Friday, December 9, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team; December 9, 2016
“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another that both attracts and heals.”
-- L. J. Isham 
Greetings from Cedar Falls,

I wanted to take a moment to update you since my last Reflection in October. I have had several medical evaluations in Iowa City this past week. Results are mostly favorable at this point, which I am very thankful for.  I have a follow up procedure scheduled in early January to deal with some polyps found this past fall, and hope to get that behind me soon. On a positive note, one of my doctors shared a new technology with regard to biopsies.  It’s called MRI-Fusion.  It eliminates the need for NEEDLES!! I’m certainly all for that!!  As always, I again want to offer a special thanks to my doctors and medical support team for the time and efforts they have given to assist me in dealing with the ups and downs one deals with as a cancer survivor.

Several thoughts ran through my mind as I sat and visited with an elderly gentleman in Iowa City this past week at one of my follow up appointments. He had so much to share about his life journey… What he wanted it appeared was someone to just listen, so listen I did. He shared how he had been diagnosed with colon cancer a number of years ago, won the battle with treatments and is now facing prostate cancer. He lost his wife along the way, his loving partner in life, which has made his journey more difficult and lonely, but he vowed to move on and remain positive about his situation. Somehow the conversation drifted to the Cubs and their World Series victory this past year and he truly “bubbled with joy” as he has been a lifelong Cubs fan!  He shared he much prefers “listening” to baseball on the radio as that is how he grew up, and it allows you to use your imagination in visualizing the game rather than be distracted by all the images on the T.V.  I can relate as I also enjoy listening to games on the radio as I travel.  It was a genuine “listening moment”, which was good for both of us!

My first thought after our “conversation” was that problems are a part of life... Pretty obvious, I know. What I reflected on is that "problem solving" has been a daily part of my life as a teacher, coach, school principal and cancer survivor.  I literally go into "problem solving mode" immediately when faced with a challenge. I guess that is not all bad if kept in proper perspective. It can often weigh me down as sometimes I have taken on responsibilities that are not my own. When engaged in "problem solving" I need to remind myself to keep looking to God for strength and guidance, as He will provide the "armor" needed to help me stand my ground and handle the difficulties that come my way. Ephesians 6:13

Another thought that entered my mind was that listening, rather than "fixing" could be a great way to initially deal with those problems we face. Listening is truly an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with others that both attracts and heals.” Listening can be a lost art in this era of social media where we are so used to sharing our thoughts and opinions.

I thought this morning about how often I am not really listening to what a person is telling me, but rather just waiting for them to stop talking so I can share what I have to say. My work driving at Western Home Communities has really helped me to learn to listen to folks... they truly appreciate a listening ear, and I have really learned a lot by just listening.

I used to worry that there would be times when I wouldn’t have answers for people who sought my assistance. After spending time with the residents, I have come to realize that what people want more than anything is to be heard. Most times they don’t need you to tell them what to do; they want your help in discovering it for themselves and that comes from asking questions and then really listening to what they have to say.

When taking these folks to medical appointments, they don’t feel you need to heal them. They don’t expect you to remove their pain, or have some great words of wisdom, but rather to hold their hand, listen and be present. That is comforting to both them and to me.

I am learning to listen with my heart, trying to make wise choices while making it my goal to be positive, helpful and hopeful to those around me. Sometimes I just literally have to tell myself “put the glove down and listen!”  If I'm feeling discouraged, frustrated or other negative feelings, I need to let those "prickly emotions" prod me to remember that joy and positivity are choices, and I can choose to be positive and hopeful moment by moment. 
Having spent a lot of time in Iowa City, talking to many who are struggling with health issues, I've found there is something incredibly powerful about a person who cannot be defeated. Everyone loses at some point in their lives, but whether or not that loss defeats you is under your control. Everyone at some point will face a difficult situation and that won’t feel good, but whether it defeats you is under your control.

How do you want to react to a loss? It might be the loss of a job, it might be a loss in competition, it might be the loss of the health and physical well being you have always enjoyed or it might be the way someone has treated you. Will you put your head down and give up? Will you choose to play the victim and recount in great detail to your friends over and over again how you were wronged?

As we all face those challenges, we need to remember each day to continue to choose not to be defeated. Allow some time to acknowledge your loss, allow yourself to feel the disappointment and take a hard look at the situation for what you can learn from it to be better in the future. But don’t be defeated. Don’t play the victim. Reclaim your power to live life from the inside out. Keep moving forward with your head up and continue to develop your ability to lose yet never be defeated. Wishing all of you and your families a wonderful Christmas season as we
listen with our hearts, while being positive, helpful and hopeful to those around us!

