, good to see you too." We sat down to eat and the topic of conversation was of course, "How's Max?" I am now Max's Dad and Sheri is now Max's Mom. We've lost our identities, or is it that we've gained a new one?

For the rest of lunch, you were tossed between another Aunt Lisa (MO), Aunt Susan, Grandma, and cousins Marisa and Elizabeth. You slept through the whole thing bless your little heart. It was like watching a bunch of women at a K-Mart blue light special on soft fuzzy sweaters. There was more grabbing, pulling, dirty looks, and mini-tug-of-wars than the last piece of chocolate cake at a Jenny Craig convention. Crazy. How you remained composed and cooing with so many beautiful women doting over you I have no idea? No really, I have no idea. =0) And we still had another Thanksgiving to go to!

10 minutes later we are at Sheri's uncle and aunt and it was a replay of the Maher's Thanksgiving. Another Aunt Lisa (KS) sat her daughter down and immediately took you off Sheri's hands. She's so nice. The food, packages and bags we had would have been nice to have help with as well, but for some reason, she helped with you. =0) All the great-aunts were on you like a duck on a Cheeto. Geez, what is it about ladies and cute little babies?

Sheri and I ate in silence at a table in the dining room. We could hear the crickets chirping. The room was cold and dark. In the next room, it was light and sunny. The women were cackling, yes cackling. Is that even a word? If it's a word it has to mean the sounds mother hens make over a new chick. If it's not a word, it is now a word that means "sound mother hens make for a new chick". I've always thought Sheri's family was weird, but in this case, they were just like my family.

{Side story: We were driving to my mom's and talking about this that and the other and Sheri asked, "If a herd is a group of cows, a flock is a group of seagulls, what is a group of turkeys? Is it a gaggle?" I said, "It's called a soetaert." By the way, her maiden name is Soetaert. I'm witty if you didn't know it." =0) She didn't laugh, but I thought it was funny.}

Max, you handled it all like a pro, but when you got home, you were exhausted from being "on" all day and immediately conked out. You sleep like an angel.

On a day called Thanksgiving, Sheri and I were the most grateful parents in the world. We are so thankful for having you in our lives. You are the sun of our solar system - energizing us, lighting our days, and the center of everything we do - truly a sun of a son. And the aunts would agree, you are a hottie. =0)

To Your Success,

Max's Dad (Michael)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Small Victories...

Hi Max!

Little did I know when I welcomed your little body to this world that Sheri and I would celebrate such interesting things.

After almost two days of constipation and us worrying about your constipation, we celebrated a small, but significant victory.

Today, you pooped.

Today, "You pooped," Sheri and I whooped.

You pooped, you little poop.

Oops, it's poop! You pooped and pooped and pooped.

Not like Fruit Loops or Hula Hoops, but more like ice cream scoops.

Sheri and I changed you together and looking down at you we don't know if it was us projecting our happiness onto you or if you just absolutely had the happiest look on your face. Sheer, utter relief. And judging from volume, you had to have felt a little pent-up. Definitely understand the "full of *&#$)" origination now. You were definitely full.

The conversation between Sheri and me over the last two days has been interesting to say the least.

"I think something's wrong with Max."

"Why Honey?"

"I haven't changed his diaper for 6 hours."

"Well, honey, is that what's wrong with Max or what's wrong with you?"

"No, what I mean is Max hasn't gone to the bathroom."

"Is six hours a long time?"

"Yes, he normally goes every 3 to 4 hours."

"Well, he'll go soon won't he?"

"We'll see."

(12 hours later)

"(No intro conversation)Hi honey, has Max pooped yet?"

"No."

"OH MY GOD! IS HE OKAY?! DID YOU CALL THE DOCTOR!?! HAVE YOU GONE TO THE DOCTOR?!"

"Michael, he'll be fine. I called the doctor and she said to try some Karo Syrup. Can you go by Price Chopper and grab some?"

"Absolutely."

(Michael working out at the gym, conversation with trainer Michelle Kelly)

"Yeah, Max won't poop."

"I remember those days."

"I need to pick up some Karo Syrup after the workout."

"Might want to grab some Benefiber as well as a backup plan."

"Okay, will do."

(2 hours later after buying Karo Syrup and Benefiber)

"(No intro conversation)Hi honey, has Max pooped yet?"

"No."

"Okay, I got the Kato (pronounced wrong) Syrup and BeneFiber."

"BeneFiber?"

"Yes, Shelly Kelly suggested BeneFiber."

"Well, I'll give him the Karo Syrup first."

(Fours Later)

(Me posting on Facebook)

"Michael is... praying for Max to poop."

Facebook e-mail...

"Prayers for Max!"
"Try mineral oil"
"Try mineral oil and water!"
"Have you tried Karo Syrup?!"
"Try benefiber or a gentle powder fiber product"
"Try watering down the formula"
"Prayers for Poop!"
"Try Gerber's juice mix - Prune"
"Praying for Max!"

(Eight hours later, next morning)

"Good morning honey, has Max pooped yet?"

"No."

"What are we going to do? Do you think something is really wrong with him?"

(Sheri nearly crying)"I hope not. But he's been so fussy and crying. He can't be comfortable. Poor little guy."

(Hugging Sheri)"He'll be fine. Everything will be fine."

(Sheri on phone with Doctor's office - true story)

"I'd like to see the doctor today. My baby hasn't had a bowel movement in over 28 hours."

"Ok, miss, your doctor is out of the office today. Do you want to make an appointment for tomorrow?"

"I don't know. Is it an emergency if my baby hasn't cleared his system for a day and a half?"

"It can't be good. Do you want to make an appointment for tomorrow?"

"I don't know. What should I do?"

"I don't know ma'am. Do you want to make the appointment just in case?"

