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It Just Takes Time

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Why Beauty Is Baseball – Sharing With The Boys

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4/6/15 (I wrote this to my sons over 2 years ago when Jason was a junior in high school and Christian was still a year from starting his high school career.  It seems somewhat prophetic now that J has begun his college baseball career at U of Santa Clara and C committed to play baseball at U of Washington after he graduates in 2019.  Coincidence – I’m fairly certain there’s more to it than that.)

“Grace is the beauty of form under the influence of freedom.” — Friedrich Schiller

This is when life is so liberating.  It’s when the exquisite and magnificent inner-structural components are pieced together so that we are momentarily elevated above the normalcy of our routine existence!  Wow, that was quite the combination of “big” words and the reason is that I’m not sure I’m able to precisely describe and articulate the moments where the “grace” and “freedom” converge as mentioned above.  I just know when it happens because it just seems and it feels that way!

I sometimes feel guilty because it happens so frequently during the most mundane moments when I slow down, take more in that’s around me, and make those moments not just part of me but able to surround them as opposed to letting them surround and overwhelm me.

When I read this quote, I instinctively went back to younger days and the freedom I felt during the buildup before, and the release of the usual daily boundaries right when I crossed onto the baseball field for any reason.  This occurred at almost any age starting from little league through high school and up until those ultra-competitive adult leagues I played in where the quality of the players kept alive my personalized and frenzied addiction to the sport.  I guess it was during those times that my life truly belonged to me, free of external obligations and responsibilities.  It’s funny but even though other players and coaches surrounded me, sometimes they were just voices in the background while I settled into my own individual state of reality.

I know baseball is considered a team sport but for it to have any particular meaning so that players can perform by and through the inner power that’s possessed, it has to be experienced and measured in accordance by individual models for successful attainment of “baseball nirvana”, devoid of external restrictions or limitations.  Is thIs that odd or do you guys ever feel that way because it can’t just be me, can it?

There was no one particular moment that baseball generated such an instinctive and personal state of mind but it was no doubt a combination of: the feeling of a ball settling into my glove; that same ball being released traveling stealthily along different horizontal angles and distances; an unbridled pitch that is captured, corralled, and released under the control of a bat; the acceleration around a base where the body is catapulted by the feet and legs towards the next destination that almost certainly belongs to you; and/or the “punch out” pinch or play to end an inning and jogging calmly off the mound or your position knowing that it’s all you can do to control yourself from exalting in the air and fist-pumping all the way back to the dugout (don’t do that or you’ll invite a retaliatory pitch but then again Jason would welcome getting hit by a pitch and then steal second and maybe third).

I got snippets of those days teaching and coaching you boys but living through you guys just doesn’t come close to replacing those feelings that were left behind.  J and C, remember that smile on my face you saw in that old high school video I showed you?  There’s no way to recall the precise thoughts in my head or during so many times after when art was inter-spliced with actual, living moments, but I’m guessing you have an idea.  But the best part about being a fan of you two in the stands is that I don’t have to restrict myself from expressing the excitement you elicit out of me when you the things that seem to come so natural to you knowing that few others are capable of them.

Oh and don’t ask me to calm it down because I can’t, I won’t, and shouldn’t have to, because it’s my connection with not just you guys but a love of a sport that was created well before and evolved well before you were born!  Just deal with it and bust your ass on the field because emotionally, so am I on the other side of it.

“Faith is love taking the form of aspiration.”  Think of this quote and apply it to why you are still playing baseball and plan to continue to do so at a high(er) level while others couldn’t or won’t be able to forge the same transference.

Obviously you found love and enjoyment in the sport through discovery and/or influence along while growing up with so many others around you.  But who’s left among those who you played against and why?  I’m guessing it’s because your sport requires maximum elevation allowing maximum mental, spiritual, and physical evolution leading to maximum execution that has to be harnessed and directed towards specific objectives that form the standards of your own personal goals and aspirations.  This my friends is where grace equals freedom and feeling anything different means you’re not thinking the right way, not loving the game so that it loves you back, or letting the wrong things enter in your own individual sphere to disturb what is one of the most magical and rewarding relationships that you’ll experience.  Eliminate that from happening and just enjoy where the resulting freedom takes you!

Last thing:  Remember the outcome will most times take care of itself if the approach is sound.  Not always but once you’re in the right place and where you need to be before you cross the write lines, the only surprises in store should work in your favor and against your opponents but then again, there are really few surprises when you put everything out there that continues to form the masterpieces you create!