              Sometimes I just have to tell myself “put the glove down and listen”!  

Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

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Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team, October 18, 2016


“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
-- H. P. Lovecraft

Greetings from Cedar Falls,

I wanted to take a moment to update you since my last Reflection in August. I have had several routine medical procedures recently performed and am waiting on results from a biopsy done during one of them. Always a “mindset” challenge, as well as the fact I have a couple of very close friends who have recently been diagnosed with cancer, which moved me to write this reflection.  As always, I again want to offer a special thanks to my doctors and medical support team for the time and efforts they have given to assist me in dealing with the ups and downs one deals with as a cancer survivor.

That brings me to this reflection.  

I’ve always assumed that we feared the unknown. It’s just one of those clichés that you hear so often that you just figure is true. And then last month, as I was doing some reading,  my mind opened to a different possibility. After reading some thoughts from Steve Gilbert (Win Your Day), I concluded it’s not the unknown that scares us; it’s what we project into the unknown that causes anxiety. Because if something were truly unknown, we wouldn’t know about it so there wouldn’t be any fear of it…


The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me. I’m not so worried anymore about the “unknown” when it comes to my future; I’m worried about what my mind projects into the blank space that is the unknown.

It may seem like semantics, but at least for me it had a big impact. It helped me to realize that it’s my thoughts about things that scare/worry/upset me rather than the things themselves.

Take a look at a time in your life when you thought you were worried about the unknown – (for me that’s easy, it’s when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009) - and see if what you were really worried about is what you projected might happen rather than simply not knowing what would. Once diagnosed, my mind began racing about many things with anxieties sprouting up like mushrooms about what might happen, not what would happen. I shared many of those thoughts in my early reflections, and they often processed my thoughts on dealing with the pain, fear and worry that accompanies a serious medical diagnosis such as cancer. 
I’ve discovered that the best defense against worry, fear or things that upset us is to stay in communication with God. By turning our thoughts to God when faced with these concerns, we can think more positively. By taking the time to think things through, listening and discussing them with God, instead of us being the "god of our own thoughts and fantasies" we can experience much more satisfaction.
Quite often, the more "hassled" our lives become, the more we need time alone communing with God. He doesn't want us tied into anxious knots, but rather to find peace in leaning on Him, remembering that He is our strength in those difficult times. This is not always easy because the world is "rigged" to pull our attention away from Him. The noise and stimulations around us often make it hard to find Him in the midst of our difficult moments. 

I’ve also found in those difficult moments that yet another distraction can often be our own egos which so often want to project our pain and suffering onto another person or group. The term that applies here is “scapegoating”.  I can certainly relate to this having been both a scapegoat and a "scapegoatee" in my life's journey.  As I watch this year’s baseball divisional playoffs, the Cubs come to mind. (Sorry Cub fans see this reflection’s header!).

Many diehard Chicago Cubs’ fans have an unusual explanation for why their team hasn’t been to a World Series in seven decades: a billy goat. The superstition dates back to October 6, 1945, when a local bar owner supposedly placed a hex on the club for booting his foul-smelling pet goat out of Wrigley Field. The Cubs have struggled ever since, and have even earned the nickname the “lovable losers” for their perennial failure to win the World Series.

Think of the pain and suffering these die-hard fans have experienced over the years, which has at times been “scapegoated” to this curse. Recent Cubs management has showed us how to “hold the pain” and let it transform the team, rather than pass it on to the others around them by making good player personnel decisions and providing sound leadership. The results are speaking for themselves! 

Spiritually and emotionally speaking, we can take a lesson from this… Don’t be distracted from your situation by projecting pain and suffering onto another person or group. This can be difficult, believe me as we face the future with a cancer or difficult medical diagnosis. There are no “bad goats to expel." I pray that I may be wise enough to identify my own problems, take them to God in prayer and not be looking for the "goats" in others as I lean on Him for guidance while enjoying and relaxing in His presence during my difficult times. 

To conclude, when we have difficult moments, which can cause pain and suffering in our lives, take the time to bring them to God and ask for His guidance.  Don’t beat yourself up wondering “why me” or by projecting the pain and suffering onto others. Each day is a new day, it’s a blank canvas, take them one at a time. Build off the lessons of yesterday, (just like the Cubs ;O) without taking the frustration and upset into today.

Blessing to each of you as we approach the Holiday season. Enjoy your time with family and friends, as it is so precious a gift!


Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

Link to Vimeo: Reflections from the "Home Team"... Go the Distance

Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team
August 16, 2016

“How lucky I am to have something that
makes saying goodbye so hard…” Pooh

Greetings from Cedar Falls!

I wanted to take a few moments to share a few thoughts since my last reflection in April.  A year of change, new beginnings and saying goodbye…. all wrapped up into one for me this past year… I’ll begin by providing an update on my health situation. Have had a few bumps in the road the past few months with lab readings and a cyst that appeared on one of my kidneys.  So far, all seems stable and my doctors are monitoring both, so I feel comfortable all is in good hands.

As for retirement, how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard! For the first time in 40 years, I haven’t been a part of the opening of a school year. Yes, I miss the students and staff who have been a part of this time of the year.  Always knew I would… however, I’ve had the opportunity to fill that void by spending time with both of my beautiful granddaughters Grace and Lucy. Brings back memories of my own three kids when they were that age.  Also reminds me as I watch them parent that “the expert in anything was once a beginner”.  That concept truly applies for me in a number of ways. I recall being a “beginner” as a student/athlete, a parent, a teacher, a coach, an administrator, and yes, as a cancer survivor. Experiencing all those “journeys” certainly makes me no expert, but it does allow me the option of sharing what I’ve learned along the way as part of my “new beginning” in retirement. 

Over the past 40 years, I’ve discovered that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. For me, 2016 is the beginning of anything I choose!  I am choosing to stay within the community of Cedar Falls, a place that I have come to know and love for many, many years. I plan to stay involved with scouting, educational consulting and volunteering my time and/or services here in the community, and of course, spending more quality time with my family who I dearly love. To me, a perfect way to spend my retirement and share what I’ve been fortunate enough to learn over the years while giving back without having the responsibilities I had when working.

It also allows me more time to read and reflect which has been important to me as well over the years.

I just finished a profoundly moving memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis. I his writing, he attempts to answer the question ‘What makes a life worth living?’ It’s titled When Breath Becomes Air, written by Paul Kalanithi.
At the age of thirty-six, and on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student, possessed “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life.”
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? These are some of the questions Paul wrestles with in his book.  Many of the questions he asks were the same questions I asked myself when faced with my cancer diagnosis. Interestingly, his insights also provided some good thoughts about how to make life meaningful, not only with the adjustments that are made as a cancer patient, but also with the adjustments we make when we pursue a “new beginning” in retirement.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book. His words will live on as a guide and a gift to us all. In his book, Paul quoted seven words from Samuel Beckett that he began repeating in his head once diagnosed with terminal cancer: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” I’ve often felt the same, and it’s comforting to know others also summon the drive to go on despite all odds seemingly going against us. When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

To close, I’m excited about this “new” beginning in my life, and I’m hopeful my experiences will help make me an “expert” in helping make it meaningful for others on their life’s journey. As you travel the new beginnings in each of your lives, remember… “The expert in anything was once a beginner”. 

Sending my love to each of you as you head into fall and your own new beginnings. I’ve shared a couple special parts of my new beginning below.

Sincerely, Dave



Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

Link to Vimeo: Reflections from the "Home Team"... Go the Distance

Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Reflections from the Home Team April 16, 2016

 The secret to life and the greatest success strategy of all is…
 “Love all of it and fear none of it!”

Greetings from Cedar Falls, 

I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts with you today by reflecting in a little different way... As you know, I have always found it most comfortable to express my thoughts and emotions using baseball terminology, so here goes.
Many of my teammates during my baseball playing days said to me after their retirement from the game "Ride it till the wheels fall off Dave because once it's over it's over."  Well, my wheels may not be completely off, but there are a lot of miles on these tires, and the tread left on them is a bit thinner. My body just doesn't do what it used to do.  I've always said that if I couldn't perform to the level I'm accustomed to, then it was time to walk away...

Baseball (as life) is a game of failure that tends to be always followed by opportunity.

Baseball is also a microcosm for life. It teaches life lessons that I don't think any other profession could teach and from which I have drawn many parallels in my years in education. Baseball (as life) is also about the journey, not the destination.  And what an amazing journey it has been for me in my years in education!  Maybe for all of us, we have something to learn from the game by pushing aside the fear that can come from taking on challenges for fear of failure... a mindset that can help us all grow on our journey.