"Just in case what? What if he has an internal problem? Shouldn't we get this taken care of?"

"I don't know ma'am. What do you want to do?"

"What do you think I should do?"

"I don't know ma'am. You're the mother. It's your call."

"My call? I don't know what to do."

"Go with your instincts. What do you want to do?"

"I think I'll call my mom. She may know what to do. She's not a doctor or a nurse like you are, but she's got experience."

"Good idea ma'am."

(CLICK!)

(Michael checking Facebook)

"Try mineral oil and water."
"Have you massaged his belly?"
"Prayers for Poop!"
"Hope Max is feeling better Michael"

(Eight hours later - three treatments (three one-ounce spoons) later of Karo Syrup and one treatment of Gerber's Apple/Prune Juice watered down)

"Hi, honey! Has Max pooped?"

"No, not yet."

(Michael picking Max up)

"Well, I'll hold the little guy for a while. (Max crying a little bit)"

"Okay, I'll make up a bath for him and make up a taco salad for you."

"Sounds great."

(Michael playing with Max - moving his arms and legs, patting his belly, singing stupid little songs that don't make any sense but have "woo" and "goo" in them a lot)

(Sheri brings taco salad - chicken no beef. Michael gets Max undressed and sets him gently into the sling above the tub of water).

Max says, "Whaaaaaaaaaa!"

(Sheri wipes down Max. Michael eats taco salad)

Max says, "Whaaaaaaaaa!"

(Sheri dries Max and puts him in his Tigger outfit, starts feeding Max)

(Michael finishes salad, puts dishes up, puts some laundry up, changes loads)

(Sheri hands Max off to Michael)

(Michael burps Max and holds Max for a few minutes)

"Sheri, do you smell something?" (This sentence comes out much like a statement between two nomads crossing the Sahara and saying, "do you smell something (like water)? Expectant, hopeful, almost disbelieving....

(Sheri running over)"No."

"No, seriously, I think I smell something."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes, I think we need to change him!"

(The Umpa Lumpa song comes to mind here. Umpa Lumpa, umpa lumpa...)

(Michael laying Max on the changing table)

(Sheri undoes Max' outfit)

Max says, "Whaaaaaaaa!"

(Sheri and Michael look at each other - hopeful, expectant, nervous, not wanting to be disappointed again. Sheri peels the diaper off and WAAA LAAA (trumpets go off, harps sound, and cheers explode!

MAX HAS POOPED! Not just a little, but a diaper full of yellow stuff that burns the nose hair and looks absolutely horrendous. I don't know if I had tears of joy coming to me or my eyes were just watering from the stench)

"Oh my God!"

"Thank God!"

(Max looking up at his parents like they are a couple of lunatics. Like "What? I feel great!")

Oh, the joys of parenting. Where did I leave that manual?! Didn't we get a manual at the hospital? Um, I don't think so.

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What makes YOU unique?

Hi Max!

I was asked by a Facebook Friend, Jedd Price, to answer the question, "What makes YOU unique?" I put some thought into it and came up with the following:

"Thank you for your persistence in asking me to answer this Jedd. Most would probably say my unconditional love for the positive and optimism. Not a naive, rose-colored glasses type of mindless bliss, but a belief that everything TRULY happens for a reason. There are no accidents. Within every seemingly negative scenario there are a plethora of opportunities. Many get buried in the despair and emotions of the moment while I have the knack of taking a helicopter view of the situation and finding the reason for the happening, the positive from the problem, the lesson from the life's incident. My father passed away at a young age. I realize that his death taught me to honor his legacy, to be an Ambassador for what he stood for, and live by the positives he modeled. My wife thinks my dad is an angel because anyone we've ever encountered speaks highly about him. She never knew him when he was alive so she didn't see the belch at Thanksgiving, the sickness of cancer as it ate away at him, and the bad jokes, the human errors and mundane conversations that make life... life. She has only heard the miracles, the great impact he had on the lives of others. My father's death as emotional, heart-wrenching, and staggering as it was and could be was a benefit to me. He passed away so that I could become a better person and reach my potential. If I didn't work towards that I would be letting him down.

I live every day looking at the positive and I am unwavering in that view. You can't offend me, you can't anger me, and you don't have any control over my emotions. Only I do. I have the 'response-ability' to any situation. I have the ability to respond in any fashion I want to every endeavor and situation in my life. For every stimulus, there is a response. For me, it is ALWAYS seeing the positive. What can we learn from the situation? What is the opportunity in the cloud with the silver lining. Many see clouds and I see the rain that causes growth. Me = +. :)"


I thought I would share that with you little guy. You had a busy week with your first smile and your first photo shoot. Unfortunately the two didn't intersect. You smiled at home, but struggled to smile in the studio. It was cold and new and stimulus overload and you told us about it. We'll both get better at those pictures.

Readers, what makes YOU unique? Add your comment so that Max can define what makes him unique. Thank you!

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trust Your Gut...

Hi Max!

Wanted to tell you a little about my day. Last night was a thunder-boomer night. It was a rough one. Thunder would boom, you would cry a little, Lucky would bark a little. If it wasn't so late at night, it would have been entertaining. It was rumble, whah, whah, arf, arf. Few minutes later. Rumble, whah, whah, arf, arf. It was a melody of sorts. But it kept me up all night. I even tried a half-cup of Nyquil to put me to sleep. It seemed like I had just started off to sleep when the the alarm rang and it was time to get ready.

Getting ready, I had a haze around me and it seemed like I was taking forever to get ready. Even two cups of coffee didn't do the magic. I gave up and realized that I was probably going to be in a little bit of a funk all day.

