Sunday, December 14, 2008

Life is precious

My family received sad news this weekend that the daughter of my wife's cousin killed herself this week.

She was married, but no kids; in her mid 40s; and we did know her, though she lived in California. We don't have too many details on the suicide, but the one detail we'll never really get is why.

There is no good reason for suicide. There really always is hope; you just need faith. But, unfortunately, not everyone has faith -- faith in God.

While Debbie is gone in a selfish act, the pain for her husband, her mom and dad, brother and other family and friends remains. While time will soothe the pain, I wonder if it will ever truly heal it. Maybe for my wife and her family (and me), but not really. We'll still have a sad feeling in our hearts for the life that Debbie took. And, for her more immediate family, I can't imagine what they have, are and will go through. I can only pray for them and offer whatever words and actions may try to console them.

I say life is precious because, while Debbie took hers, I read this weekend of a woman who doesn't want to lose her life.*

The 61-year-old was given four to six months to live when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October. She battled cancer before and beat it. This time, she was told it was terminal.

“I am blessed and I feel blessed for every day that I have with family and friends … and sometimes I am mad. I beat it. Why do I have to do it again? Is this the way it is going to end? It is hard when you are told four to six months. You don’t know when it is going to happen.”

Later in the story:

Since her diagnosis, Beverly has planned her funeral, thankful for the time to say goodbye. She has selected photos, chosen music and decided what she will wear at her funeral. She’s bought (her husband) Rick a gift for his January birthday, which she hopes to give to him in person, and she has her grandson’s graduation gift ready for March. Her goal is to make it to her 62nd birthday in April.

“I have had a good life and I am blessed for every single minute that I have had. I am really, truly blessed. Sometimes I don’t think this is fair and I get mad and everything, and then I turn around the next minute and all of my blessings show through.”

Life is so very precious.

Debbie had hers but took it away.

Beverly wants hers, but will lose it.

Be sure you cherish your life, and love those around you.


*Beverly and her husband, both retired, do not have health insurance, survivor benefits, and face funeral expenses. If you wish to help and/or are in Northwest Ohio, there is a fundraising benefit for Beverly (also noted in the story):

Fundraising benefit from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 21 at K.D. Alexander’s Beauty and Relaxation, 7015 Lighthouse Way, Suite 2, Perrysburg. Services available will include chair massages, mini facials, brow wax, hairstyling and haircuts. All donations will go toward Beverly Kanthak’s medical bills and expenses. A 50-50 raffle and silent auction for gift baskets will also take place. To make a donation, call (419) 277-4329.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Growing up, and keeping the faith

For the first time last Sunday, I saw my mom as being old.

She'll turn 74 in another week or so, but was never old until Sunday.

I try to make sure we talk, even if only briefly, once a week. She watches the kids often enough, so that usually takes care of it. She was over just the previous Monday, but around 4 p.m. Sunday, I decided to call and talk.

She didn't sound right. A bit slow in her talk and possibly disoriented. I found out she had had a migraine for several days -- she had them when she was younger, but not recently, as far as I know. So, I thought maybe it was the medicine talking.

I paid her a surprise visit (about a 25 minute drive), and didn't feel any better. I left, returned home and later that evening, after talking with her again, my wife and I decided to be "better safe than sorry." So, I convinced her she should go to the ER. My niece (living with her) called 911, and I was on my way back across town to meet the ambulance at the ER.

By 5 a.m. Monday morning, I was back home -- after a CT scan showed some blood around my mom's front right temple, she was transferred to another hospital and admitted. My sister was there too, for most of the early morning.

Right now, she doesn't seem serious, as the doctors think the blood will dissipate, and there shouldn't be any permanent damage. But, she can't be alone so she is staying with us for a couple weeks until the next CT scan to check things out.

But, things like that aren't supposed to happen to my mom. Yes, my dad died nearly three years ago after a long battle with cancer. I never really saw him as old, just sick -- but he never really was sick until towards the end.

So, that's part of my current story.

The other part has to do with timing -- and why things happen when they happen.