So get your mind right because “we seek purpose when we are not in touch with who we really are.  When an apple tree discovers who it is, the question ‘what must I do?’ disappears.  When you discover who you are (at the deepest part of your being) you will find your purpose.” — Colleen-Joy Page

A Moment Of Thanks For Today – Thoughts For My Son

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5/16/14

“You were given a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?.”

Whether it be to God, family, friends, a loved one, or even random stranger who was kind to you, don’t miss the opportunity to express a level of gratitude.  If to God, don’t forget to thank Him for the challenges and obstacles you’ll face because by exhausting your efforts to overcome them, you find and define yourself and ultimately begin to understand His intensions and why He has faith in you and each other.

Also in those numerous seconds, mix in a few hugs, smiles to others, laughs, “I love you’s”, silly moments, tears if your heart is moved that much, and reflections of the day.  It took me a long time to realize this so I pass it on to you my Child. Trust me, it’s so worth it!

Part Of Our Purpose – Guidance To My Sons

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7/14/14 (originally posted 1/15)

“One word or a pleasing smile is often enough to raise up a saddened and wounded soul.” – Therese of Lisieux

I don’t really think that God has created us with the unrealistic expectation that we would create a cure for cancer or solve world hunger.  It would be unbelievable if we could but it is no less remarkable than recognizing that someone may benefit from a simple kind gesture.  It is difficult to justify ignoring such an opportunity when that person is close to you.

It does not matter what kind of response in return you receive because that person may be so immersed in their inner turmoil to respond as we would expect.  They just need to realize that they are not alone, forgotten, or ignored, because in time they will realize it.

It would be a betrayal of the gifts and blessings of the good fortune given by our Creator and family to step over a chance to simply share a smile because so many in our vicinity need one.  Maybe you have momentarily been there and it’s reasonable to predict you might encounter similar situations.  Make sure you offer what you would gratefully appreciate and need during those times. We do not live in a vacuum nor are we alone and it takes so little to contribute to life’s basic simple elegance.

Accepting And Working Through Challenges – Message To My Sons

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9/18/14

“To be successful you must accept all challenges that come your way.  You can’t just accept the ones you like.”

Life would be so less complicated if all that we wished for flowed to us on a simple stream.  All we would have to do is sit and wait for their arrivals.

No such luck nor should it be that way!  Our greatest accomplishments have to be measured in some manner.  Of course that has to be a study that involves a detailed reassessment of the starting point to its eventual outcome.  The flawed efforts and disappointing initial results have to be factored in before recognizing the level of accomplishment.

Take this into account in the planning for your most important goals.  The ship you charter towards those goals will never sail along the same route you planned.  No matter how you foresee the anticipated obstacles, they present themselves differently or are either replaced with other ones.

DON’T BE FRUSTRATED OR DETERRED!  This is just part of the journey and don’t just crash ahead blindly and stubbornly without thought when simple adjustments will get you to your destination quicker.

Accept this.  Challenges are created by your decisions, failure to make decisions, delay in acting on decisions, or decisions made by others who by necessity (or unfortunately at times your permission) create challenges.  Either way the challenges exist and it is vital that you react to them appropriately, promptly, positively, and with the commitment necessary to overcome them.

You may sometimes doubt whether you have it in you to carry on towards certain dreams because of the complexity of a problem, the effort required, and the uncertainty whether the direction you are headed is towards the proper point on the compass.  DO NOT STOP other than to rest, breathe, think, get your bearings, and then keep moving.

Don’t worry about whether you have the ability.  The creation of the dream was predicated by what was created in you and, fashioned by what was already within you. Where you are at is at the beginning of the discovery of what has been in you all along and what you will find in the future.  Remember – “not overachievement”, just a matter of “under-discovery”!

Read the creation of challenges as set forth above again.  Use what you already know about yourself to avoid their creation or just overcome them.  Be confident that you have within you what has yet to be uncovered to overwhelm the unexpected and associated complications.  I am a man of faith when it comes to you boys so don’t let me and more importantly, yourself down.