At the team meeting I felt a little better, because I always do when I'm around positive professionals. Went and led the BNI KC Plaza at Figlio's. It was a great meeting (as always!) and even though I was a little tired, the social aspects and the positive atmosphere helped tremendously. Driving back to the office, I realized how tired I was. The 16 days of Max were catching up to me. Sitting in my office from 2 to 3:30, I made some of the most necessary calls, caught up on some e-mails, wrote a few handwritten notes, and caught myself staring out the window some. At 3:30 I headed to Avila College to lead the First Time Home Buyer Seminar for the graduating seniors. We had a good turnout and I enjoyed it. But my back started hurting and my throat was getting a twinge. Was I getting sick?

After finishing the seminar, I walked out to the car with Mike Perry (agent on our team), Chris Arrasmith (inspector), and Chad Trease (lender). It was drizzling, fifty degrees maybe, and dark. I drove home through the fog of my weariness and the rain. I had a decision to make. Do I go work out or do I go to bed?

I flopped my stuff down and headed upstairs. You and momma were relaxing in your room. I immediately pepped up a little in seeing you. I got down on the floor and put you on my legs. I played with your arms and legs for a while. I changed your diaper and being the lucky guy I am, you were only wet. I smiled and basically goofed around with you. I laid on my back and did some bench presses with you (can I count that as a work out?). You gurgled and there was the hint of a smile. My back was hurting, I was tired, it was cold and rainy outside, I was at home, and all together these were the excuses I had for not going to work out.

I started the truck and headed to the gym. A small voice inside of me pushed me out the door and got me to the gym. I warmed up. I did quads, tris, and bis. I got a terrific workout. Lots of burn and good weights, new PRs in leg press, leg extensions, and leg curls (and coming off knee surgery, that felt great). It is a good habit to get protein into your system within 90 minutes after a workout. Heading home I was wondering about just eating a protein bar and hitting the sack.

Once again, my gut told me something different. It told me that I needed carbs. So I had rigatoni and meatballs and Wheat Thins (along with the protein bar). I had two big glasses of water and a green tea (Diet Nestea). Now, I feel terrific. The carbs hit the spot, re-hydrating hit the spot, and I had a busy, satisfying day with no regrets. We got a couple of referrals, a couple of new listings, and a couple of new clients through the home buyer seminar.

Today, I seized the day. Carpe Diem. Tired or not. Energetic or not. Sick or healthy. Carpe Diem. Commitments and responsiblities will call. Answer the call.

Lessons learned today: 1) No matter how you feel, things have to get done. Period. Do it now. Do it now. Do it now. 2) Work before play. Get your work done first, then do the fun stuff. Call it the cherry on top. 3) When you are limited on time and energy, do the tough things and make the tough calls. 4) Trust your instincts. Even if your plans call for Plan A, listen to your body and mind for Plan B. 5) Always have time for family.

Another great day Max!

I can't wait for you to read these notes. Love you little guy. :)

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two weeks old: Looking in the mirror...



Hi Max!

I'm staring down at you while you are swinging side to side in your swing. It is a little eery looking at you as it is a little like looking at myself. I can see so many of my features and mannerisms in you already. You don't look exactly like me (you'll be glad for that later. :), but there are so many resemblences that it is uncanny. You have Sheri's button nose thank goodness. :)

Sheri is off to the store to get some protein-enriched formula. The doctor is a little worried about jaundice. We're going to get you some sun and get you some formula to support the natural stuff. You'll be fine, but every conversation with the doctor is scary. We're worried about EVERYTHING! Plus, you have the hiccups a lot. Could you quit that? :) It's nerve-wrecking to feel your little body shudder with every hiccup.

Lucky dog is still getting used to your presence. He had an accident in the house today and it looked territorial in nature. I went online and e-mailed a dog trainer to see what else we can do to help Lucky get used to you being in the house. We're feeding him when we feed you and we are concentrating on playing with him a lot more. He'll do it. It's just going to take some time and a lot of work from me and Sheri.

We got your first pictures (professional) scheduled for Friday, the 14th! You're going to be a model! We'll have some fun and use these for Christmas photos. We're going to need to order a bunch because we have a lot of people who want to see you.

You are starting to gain weight and you grew an inch in your first 10 days. It's good to see you starting to gain. You had lost almost a pound since you were born! I guess that's normal, but you got to be so small. Like I said, everything is on the radar, everything makes us nervous. You have the hiccups again. That has to hurt! :(

I'm going to pick you up now. Let's rock a little while. I'm not sure who enjoys it more you or me. :)

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paying Last Respects...

Hi Max!

With all the events occurring in the news, and the impact the events have had on all of our lives, just wanted to share this story:

"One day not too long ago the employees of a large company in St. Louis, Missouri returned from their lunch break and were greeted with a sign on the front door. The sign said: “Yesterday, the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the room that has been prepared in the conference room.”

Everyone was sad to hear that one of their colleagues had died, but after a while they started getting curious about who this person might be. The anxiousness grew as the employees arrived at the conference room to pay their last respects. Everyone wondered: “Who is this person who has been hindering my progress? Well, at least they're no longer here!”

One by one, the employees got closer to the coffin and when they looked inside it, they suddenly became speechless. They stood over the coffin, shocked and in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul. In silence, each stepped slowly away. When each looked inside the coffin, they saw a reflection of the person who was limiting them. A mirror had been placed within the coffin, and everyone who looked inside it could see only themselves. There was also a sign next to the mirror that said: “There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth: it is YOU.”"

You are the only person who can revolutionize your life. You are the only person who can influence your happiness, your realization and your success. You are the only person who can help yourself. Your life does not change when your boss changes, when your friends change, when your parents change, when your partner changes, when your company changes. Your life changes when YOU change, when you go beyond your limiting beliefs, when you realize that you are the only one responsible for your life.

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Max says, "Subscribe."