I was laid off in August. So, I've been looking for a job, seeking freelance work and other activities. On Monday -- that same Monday when I didn't get to bed until 5 a.m. -- I had a third interview for a really cool and nearly ideal job. From talking with a company representative, it seemed like I was its primary candidate. I was very optimistic.

But, Wednesday, I found out the company was going with someone else.

Think what you want, but there's a "big picture" reason why I didn't get that job now. With four kids, a puppy and now my mom -- sometimes confused and disoriented -- living with us for a couple weeks, there's no way my wife could handle it all if I went back to work soon. She even said that this evening.

So, I'm still at home, continuing with the freelance projects underway and seeking a job.

That's no coincidence. That is God's will.

I have always been a strong believer in God and had faith in his role in my life. But, since my wife became pregnant with our youngest daughter, my faith has grown exponentially.

Another strong example is when Hanson approached me and hired me -- at a salary that enabled my wife to stay at home after our daughter was born.

And, since being laid off by Hanson, there have been enough times, even minute ones, where I can see why I was laid off when I was. The latest with my mom is definitely not minute, but the timing of me being laid off is definitely a clear indication that it is part of God's will.

In many ways, I feel a sense of relief believing that my life really is not in my hands. I still play an active part, and need to do my best. But, ultimately, it's not up to me. Ultimately, it's up to God.

And, I just need to keep the faith.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Growing up?

Last week, as I was spending time with my youngest son (7yo), tucking him into bed, he asked me, "I don't know why I'm asking this, but, what do you like to do?"

I paused and said a few things like playing and spending time with him and his brother and sisters; enjoy running, though haven't done it in a couple years; enjoy reading (though again, haven't done a lot of late, offline), and another thing or two.

The first thing that hit me after I left his room is that, he's thinking about others. Not like being unselfish, but looking at others' perspective, in a way. He probably never thought much before that his mother and I might like to do certain things.

The second thing that hit me is that, I don't do much just because I like to. Of course, I spend time with and play with my kids (though, not as much as I want to, particularly of late). But, that's easy. I love them and they mean the world to me. So, of course, playing with them is something I like to do.

But what else? I really don't have anything new to add (while blogging is something I like, I'm thinking more along the lines of real world, offline activities). And, the things I do like to do -- like running -- I really haven't done all that often.

So, is this part of the stage of life where being a husband, a father and an employee pretty much consume my life?

I'm not complaining, but am wondering that I should start taking more time to do things I like -- particularly playing with my kids.

Oh well, time to go let the pupply out one last time for the night.

Monday, July 21, 2008

How can you tell that sin pays?

Because the devil is in tails, and Jesus wears a robe.


(Okay, I don't believe that, but did say that this weekend while running around with the family. Forget exactly what inspired it, but thought it was cute -- and did get a chuckle from my wife. Of course, I'm taking about the monetary "pay" type, not the eternity kind. For that, Jesus wins hands down.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dear Church: Please Keep America Out of Worship

Yes, this is Memorial Day Weekend.

Yes, I dearly love the United States of America -- no matter what many politicians and other individuals have done -- this is the best country in the world.

Our founding fathers sought out a new world for, among other reasons, religious freedom. They wanted to worship God without fear of retribution or other harm from the government.

They created a government -- and brought in God.

God is above all.

So, please church leaders (including those in the music ministries) -- and I'm specifically speaking to the Roman Catholic Church (because I am Catholic) -- keep America out of Mass (or worship service, for the non-Catholic Christians).
I go to church to worship God. Not to worship my country.

America brings in God because most of us feel we need a higher power. We need divine direction in our lives.

The Church (whatever Church you attend) does not need America. We need just to worship God.

I walked out of Mass this morning when the organist started playing America the Beautiful. It furiates me to no end. I'm at church to worship God. Not to worship America.

So, please Roman Catholic Church: Do not lower the purpose of worship, do no bring earthly elements into it that are inappropirate. Keep God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the complete focus.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Everything I needed to know for public relations, I learned being a parent*

(NOTE: This is a cross-blog post initially published on my mainly professional-focused blog. Since the topic deals with parenting -- and the lessons learned -- I thought it'd be worthy to post here.)