The Dreams Waiting To Be Fulfilled – Thoughts For My Sons

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 (Originally Posted 6/15 but even more meaningful as my sons and I are two years older as many of their dreams, old and new, are more defined and within reach)

6/22/15

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale

The other thing is don’t give up on that dream because it takes too much effort, time, sacrifice, or it becomes too confusing.  It may not make sense until the dream is actually realized but the scope of who you are, and maybe never envisioned yourself being, is how you respond to the most difficult obstacles on the journey to any dreams fulfillment.  Oh and if there weren’t any struggles along the way, you may want to revisit the substance of that dream, it’s origin, and possibly how “ordinary” it actually may have been compared to the average aspirations of so many others.

I’m not saying there’s no value to those minor accomplishments that we achieve because everything that is performed for our betterment should be experienced with joy and and an equal sense of pride because it’s part of the act of living and should never be overlooked, downplayed, or diminished.  Just make sure that upon quiet reflection, the self-satisfaction is proportional to the quality of the achievement and not overinflated for elements of drama, vanity, ego, or delusion.

I’m not sure that “suffering” is the proper term for what we experience during those times when adversity really taxes the internal chemistry of self-confidence and optimism that generally reinforces our plans to obtain the grander goals we envision.  Maybe it’s more a matter of “enduring” that particular period of time but I guess the terminology is subjective as to how we interpret that experience but remember your character will be measured by the demonstration of your responses to the conditions that challenge us.  I think it’s important to understand and accept that adversity, by its nature, is meant to be difficult, deflating, and generally an exhaustive challenge to our resources and may sometimes feel like a cannibalization of the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical assets that we have stored for these occasions.

So when things aren’t working out or falling into place at the moment, don’t get frustrated with yourself because of any resulting feelings of failure nor should you get disappointed with how you interpret your life at that moment or for that matter, life in general, just because things haven’t worked out so far.  That just means that what you’re working towards just hasn’t happened YET and any other mindset is a defeatist and a counter-productive attitude opening the door to excuses, victimization, and martyrdom, and as Dico’s, you know how much tolerance for that is allowed!

So read the the following from the author of “Tom Sawyers Cabin” and I pray that it registers and makes the most logical sense.  “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe.  This is along the lines of my previous discussion with Jason where I shared my outlook that with each new day ahead of us, there is still the potential that it could turn out to be the best day of our lives regardless of what it actually delivers and from that, hope and optimism should continue to be fed.  And so with dreams, they truly never fade until we give up on them because we surrender to the obstacles and difficulties that make them seem no longer obtainable.  Please, please, don’t let that happen!

Oftentimes you’ve come too far to give up on what you think is the final end of a story when it’s only the conclusion of another chapter with the next one waiting to be written.  Just summon a deeper faith in yourself and stay hopeful about life in all of it’s overall beauty, no matter how it temporarily presents itself, because overwhelmingly more often than not that’s all it is – temporary. Just keep trying along with working harder, better, and maybe a bit differently if needed (why pound your head against the same wall?) because if you seek to uncover whatever you are looking for, it just might find you first!

Just remember that the chances for our best dreams to evolve towards fruition never disappear as long as we continue to cross even the most unstable bridges that might cause those less committed to their destinations to turn back because of what they can’t see yet or even worse, because of what others have told them can’t be done.  From the likely to even the most remote chances that any of our dreams can come true will always stay alive if we just avoid succumbing to products of what is only passing despair.  It makes sense that we are better served by maintaining an underlying basis of hope in the thought that given enough time, effort, a little assistance when stubborn pride has failed (okay that applies to me), and maybe a little serendipity, what we thought was so far away was just out of view and on the verge of introduction into our lives.

So I will end with a quote that I hope you can incorporate into the better part of your character because first it makes sense and second, what’s the purpose of thinking otherwise?  “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” – Oscar Wilde.  If that should be our “punishment” for the hope and optimism we strive to uphold as we proceed towards our dreams, then let us all be held accountable for such efforts because the dawn of what we envision is right there awaiting our discovery!

The Measure Of Victory – Thoughts To My Boys

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(Jason after semi-final win last June – days later repeated as CIF division champions)

6/5/17

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Boys, you may think it’s the victories that were finally secured that defines the ultimate measure and reward of what has been achieved.  However you’d be mistaken if that’s all you base your accomplishments upon.

It must be remembered that it was the strength, determination, and resilience that you had to call upon and generate – even when convenience seemingly begged for succumbing or surrendering under the strain of the fight – that revealed more about who you are and will serve to be the genesis for the magnitude and greatness of what you can achieve throughout the journey ahead of you.  It’s the unseen and solitary efforts that conquered any uncertainty that were just as meaningful as the jubilance of the final triumph because they will carry on well after the exultation subsides!