I've had a few people watching this on a regular basis and wanted to let you know that you can Subscribe by clicking on the button that says Posts on the right. It will give you a few options, but if you choose Atom, it will open a window that allows you to click on Subscribe to this Feed and you can get all the posts e-mailed conveniently and directly to your InBox when they occur versus trying to check it randomly to see what has been posted. If you have any questions, just ask in a Comment and I'll help you.

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

By Request: "It is time for me to reveal who I voted for..."

God Bless America!
{I had three requests to post this on your site Max so I'm hijacking your pages for a day, but this is an important lesson for you to learn as well}

{Note: Posted at 10:45 p.m. on 11/04/2008 before Barack Obama was elected our 44th President of the United States)

Here we are on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. It's "the big day". It's Election Day.

After an endless barrage of commercials, signs, media blasts, and debates, it is time to make a decision.

I'm going to vote for the person who can guarantee that if I work hard, and work smart, I can make as much money, and build as much wealth, as I can handle.

I'm going to vote for the person who will keep me and my family safe from terrorism, dishonest corporations, and overuse of oil and gas.

I am going to vote for the person who will take care of my family, educate my newborn, give him the best chance to succeed, and see to our health care.

I am going to vote for the person who inspires me to get up in the morning fired up and ready to get in the game, living by my wits, knowledge and experience so I can compete fiercely, but fairly, for my share of the American dream.

In other words, TODAY, I am going to get up, walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror, see the affirmations along the side of the mirror and cast the same vote I have cast every day since I was around 18 years old, and first came to realize that only I was responsible for my own life. I am personally responsible for my success, my business, and my family, and looking to Presidents, Governors, Senators, or any other governmental officials or the government for relief, or blame for that matter, is an exercise in futility. Looking to the government, elected officials, or anyone else for that matter is an admission that I wasn't strong enough, smart enough, or hard working enough to make things happen on my own.

Yes, my fellow Americans, today I’m going to vote for me.

For the 39th consecutive year, I am going to vote for the person who has put me exactly where I am right now. I call on all Americans to not rely on the government for handouts, opportunities, or direction but instead rely on the fire that burns within and the fuel that inspires that fire. Let your passion and integrity direct you towards the change necessary in your life. You see, Obama has it wrong. People don't want change. People want better. Change is not always better, but my friends, better always requires change. All Americans want to be better off today than they were yesterday. And to be better off, be better. Tomorrow, I will be better than I am today. I've cast my vote. I ask for Godspeed for my candidate and promise to run a clean campaign with any of my opponents.

It's time to go back to work, because it’s still up to me to make it happen for me and for my family. As it should be. IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME! Say it with me! IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME!

Take care and God bless,

Michael

Michael J. Maher, MBA

If it is to be, it is up to me.

Max, this is right up there with Cat in the Hat. I'm not sure if there is a more powerful rhyme you'll hear.

Later, we'll discuss another important variation to this (If it is to be, it is up to WE).

To Your Success,

Max' Dad (Michael)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Count Your Blessings to Start with an Attitude of Gratitude...

Hi Max!

Kid, you are so cute!

When you were born, my prayers were answered. 10 fingers, 10 toes, healthy eyes, healthy ears, you were absolutely 100% healthy! What a reason to rejoice! When Sheri announced she was pregnant, we started getting updates from other pregnant women (and their spouses). Miscarriages happened, SIDS happened, baby's born with issues, long labor, C-sections, etc. And then you were born - 100% healthy. What a miracle! What a blessing!

It made me think about everyone I know. Most are 100% healthy. They have 10 fingers, 10 toes, healthy heart, lungs, and ears, very good eyesight with perfect eyesight with contacts or glasses, both legs working, both arms bendable, able to walk and throw a ball, see and hear the world, and yet, I see them focusing on the miserable instead of the miracle. THEY are a miracle. YOU, reader, are a miracle.

Every day is a gift. The finest gift ever bestowed upon you. This GIFT was given to a MIRACLE! How are you taking advantage of it? Can you count five blessings? 1) You're in America, land of the free, where a black man can overcome racism and become President, 2) You're an American with all the rights and privileges that come with that, 3) You have 10 fingers, 10 toes and all work pretty well, well enough to hold someone's hand or kick someone's butt. 4) Your heart is beating, 5) You can see this note, 6) You can read this blog post, 7) You can read AND understand the content of this blog post. 8) You have the right and privilege to post a comment to this post. :) 9) Do you own a car, a house, a boat? 10) Do you have friends? 11) Do you have a spouse? 12) Do you have a child? ... Do you have a child... don't newborns just smell awesome? :)

I ask you to take a moment right now to contemplate your blessings. Why are you so lucky?! Why do you think you got the good stuff while others didn't? I don't want to hear any excuses, any negatives, and any complaints. You're lucky, extremely fortunate, great things just seem to happen to you (even from birth).

Count your blessings today and every day to start with an attitude of gratitude. Interestingly enough, you'll find you get luckier and luckier and more opportunities will come to your doorstep than ever before... just by smiling, just by looking at the bright side, just by counting your blessings that I know every single person reading this can count.

By the way, speaking of counting, but did you know there are three kinds of people in the world? 1)Those who can count, 2) those who can't.

You count!

To Your Success,

Max' Papa (Michael)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Michael Maxwell Maher joins The Maher Team!

Hi Max!

The announcement for your joining our team went out to all the agents today. Congrats! Not my favorite picture, but hey, it will get better. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Nuzzle Puzzle: The Joy of the Boy...

Hi Max!

We've received many, many gifts, well-wishes, and cards before and upon your arrival. We are a blessed family with a strong support group and a surrounding of love, hope, and optimism. I want to share a card we received today.

This card comes from Sharon Bower. She has worked with our team for many years as a title representative. Truly a part of our work family. Here is what her card said (and by the way, the picture of the baby boy on it looks EXACTLY like Max):

"One of the sweetest things about
welcoming a new baby boy
is learning how you fit together...

