One Year Later: As Brothers We Will Stand, And We’ll Hold Your Hand

For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about what to write today. On October 13 last year, I missed a call from my friend Chris. So one year ago today, I called him back. His brother Josh answered. I was excited to talk to Josh, but then I got news that will forever engrain the feeling of that hotel sofa and the whiteness of that hotel room ceiling in my mind: Chris, one of my best friends since 5th grade, who was like a brother, had died – unexpectedly and unexplainably!

This year has been a roller coaster – so much good has happened but I miss Chris so very much. My Sunday afternoons, which were often filled with summer days at the pool or afternoons throwing a Frisbee or hiking, are not the same. The person who has given me guidance and direction since elementary school is gone.

At the wake, there was a slideshow with the song Timshell by Mumford and Sons playing, haunting. At the funeral I gave a eulogy and quoted If I Die Young by The Band Perry. Today I listed to those two songs again, perhaps for the first time in almost a year and tried to hold back tears.

Chris was taken from us too soon and too young. He was full of life and made the world around him a better place. Maybe God had a different plan for Chris though. Maybe Chris made all of us better but was needed for even bigger things. Hopefully, one day we will find out.

Life goes on. And Chris still brings us together. Last night, 17 of us (plus Chris’s 4 month old nephew!) got together in his honor and memory. And we still see each other regularly, which I know will continue. Chris’s roommate and I have become better friends and all of us have come up with ways, together and individually, to remember Chris.

I still talk to Chris regularly, it’s just not in person anymore. Keep it real, my friend. I miss you, and will remember you forever.

When I think of you, I don’t feel so alone… [but] heavy wings grow lighter, I’ll taste the sky and feel alive again.

I need time to think.

There is a lot going on. At work, at home, all over, I seem to be in “go” mode. But I sometimes feel as though I am going without a lot of direction. Or maybe it’s that I don’t know where I am going, or where I should be going. And why. And how, and for how long, and in which direction, as determined by whom? This leads to a lot of confusion and some stumbling. It wastes time and needs to be changed.

These past few weeks at work I’ve discovered how incredibly busy I am, spending 35+ hours each week in meetings, and realizing that I am already behind on work that won’t really have an impact until two years from now. It’s blowing my mind. I also lead several different groups and am on the board for others. Without effective time management and planning, things seem to be falling through the cracks. They may not always seem that way to others, but they do to me.

So things are going to change. I am going to start blocking off “white board time.”

White board time. Not sure if I’ve heard that somewhere or if I just made it up. Either way, I am going to try to block time each day for thinking. To take what’s in my head and to write it down. To dissect my thoughts and to map out my ideas. I need to make sense of what’s happening inside so that I can effectively communicate it outside. And then I need to digest the responses I get and amend, adjust, update, and change what I’ve already thought through.

Thinking is an ongoing process (duh) but I want to focus on ideation – on creating and understanding my ideas and thoughts so that I can effectively communicate them, be more productive, and work better with others.

It takes time. But it’s a worthwhile investment.

A Letter to Chris Smith, 30 Days Later…

One month ago today I lost one of my best friends, Chris Smith. He was only 26. 26!

I tried to write this after Chris passed away but couldn’t. I like to say that I am doing fine – and I am moving on and adjusting, as I am sure his family and other friends are. But it hurts so, so much. If I think about Chris or what happened too long, I still have difficulty breathing and feel like crying.

I want to mourn and I want to share because Chris was such an amazing person, quiet, but in his own way someone who always smiled and had a gentleness about him that was infectious. I don’t know a better way of doing this than writing a letter to Chris:

Dear Chris,

Hey buddy. I haven’t seen you in a while. I feel like we need to go to the park or something and catch up. I have a lot to share with you and get your input on – work, life, you know ;-). And I want to hear about the latest craziness with all of the machines at work and where you decided to live next year.

Well, I guess you made a decision about next year though, didn’t you? I just wish it wasn’t so far away….

I miss you so much Chris! You were supposed to be here and we were supposed to grow old together and have more crazy experiences together. I always assumed we would be in each other’s weddings and be Boy Scout leaders together, watching our own kids grow up. Remember all of those camping trips? Or when we used to go sledding together on snow days? So many things I probably shouldn’t really share publically, right? We had so many experiences together. And I still have your home phone number memorized even though you haven’t lived there or used that number in a while.

I talk to you Chris. And I think about you everyday. I hope you can hear me and know that you are missed. At your funeral I called you one of my best friends – and you are, but it feels more like I lost a brother. So much of who I am has become intertwined with you. I still have the eulogy I wrote on my desk at home, underneath a picture of you. I haven’t been able to put it away in a drawer; that seems too final.

I know it will get easier, but it’s going to take some time. I probably do just need to sit down, think, and cry. Maybe I am trying to hold on to you? I know you’ll always be around and I will think about you often. It’s hard but I will get there – I know you would be strong.

After the funeral we went to your parents house and I saw your old friend group – I haven’t seen some of them since high school! While there, I noticed the record player in the corner of the living room and I saw a record on top with a picture of two people lying in a field, looking up at a blue sky. I went home and bought the album and I have listened to it often. I think you would like this song:

You are in the seat beside me
You are in my dreams at night

That picture pretty much summarized what I want to be doing – being outside with you and reflecting on life past, present, and future. And that song is pretty emblematic of how I feel.