Happy Memorial Day – Reflections To Jason

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(Marine Sergeant Joe Dicochea, Korean War veteran, and my dad – Original Posted Memorial Day, 2015)

5/25/15

“Just give me tomorrow.” – unidentified Korean War Marine soldier

Jason, I think you’ll like this given your admiration of the Marine Corp.

I was watching a Military Channel documentary “Against the Odds” about a company of Marines who fought in one of more iconic battles in the history of the Corp at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War or “police action” as it was officially referred to.  I guess this was to avoid the stigma of the conflict that ended just years before called “WWII”.  I’m not sure that the soldiers in the field during the later action felt any different than the ones who were part of the earlier one.  However if that description made it more palatable to the politicians and public at the time, so be it but again, I’m sure the consequences and emotions associated with the battles faced by both “boots on the ground” were vastly similar regardless of it’s presentation to the masses.

Now back to the “Frozen Chosin” and the company that eventually was known as “Bloody George” because of it’s casualty rate.  Their role became famous within the grander story that makes every Marine proud to be part of that tradition.  Just a quick breakdown of the story, the George Company of the 1st Division after landing on Inchon (another iconic battle) and fighting in Seoul drew, more by circumstances than choice, the responsibility of having to hold their ground serving as “Spartans” to fend off what seemed to be the inevitable annihilation of the entire division by an unexpected attack by a Chinese forces.  The Chinese army vastly outnumbered them while the division battled unforgiving terrain and the most severe elements of the winter that struck during this engagement.

I was riveted in fascination by the story and interviews with the surviving members of that company.  Since my father (your grandfather) was a Marine veteran of Korea who continually referred to ideals of his beloved Corp as I grew up, I look upon just about every Marine combat veteran with an abundance of respect and personal pride by just having that connection with my father as well as other family members who wore that uniform.  J I know you carry that pride and still hold my father’s Marine emblem in your hand during each pre-game prayers and rituals.  Interestingly, I was informed after my father’s death by a Marine Corp vet who knew my Dad that he was involved in that epic battle while he was still still only a teenager.  I’ve never bothered to verify its accuracy nor do I question its veracity since it wouldn’t affect the “hero” I’ve always viewed him as during my whole life.  Moreover given his character, it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t share that information because as I’ve learned, it was an awful engagement to be a part of and it was a memory reserved for a different audience than someone who could never understand the basic and personal ferocity of war.

So back to the point (thank goodness).  George Company, who continuously battled for months of fighting culminating in surviving and escaping from a relentless onslaught of attacks by the Chinese (who outnumbered them 10-1) and the environment at Chosin, were nearing the end of their organized march to the deliverance of their home base from this personal “hell”.  At this juncture, a correspondent approached one of the beleaguered company and asked what probably sounded like a ridiculous question at the time considering all the Marine had been through.  However his response gave a profound meaning to not just his or his comrade’s existence but served as a reminder to mine.

Paraphrasing the question to that soldier, he was asked “if I were God and I could give you anything for Christmas, what would you want?”  A picture was taken of his face with the vacant stare often seen on those in combat, fatigued and almost indifferent to the death he’d witnessed, answering with this simple response: “just “give me tomorrow!”

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It would take way too long to share my own history to fully capture how important those words came across to me when I first heard them and all the times I’ve repeated them in my head since then.  I think of all those times when I probably exaggerated the despair over the pseudo and “faux” ordeals that I unnecessarily burdened myself with at the expense of valuable time lost and the damage it caused.  As I sit where I’m at now in my life, I can only say that I’m so ashamed of myself and I apologize to my Creator for all those days I despised and destroyed, along with all those “tomorrows” whose future occurrence I dreaded – how’s that for honesty?

I understand now, and thankfully not too late given my close calls with mortality, that each day was my own personal gift with resources to invest as I saw fit and that the “tomorrows” were only a privilege with no assurance that they would ever begin.  I was such an f’ing fool and I also apologize to those who continually attempted to point out the overwhelmingly numerical reasons why my life was better than the few I chose to focus on and torture myself with – again, how’s that for honesty?

So my point, especially to you Son.  Never under-appreciate the simple, basic elegance of the days afforded to us since they pass out of our vision too quickly and thinking what’s ahead of us to replace it just may never be there.  It shouldn’t take that particular Marine or some old guy who fell on his head leading to a massive brain bleed, with the odds numerically against them more than most others for getting another “tomorrow”, lead you to understand what is right here in front of us is the only time that we are guaranteed to make the best difference for ourselves and everything around us.