The way his sleepy weight
fills your arms so perfectly
and how that place
where neck and shoulder meet
suddenly seems made
for him to snuggle his head into.

But even more than that,
it's discovering just how beautifully
he fits into your life -
how there was always a place
right in the heart of your family
just waiting for this precious boy
to come and fill it with so much love."

This Hallmark card hit a note with me. I named it The Nuzzle Puzzle: The Joy of the Boy. Isn't it amazing at how his little body fits in the crook of an arm or on one's chest? Like two puzzle pieces melding together in a nuzzle. The joy is indescribable.

Max, you certainly fill a gap in your parents' life that we didn't even know we had.

Now if you could just sleep through the night. :0)

To Your Success,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's a Maher-icle!

Hi Max!

I don't throw around the word "miracle" lightly or often. I am more of a believer in "everything happens for a reason." Yesterday, I witnessed a miracle. Not just a miracle but a series of miracles. The first miracle was the miracle of birth. What an amazing experience! As a writer and a wordsmith, I would love to wax poetic about what happened, but words can't express it and would never do the emotions and feelings justice. If you are a parent who was there for the birth, you know what I am saying. If you have never been a parent, I'm sorry, I can't explain it. People say that all the time, but it's true. This overwhelming feeling of joy, wonderment, love, and compassion envelopes you in a glow that could only be described as "awesome" if that word hadn't been obliterated through overuse. The original meaning of the word was made for moments like childbirth and moments like a few moments ago.

A few minutes ago, you were lying on my chest resting comfortably. Your eyes were staring up at me between blinks. Your angelic, round face was a picture of perfection and peace. I'd never felt such love as what I feel for you. Looking down at you, you staring back up, there is an intensity, a responsibility that is bigger than anything I've experienced. Yes, we're going to have our trying moments. You'll cry. I'll get frustrated. You'll be imperfect. I'll be more imperfect. But, here's the miracle: we're in this for the long haul, thick and thin, good and bad, sickness and health, life and death. Marriage used to be an institution lasting forever. The word "marriage" used to mean "forever". Marriage has been watered down by those who look at it as a weapon of manipulation, a ploy for publicity, or a financial windfall. But parenting IS forever.

You are a miracle, Max. God's greatest miracle. God's greatest masterpiece. You are a special boy and mean the world to me.

To Your Success,

Max' Papa (Michael)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

First of a Lifetime of Photos for Max Maher























Michael Maxwell Maher, Born 4:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008

Little Maher became a reality today.

Michael Maxwell Maher
Born at 4:21 p.m. on Saturday, October 25, 2008.
Weight: 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
Length: 19 inches.

Pictures forthcoming.

What a gloriously, incredibly fantastic day!

What an incredibly, fantasticly glorious day!

What a fantasticly, gloriously, incredible day!

There is a God and now I have proof. :)

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

TODAY IS THE DAY...

12:12 a.m. Saturday, 10-25-08 Sheri's water broke.

Hi Bay-Bee!

This morning I'll get to say hello to you in person for the first time ever. Wow.

More to come later.

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a Dadman!

Hi Bay-Bee!

Pretty exciting 24 hours: Had a flashback, had Daddy's Toolbox for Baby Class last night, nearly wrapped the Boxster around a concrete column, started a new car search, and found out one of the family is normal... that would be YOU.

I had a flashback to the old teaching days last night. I remember coaching and doing substitute teaching while I was getting my BSE-Mathematics degree. I went with my instincts and the kids learned and I spoke with passion and conviction. Then I started my education classes. Every teacher had an opinion and every advisor was looking for different characteristics or traits from you. Many of those opinions were philosophically opposed!

Don't use the word "mankind". It's sexist.

I remember getting graded down by a feminist teacher who berated me for my use of "mankind" in my paper. She saw it as sexist. I told her "mankind" was short for "humankind" and not a derogatory remark to women. She disagreed and gave me the B. I was so mad I went out and drank a beer. Okay, if I got an A I probably would have been so happy, I would have celebrated by drinking a beer. But hey, I'm only one man among mankind and this was college. :)

It's not about techniques or tactics. It's about caring and learning.

Then, I started student teaching. Instead of relying on my instincts and teaching so that the kids were learning, I was trying to implement Primack's Principle, using proximity for discipline, and making sure my lesson plans were outlined and structured. What a joke! I wasn't teaching and the kids sure weren't learning. It was all about technique and tactics versus instincts and LEARNING! It's pretty amazing that I knew less about learning and teaching AFTER taking education classes. Thank goodness for Pat Sullivan at DeSoto High School. He advised me to quit listening to the advisors, to quit thinking about techniques, and to quit trying to manipulate the students and focus on one thing - the student's learning. Great advice as I went on to be the USD 204 District Teacher of the Year in my first year (nominated by Trish Naylor) and nominated for Sallie Mae National Teacher of the Year (Honorable Mention).

Dad's Toolbox for Baby Class

Which gets me to my point and my Dad's Toolbox for Baby class I was in last night. At first, I was like most of the fathers or soon-to-be fathers in the room. Scared witless. If I took everything the instructor stated to heart, I wouldn't ever touch a baby, feed the baby, or let the baby sleep! I harkened back to my teaching days and re-assured myself that I need to trust my instincts and not take it too seriously (after all, my parents didn't have any of these classes and I turned out okay, turned out okay, turned out okay. :)

It was interesting sitting in class looking at all the 20-somethings with their wide-open eyes and baggy pants. Okay, I don't have a clue, but come on, I felt like I had a little more clue than they did. Overall, the class was good though. I had another chance to change a diaper (getting through the three layers of defense including the onesie which is the coolest word ever). I learned how to pick up the baby, the three ways to burp a baby, and how to spank a baby so that they never do anything wrong again ever. Okay, maybe not the last one. :)

I did learn that there are speech-therapist approved binkies. We got a couple. Yes, we are first time parents aka suckers. :)

NO WAY!