*First, if you are reading into the headline that I or PR communicators should treat their target audiences like children, you're reading too much into the headline, taking it literally or trying to start something. That's not the point of this post. If you still believe it is, please leave. Otherwise, I would most appreciate it if you continued reading and left your $0.02 with a comment.

During some email back and forth a couple weeks ago with Ann Handley regarding a comment I left on her blog, I was reminded how much my children teach me. Then it hit me -- that much of what I've learned being a parent is very relevant to public relations and marketing communications.

Each child is different, so you can't parent them each the same way. Different temperaments, different personalities, different abilities, different ways they react to me (and my wife. From here on out, whenever I say me, I mean us).

The same goes with the audiences we are trying to market and communicate to. Each person is unique and reacts in different ways for what "works" for reaching him or her with the message. At the same time, there are generalities we use in parenting our children. We can't say the same thing four different ways. The same goes for communicating to our audiences. For example, look at reporters at a particular media outlet. There might be a company-wide policy or preference for receiving news, or for when you can contact them.

Be patient because each has his/her own time table. You never really know when something that you've been telling or trying to teach your children will finally click and sink in. Or, when you tell one to do something -- clean up, for example -- he or she will do it, but do it his or her own way. If you don't have a set time table yourself, that's fine in most cases.

The same goes for pitching a story. It may be a great story, but the timing for that particular reporter may not be right. You may get a call from that reporter a week or couple months later -- because the story was good, but he/she couldn't for whatever reason act on it then. That's also why you need to constantly remind your audience of your client or your employer with marketing messages -- because the audience may not need your product or service now -- but will in three months. Best to be top of mind.

You need to know and be involved in your children's lives. Yes, that may be an obvious one, but it's easy to be more of the care-giver -- looking after their basic needs -- than being a parent and playing with your children. My wife and I have a nearly nine-month-old daughter. While I love her as much as the others, I look forward to the time when she is less dependant on me (when we can communicate better, when she can easily sit up on her own, etc.). While the baby stage is great, it also is great when we can interact more. And, when I need to be less of a care-giver of my daughter and I can spend fun, quality and more quantity time with all my children.

The same point goes for our audience: Essentially, you need to know your audience; not just market or spew forth messages to them. Research, read, contact and even interact with your audience. Know what they like and dislike, their preferences. That's one of the great advantages of social media: market feedback and interaction.

Yes, really knowing your audience is not easy, but you'll have a much higher rate of success than the proverbial throwing a lot of mud on the wall and seeing what sticks. Besides, how else can you do point #1 above if you don't know your audience?

The basics: You need to want to be a parent, or at least be open to it and take it for the important responsibility it is. There's been enough times when I've heard about, seen or read about people who really should not be parents. More often than not, they're too selfish. I have felt sorry for their children, and hoped that God would particuarly watch over them. For the vast majority of people who are parents, even if they didn't at first want to be, they were responsible enough to know and take on the sacrifices and life re-focusing that's often required to raise children.

As with public relations and any profession, you need the basics. You need to know stuff like good writing (grammar, how different tactics call for different writing styles, etc.), have a solid work ethic, be honest and ethical, have a natural curiosity for your clients' businesses (and definitely your employer's business!), and have a sincere interest in others.

After all this, please don't think I'm elevating the role of PR and marketing communications to that of parenthood. Being a parent is by far one of the most important things I've ever have and ever will do in my life. That's why, I'm looking at parenting and seeing what I can apply from it to my job -- not the other way around.


Friday, February 22, 2008

If this doesn't bring tears to your eyes....

then you're not a parent or you're heartless.

It's a brief clip from (from NBC's Nightly News) of a young boy being surprised by his dad in school -- after his dad arrives home after being away for seven months on duty in Iraq.

Can you just imagine the joy and love in that son's heart when he saw his dad?!

May God bless the military men and women -- and their families.