Chris, I know you aren’t Jewish but I want to offer a traditional Jewish funeral prayer for you. I figure you may like it:

O G-d, full of mercy, Who dwells on high, grant proper rest on the wings of the Divine Presence – in the lofty levels of the holy and the pure ones, who shine like the glow of the firmament – for the soul of Chris the son of David and Janet who went on to his world, because they will contribute to charity in remembrance of his soul. May his resting place be in the Garden of Eden – therefore may the Master of Mercy shelter him in the shelter of His wings for eternity, and may He bind his soul in the Bond of Life. G-d is his heritage, and may he repose in peace on his resting place. Now let us all respond: Amen.

I hope you enjoy yourself up there Chris. To be honest, I hope I don’t join you too soon – but when I do, I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures and filling you in on mine. I trust that God has a plan for you and I am sure you will do it well.

I miss you Chris. You’ll always be my best friend and my brother. Keep it real.


An Old Campout

Out of Order

Out of order

The door is covered in paper, but the light is on inside.
A white piece of paper held to the window with a single yellow strip of tape.
Out of order, it says.
Up and down, up and down.
Forward and back, forward and back.
Ears covered but noises abound.
Forward with the words, backward with the melody.
Suddenly more resistance, suddenly less.
Constant motion, willing it to stop.
Cold and hard in hand.
Around and around and around.
Going somewhere, but going where?
Beating faster, seeing darker.
Brighter suddently, seeking attention.
Concentration limited, refocused.
Inside, seeing what?
A sign taped over the door.
The door, covered in paper.
Out of order.

Stop Bullying.

It may not be the primary cause of the day but it should be a focus of each of us every day: stop bulling. Now. It happens in schools and in neighborhoods and at camps and in the workplace. It matters. Please share.

Why Not?

The other day I asked Siri “Why not?” and she gave me a brilliant (and somewhat sarcastic) answer that I really liked. And apparently it’s actually a meaningful quote so I thought it was worth sharing. It certainly is an inspiration for creativity and exploration.

You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

– George Bernard Shaw

Journey of the Dreamer

Journey of the Dreamer

All black, yet still he sees.
Images flashing through his mind, a smile upon his lips.
All around, there is a buzzing but he hears it not.
Music plays in his ears.

Haze lifts, transforms into white and gray cotton-ball looking
Clouds rise up, blue skies appear
Pure blue into the horizon where the sun brightly

As the world moves by, thoughts move
The future.

Ideas pervasive.
Opportunities endless.

Shaking slightly, sometimes more.
May be present but maybe distracted.
Happily perpetual motion.
Brightly. In the eyes.
Lines distorted, forward.
On the journey.

Why the “lame duck” Congress needs to act on the “fiscal cliff”

I am tired of hearing about the “fiscal cliff” – let’s spend less time talking and more time doing. Everyone needs to get off his or her high horse and come to an agreement. Compromise means that not everyone is going to get everything that he wants. Realize this. Understand it. Accept it. You don’t have to like it. It isn’t actually about you and your next election. It is about what needs to be done for the betterment of our country. Sometimes we all have to give up a little something so we can get to where we need to be.

The “lame duck congress” is not an excuse for inaction. Every time I hear someone in the media say something along the lines of “nothing will be accomplished until January” or “the lame duck congress may just come up with a temporary solution” I get so frustrated. Nowhere, anywhere, else would this be acceptable. Certainly not in business. Or in one’s personal life. I cannot say, “Well, I guess I will wait until I get a promotion (or bonus, etc.) before I’ll tackle that big project.” I wouldn’t be around long enough to ever do the project. The same should be true for Congress. Their terms are not over yet. If you cannot finish one term by actually doing your job, you should not be hired for the next.

The world will not end if an agreement on the budget is not reached. The county will, however, likely be in a worse condition. While politicians would likely fault the other party, they would only truly have themselves to blame.

Lame Duck Congress

A Great Dinner

Thought of the evening:

One of the benefits of travel is getting to try new places to eat and great food. And one of the benefits of traveling to New England is the amazing seafood! I am currently in Portland, Maine for a conference. Tonight I went to The Old Port Sea Grill and had an amazing meal: fresh Gulf of Maine Flounder with hazelnuts and green beens and potatoes, along with an Apple Cider Martini. Amazing. And it fit the area and the season perfectly. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

Gulf of Maine Flounder

Use Your Influence To Get A Job

So often we talk about the people we know and the influence we have. We just like to feel important. Well, why not use that supposed influence for good? Or at least help yourself.

Social media has become a key factor in most aspects of our daily lives. One aspect that I think too many people overlook (yes, even the “connected” generation) is how to utilize your online presence to find a job or build professional connections. Obviously, this is the point of LinkedIn but there are a lot of avenues to start and build those relationships. Just make sure you have something to offer in return.

Recently I was contacted about my thoughts on this subject based off of a post I wrote in summer 2011 after my most recent job search. I was shown an interesting info graphic, which I think is worth sharing:


Social Score Infographic