Are you ready for the kicker? At first, we introduced ourselves, our due date, and the sex of the baby. There were three out of 15 that had Nov. 12 as a due date. The only repeated date. It was pretty cool. Then we had our first break. One of the ladies who had the same date as us came out of the rest room in a panic. Her water broke. She was going to have a baby! Sheri and I looked at each other and I think reality set in... Holy Cow, this could be happening any minute!

I'm ALIVE!

On another note, I am wearing my seat belt daily. That came in very handy today. I drive a little Porsche Boxster. I'm a Porsche fanatic. Do the research on the company and the hand-built cars and you'll be a fan also. They pour passion into every car. Some day I'll go to Germany to pick up a car right out of the plant. The only problem with my car is that it doesn't like snow and it doesn't like heavy rains. It rained heavily today. Torrential rains pounded Kansas City all day today. I was driving to the gym at a little after 5 p.m. I was heading south from Shawnee Mission Parkway on 435.

Sit and Spin

Just south of Midland, I hydroplaned from the slow lane (I had felt a little slippage before so slowed down into that lane). I hydroplaned from the slow land to the fast lane (across four lanes of highway) in about half a second. As I was sliding, I was also spinning. As I spun around I looked through my back window to try to guide myself. The first thing I saw was the three concrete columns that hold the bridge for Renner Rd. I thought, I could hit that and this is going to hurt. A flash went through my mind that I could die right here and now. As I slid from the fast lane across the shoulder toward the columns a minor miracle occurred. As soon as my right rear (remember I'm sliding backwards) tire hit the grass my car spun to the left and careened into the grass median. I spun at least 6 times throwing mud and water all over the place. In what seemed like an eternity, but was only a few seconds, my car stopped spinning. I was halfway across the grass median facing south. I gathered myself. Started the car. It had stalled while spinning. I drove slowly, very slowly so I wouldn't get stuck. I crawled back onto the shoulder only to see about 20 cars parked along the side of the road, getting ready to assist me! The Channel 4 (Fox4) helicopter was doing traffic and I'm hoping they got coverage (we'll know tonight). How I didn't hit a car, anything metal, anything concrete, or do any damage to my car at all I'll never know. Just lucky I guess.

We're looking at new cars.

Something I noticed after I had quit spinning was that somehow I had dialed Sheri on my phone. I have speed dial so I may have hit that by accident. But it finished dialing so I left a message for her. Something like - "I'm alive. Everything is good. Look for me on the news tonight. I'm okay. By the way, let's look at cars (like an SUV or something like that) because my car doesn't handle so well in heavy rains and snow." So now we're looking for new cars. Maybe an Edge, maybe a Cayenne, maybe a Hybrid, maybe nothing... I'll keep you updated. :)

Average is Acceptable... For Now

Bay-Bee you came out at the sonogram at 6 pounds 8 ounces today and you are right on for November 12. You are the perfect baby. Average weight, heart beat, timing, and position in the belly. Sheri is a great baby-maker. :)

More later... Thank you for reading.

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

28 days... 4 weeks... whoa... A Frasier episode just for me...

{Warning! This is a long post.}

Hi Bay-Bee!

You are a kicker and a roller! Watching mommie's belly move and bump out and in is exciting. Can you believe we have less than four weeks... 28 days (and counting)? Whoa!

I have to share this with you. I happened to stay up and watch the 11 o'clock version of Frasier. It was hilarious. The three of them (Frasier, Niles, and Dad) delivered a baby in a cab. You can imagine how funny that scene was with the three guys in a cab.

After the delivery, Dad expresses his amazement of the seeing the first moments of a person's life. "One moment it's a blob in the mother's belly and the next moment it's a person. One moment, blob. The next moment, person. Blob... person." :) How poetic! :)

After seeing the delivery of the cab driver's baby, Niles is reflective. He wonders, "Will I ever be a father? After watching this child's birth, it's something I really want... I think." :)

Frasier says that his parental feelings are normal and that it is natural for Niles to feel this as he is of fatherhood age. Frasier mentions that teenagers in school learn about childbaring and childraising by carrying around a 10-pound bag of flour. They learn the responsibility of holding it and keeping it in sight. Niles takes the idea and runs with it. Niles is going to carry a ten pound bag of flour. They go to the kitchen, Niles grabs the first white bag, "Extra refined... taking after his old man already!" Frasier replies, "That's the sugar. The flour is over here. Bleached. 100% Fat-Free, Best kept in an air-tight container. Sounds like Maris (Maris is Niles' very mean wife)." :)

With Niles carrying his bag of flour, Frasier and Niles meet at different places and have some funny episodes. Niles expresses his trials and tribulations with the bag. One story he relates is a dream. Niles has a dream that his baby (the 10-pound bag of flour) is abducted and he is sent muffins by the abductors. :)

After a week, Niles has accidentally stabbed, dropped, burnt, and drowned the bag of flour in some hilarious circumstances. Then Eddie, the Jack Russell dog, totally digs into the now motley looking bag of flour destroying it. Niles is crestfallen.

Dad consoles him with the speech of "Just Trust Yourself."

It was like this episode was written for me. It was hilarious, but also brought up some serious points about fatherhood and the mentality of fatherhood.

I wouldn't even hold Patrick (nephew - read other posts about him) when he was a baby. I was afraid I'd drop him or he'd cry. I wasn't comfortable at all. This probably comes as a surprise to most people as I fear very little and always appear very cool, calm, and collected. Babies, in general, have never been a problem. With Patrick, it was a little different. I really cared about Patrick.