J remember what I told you: until the last sun sets on the days we are given, every tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of our lives with the odds dramatically in our favor based on what we do, how we live, and the hope we carry towards the next day and it matters not how it ultimately turns out.

So I dedicate this message to my father, the Marines, and all military veterans given that this is Memorial Day and it’s important to me that I do something even if it’s sharing this particular story and associated message.  Referring to the Marine Corp credo of “semper fidelis”, I think it’s pertinent to the ideal of being “always faithful” to acting for the betterment of ourselves and those especially close to us.

In my case in thinking about the story above, if we try to practice with that faith and tragically are not “given tomorrow”, at least what is left behind for others is a memory and it should reflect the following:  We did the best we could, despite any adversity we had to endure, and capitalized on every internal and external resource available to us to make a joyful difference in the only life that we’ve been given, regardless of whether our own expectations of perfection are met.

I’ll end with this quote because I’ve been waiting so long for the right opportunity and I think it relays such a strong message regardless of the particular religious beliefs that are individually adhered to.

“Live a good life.  If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.  If there are gods but unjust, then you should not want to worship them.  If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” – Marcus Aurelius

A Life Enlightened Through Love (meaningful excerpts)

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(Heart among the clouds.  Excerpts from a favorite post.)

7/2/15

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

…But getting back to the “love” that I think Dr. King refers to or at least my my take on it and how my understanding of it has been woven into my life.  I’ve written quite a bit about the transformation (of sorts) and rediscovery that’s occurred since my injury and how I’ve expressed a better comprehension of the love I needed to afford myself, those around me whether biologically or geographically, and degrees of love I needed to afford the basic elements in or near my life…

Now to be clear, anyone who knows me would never make the assertion that I express “love” for everything that happens in my life, or “love” about the totality of each person that surrounds me and those I have come across.  By virtue of me being “me” with my own personal tastes, preferences, and varying tolerance for certain traits, some things eventually fall into the category of “less than loved”, under-appreciated, or tangentially annoying over time.  I’m sure there may be a more tactful presentation of the foregoing blunt characterization but in lieu of an apology, I’ll just attribute this translucent honesty as a product of my age and brain injury.

However there is a precursor to whatever final conclusion is reached in my individual dealings and exploration of people and things so bear with me for a bit longer and I’ll start with this quote that I think is as spectacular in its message and presentation as the one by Dr. King:   “Keep love in your heart.  A life is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.  The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.  Who, being loved, is poor?” – Oscar Wilde…

I have before me each day a gift of 1,440 minutes and there are generally static elements that I awake to with the comfort of knowing that love for and from them will continue to surround me absent any traumatic disruption in the forces that bond us together.  But by freeing and opening up myself to not just my normal routine but also the unexpected elements that present themselves, I’ve afforded myself the opportunity, possibility, and increased the probability that I will discover different aspects of “love” that can be so readily available in a life that is too magnificent to habitually ignore.  It seems that the further I lean in that direction, the farther I distance myself from patterns that lead to the intractable management of more undesirable feelings and their manifestations.

The beauty of parts of our humanity is due to the fact that we are able to experience a wide gauntlet of emotions although it is rare that we entirely become masters of them no matter how diligently we attempt to keep them cornered.  How often is it that we are immersed in moments where we attempt to command the sensations of heart and mind so they somehow correspond to both the adulation and criticism directed our way?

Still I’m fairly confident that it boils down to a choice of how we approach each day.  Oftentimes they don’t end up as perfect as we hoped for but I’ve never been sure of the number of guaranteed outcomes we’re entitled to even when we think our best efforts have been made.  Still, we can better define how most days develop for ourselves and the proportionate amounts of “love” that can be summoned from all things gently explainable and even those supremely mysterious.

And so it goes that “the way you perceive and react to the world is a choice.” – David Foster Wallace.  And if given that choice, wouldn’t it be better that our expressions be symptomatic of emotions more associated with anything resembling “love” that reflect the brightness surrounding the beauty we can be behold, as opposed to anything diametrically different that darkens the best of each of those particular aspects.

It seems like a logical choice once I get past the illogical distractions and given the alternatives that could erode them, I’ll just try to seek and express the “love” that lightens all those things that continue to surround me!