As the old adage says, “All good things must come to an end” so after 40 years in education as a teacher, coach, athletic director, and principal, I have made the decision to “hang up my cleats” and retire as Holmes Jr. High’s Principal at the end of this “contract season”. I have been BLESSED beyond measure. My cup has been filled with good times and good fortune.  I have chased many dreams for the past 40 years, allowing me to meet the most amazing cast of characters you could ever imagine, while also allowing me to experience lasting relationships that most people could only dream of.

I can honestly say that I worked hard, prepared, and always did my best to serve my students and staff to the best of my ability. I have great respect for the education profession and those in it, and have always tried to make school an engaging place to be while having as much fun as possible along the way. Even when life’s fortunes kicked me in the guts and brought me to my knees with cancer, I got back up when I was knocked down with the help of my faith, family, friends, my students and staff. I will always be able to look my two beautiful grand children in the eye one day and say, “Grandpa never gave in, and never gave up.” I can look in the mirror and know that I “played the game” the right way, leaving it all on the field, and have zero regrets.

Although I will dearly miss squaring up to the challenges facing us in the “business” of education today, what I will really miss are the little things. The relationships and stories (believe me, I’ve got a few) generated by working with my students, athletes and their parents over the years, as well as the many friendships I have developed with my colleagues, but what I will miss most of all is being a part of watching and impacting young people as they grow from being “wide eyed” seventh graders into caring and responsible young adults. Having been a part of that in so many lives has been so rewarding for me. It’s where I have felt most comfortable and free. It’s where I am at ease and at peace. I don’t know what could ever replace the feeling of being completely at home with young people while “at work.” To all my students, athletes and colleagues I have had the pleasure of “working” with and learning from over the years, it’s you who I will think of when I reflect on the past 40 years. It’s you who have filled my heart and soul with so many laughs and so much love. I just want you to know that I love you all.

I was once asked by a teammate early in my playing days, if I didn’t make it to the big leagues, would I consider my baseball playing days “all for naught?” Without hesitation, I said, “no way, it’s about the journey and those who were a part of it along the way!” In the same way, the journey and relationships I have experienced in my education career has been a “Big League” experience! I look forward to teaching the lessons I have learned to my grandchildren and using those same lessons in the next phase of my life’s journey and the many opportunities that will present as I continue to serve others. My focus will be on family and wellness. I plan to continue advocating for After School programming and education at the state and national levels, my scouting work with the Atlanta Braves, tending our family farm  as well as serving others in Cedar Falls helping keep this area the best place to raise and educate a family in the State of Iowa. I look forward to my next adventure. I’m not sure which direction God will lead me, but I trust His plan and am excited to see what the next chapter has in store for me. 

I will leave you with a thought from one of my favorite authors by the name of Jon Gordon. When writing one of his recent books, “The Carpenter” he talked about being filled with the fear that he would disappoint the people who had enjoyed reading his previous books… fear that people would say his best writing was behind him, fears that he would write a “piece of junk”. At that moment, he realized the antidote to fear is love. So instead of the fear of failing, he decided to focus on his love of writing, his love for the reader, and his desire to make a difference. From that moment on the book flowed. He wrote it in 2 1/2 weeks and discovered that if you focus on love, you will cast out fear.

I want to encourage each of you to do the same as you build your life, work, business, school, project or team with love instead of fear. Remind yourself that if you aren’t building it with love it won’t become all that it can be. Only through love will you create something special, magnificent and compelling. Only through love will you build a masterpiece.
So if you are trying to build a business, focus on the love you have of building it rather than the fear of losing it. If you work at a school, focus on loving your students instead of fearing all the new testing standards and mandates. If you are a young athlete, dancer, musician or artist, focus on your love of playing and performing instead of your fear of failing. Worrying about the outcome and what people think will steal your joy and sabotage your success but loving and appreciating the moment will energize you and enhance your performance. Love all of it!! 

Most of all, as you build with love, know that you will face many challenges and negative influences that can shift your focus back to fear if you let it. When this happens decide to LOVE ALL OF IT. When you love all of it you will fear none of it.
      Love the struggle because it makes you appreciate your accomplishments.
      Love challenges because they make you stronger.
      Love competition because it makes you better.
      Love negative people because they make you more positive.
      Love those who have hurt you because they teach you forgiveness.
      Love fear because it makes you courageous.

The secret to life and the greatest success strategy of all is to love all of it and fear none of it! Thanks to all for taking this journey with me. I am, and have been, TRULY blessed.
My love to all!

Sincerely, Dave

Colossians 3:23 

Link to: Reflections from the Home Team BLOG

Link to Vimeo: Reflections from the "Home Team"... Go the Distance
Link to: Tommy Emmanuel and "Angelina"