I was afraid to hold him for fear of becoming too attached. I am one that either does something 0% or 110%. There is no half-way, winging it, or part-time with me. Patrick, being Sheri's sister's baby, put me in a quandry. How do I become attached to something that I was going to only have a part-time relationship with? My relationship with Patrick was weird for many years as I struggled with his being spoiled by five different sets of parents (his mother, Sheri and me, Jolene and Daryn, Hank and RoseMary (Sheri's parents), and Ray and Mary (Sheri's grandparents). He literally had five sets of parents. Can you imagine his Christmas?! Oh yeah, he was spoiled times five. I became the disciplinarian. Where everyone else was saying yes to a lot of his demands, whims, and tantrums, I was overly restrictive, limiting, and stringent. I'm not sure Patrick had a lot of fun with me.

That all changed on December 18, 2007. The day I died.

Not everybody knows, but due to complications from blood clots (after a pretty routine knee surgery), I flat-lined for around a minute before being resuscitated and had a temporary pacemaker installed. It was a scary moment as you can imagine. I won't go into all the details now, but I remember thinking about my dad (who died at the age of 54), about other people who had passed away way too young, and I thought about being a father. I thought about all the things I haven't achieved yet and knew it wasn't my time. I didn't even have children! For the first time in my life, I wanted kids. I was always pretty laissez faire about kids before. If it happened, it happened. But that wintry December day changed all that, I wanted a baby. A couple of months, a cruise to the Bahamas, and a dream vacation later and voila! We were having Bay-Bee! :) Our little souvenier.

I think about things a lot. You might say, "Duh!" :0). I am like Niles in that I worry about readiness and the damage I could cause. But Dad's words of wisdom echo in my mind, "Just Trust Yourself." I have to continue to say that to myself. Trust my judgment. Trust my instincts. I don' t have any experience in raising children, so that is all I have to fall back in... With all my book knowledge and street knowledge, none of it is child-raising knowledge. I need to just trust myself.

On another note, my relationship with Patrick is incredibly better. He is growing up to be such a great kid. I write him a handwritten note every week wishing him luck with his football games. He is doing so much better in school.

I have feelings like pride, sympathy, and love with him. I'm proud of how he has stuck it out in football even with being one of the smallest players. I sympathize with him when he gets run over on the field or I watch him standing on the sidelines instead of playing. I love him when he laughs when it is over or comes out of it with such a great attitude. He cracks me up and makes me smile just writing about him. I know we're having a lot more fun now.

He's such a good kid. He's had more love than probably any kid in America. Now he is starting to learn about respect, appreciation, and sharing. Those were three traits I worried about as he got a lot of love and a lot of things as he was growing up.

Before, we had a strained relationship but ever since December, we've been like buddies and I don't know what clicked, but something clicked in my head... and I learned something. I don't even know what it was, but there is a tolerance and a patience about me that wasn't there before.

Subconsciously and without any preparation, I am changing. Things that really mattered. I mean REALLY MATTERED to me are not as important. Fantasy Football, competition in softball and basketball, a lot of these hobbies and extra activities don't hold my interest or intensity any more. Something is preparing me for fatherhood. It's like I have already removed my focus from those items and re-focused on Bay-Bee, even if he isn't here yet. It's been very interesting to reflect on this.

Thank you for reading my musings. I wish my father had a blog so I could read his memoirs about me.

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sheri's Shower Pictures...

You ask, ye shall receive. Here are pictures from Sheri's shower:




















That is Denise Upah Mills to the left as well.






































































To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What REALLY matters...

Amid the financial turmoil and the news that the world’s markets are struggling, it’s time to focus on what really matters. To see what really matters, we need to evaluate what doesn’t matter.

The things that don’t matter are the things you can’t control. You can’t control what stocks do on Wall Street. You can’t control what happens with the weather, the price of gas, or the price of a lot of things you want to buy. You can control what you buy and more importantly, you can control your mindset.

First, appreciate what you do have. If you are healthy, count your blessings. If you have a job, be appreciative. If you are debt-free, count your blessings. If you have a loving relationship with a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend, then be appreciative. Start your day with an attitude of gratitude and everything falls into perspective. What we do have is typically much more than we ever need. Start with an attitude of gratitude.

Secondly, live with a mindset of optimism. You can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to those things. Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, describes a monumental moment for him. He was reading about the difference between humans and animals. With animals, when they receive stimulus, they respond instinctively. With humans, we have the ability to CHOOSE. Between stimulus (what happens to us) and response (how we react)there is a gap of time. That gap of time is our ability to choose. We have response-ability, as Covey says. This is such an important distinction. You see, only YOU can make YOU miserable. Only YOU can make YOU happy. On a daily basis I choose happy. You too can choose happy. You don’t need a man or a woman or a child or a different boss or a different market or any of that to be happy. You can choose happy from the outset. When you choose happy, you start to see smiles everywhere you look. You attract more of what makes you happy, and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Sheri and I refuse to watch the news to avoid the negativity. You should especially miss the 10 o’clock news. Watching negativity before you sleep has been found to cause health issues!

Here are some suggested activities on your path to a happier, healthier life:
1) Count your blessings in the morning. Start your day with an attitude of gratitude.

2) Take the first 30 minutes of your day to fill your mind with something positive. Bible reading, non-fiction reading, inspirational music, meditation, etc.

3) Start your healthy day on track with two large glasses of water before you eat. Your body dehydrates overnight and you can get your body back on track with two large glasses of water. Water has also been found to stimulate your brain cells.

4) Smile. The very act of smiling helps your immune system and lights up the room. It’s hard to have a negative demeanor with a smile on your face. Smile.

5) Look to the positive of every event that happens to you. I remember when I was sabotaged by a co-worker during the interview process for a job I really wanted. At the time, I was devastated. I had worked for a solid week on the application, resume, and even proposed an entirely different way to look at things in this profession. But not getting that job took me on the path to real estate and I am very grateful it did. Everything happens for a reason.

6) Talk to somebody about your day. Make that somebody a positive inspiration to you. Research shows that birds of a feather flock together. You can become more positive by hanging out with positive people. The very act of communicating your days’ events helps you realize the impact you are having on the world. You may be just one person in the world, but you can also be the world to one person.

7) Close your day with something positive.. Giving yourself some brain food (reading, inspirational music, meditation, etc.) before bed and you’ll wake up more refreshed!

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Max makes out like a bandit...

Hi Bay-Bee!

Well Max, you made out like a bandit this weekend! Sheri (your momma) had her Baby Shower on Saturday. You now have enough clothes to get you to kindergarten! We are going to have to add on to your already walk-in closet.

A big thank you to Jolene Soetaert (your aunt) who coordinated and orchestrated the entire event. She also made a cake while Lisa Soetaert (another aunt of yours and Patrick's mother) made some cupcakes. The cake was a football and the cupcakes were baseballs. Too cool. By the way, you better like sports because there is definitely a theme with ALL of your decor, clothes, and bed. :)

Big thank yous to your great Aunt's Joyce, Annie, and Margie as they got you some terrific gifts. Joyce's KU bag with a one-of-a-kind monogrammed (MAX) KU Christmas stocking was a hit of the Shower. Big thank you to your cousin Michelle (who is on #3 in 3 years :) and Aunt Annie's daughter. Big thank you to Sheri's cousin's (Tony) wife Megan who brought Orissa (her daughter who looks like a princess) and AJ along with some great gifts. Big thank you to my sister Susan and my brother's wife, Lisa. Great gifts gals! Also, giant thank yous to Angie Clauder, Arlene Ladegaard, Denise Mills, Ilsa Steward and Debbie dear friends of the family! Special thank yous to the grandmas - Mary Ann Maher and RoseMarie Soetaert who spoiled the unborn like only grandmas can! And what a treat it was to have great-grandma Mary there. Through the health issues, she perservered and made it over to our house! If I forgot any one I'm sorry but Sheri and I (and Bay-Bee) are deeply grateful for your presents and your presence and even more grateful for our relationship with you. Max is so very lucky to have you in his life and Sheri and I feel the exact same way. Thank you.

Bay-Bee say Thank YOU!

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)

The Mozzarella Stick and SLOW...

Hi Bay-Bee!

Is it possible to learn more from a 12-year old than you teach him?

Had another weekend with Patrick this week. He's such a good kid. Helpful, kind, and full of energy...

After football practice, we decided to go to Arby's. Arby's is one of the fast-food restaurants I've blessed for him and me. I order the Martha Vineyard Salad (great chicken salad) and he ordered his stand by - the Arby Roast Beef Sandwich and the Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara Sauce. We were in my car and I had just had it cleaned at Waterway. It was sparkling and it was a beautiful evening. I decided to drop the top on the car and park in the parking lot instead of taking him directly home. I figured we could chat a little. A funny thing happened though...

He protested. He said, "I'll wait until I get home to eat."

I said, "What? Why?"

"I don't know. I just don't want to eat in your car."

"Why? You can be careful can't you?"

"Well, I want to eat my mozzarella sticks first and I'm afraid I'll dip it in the sauce and drop it."

Me: "You're all right. Just be careful. Let's chat."

He replied hesitantly, "Okay."

We chatted for about five minutes about his practice, school, and his new baby sister, Rylee. He was making a point about playing with Rylee's feet to make her smile when a half of a mozzarella stick with marinara sauce comes out of his hand and in slow motion starts floating in the air at me. Halfway between Patrick and me, the mozzarella stick slowly, tantalizingly drops like a burning ember leaving an air stream of red. As Patrick and I both watch, the mushy burning cheesestick settles exactly between his seat and the console. We look at where the cheese stick disappeared, then we look at each other.

My first inclination was to say something. Loudly. Something like, "Why can't you be careful?!" or "We just talked about that!" or "Come on!" or even "Get out!" But instead I remembered something I just read in the Baby Whisperer. It's called SLOW.

Stop
Listen
Observe
What's UP (or what needs to be done or what is the reality of what happened).

So I stopped before I said something.

I listened. It was pretty quiet except for Patrick's quick breathing.

I observed. He was sorry and it showed. Plus, he had warned me. What could I say?

The reality is that it wasn't that big of a deal. It would clean. I stuck my hand down there to get it, but my hand was too big to fit. Patrick leaned back. I would never hit him but he knew I was upset. What's funny is that I wasn't really that upset. The SLOW system had checked my anger at the door.

I smiled and said, "Hey no problem. You warned me. Let's just be careful with the rest of the meal."

We ate for a while and chatted. What could have been a sour ending to a great evening was just a small interrupton.

He did wait to eat his Roast Beef sandwich until we got to his house though. :)

What's really funny is that when I got home that evening, I slid the seat forward and easily picked up the mozzarella stick. It didn't smear sauce or leave a mark at all. No big deal. I'm glad. I hadn't made it a big deal.

I recommend the next time we are in a situation not just with our children, but with our spouse, co-workers, parents, or clients that we implement the SLOW system. Stop before you say something spontaneous that you may regret. Listen to what is going on around you. Observe everybody in the room, the situation, and all that is going on in the scene. And finally decide what you are going to do next. Calm, cool, and collected you will most likely make the right decision saving everyone the embarassment, harsh feelings, or anger that may result from flippant remarks.

Patrick's a good kid who dropped a mozzarella stick. I'm glad I didn't drop the ball on a great night.

To Your Success,

Bay-Bee's Papa (Michael)