Bailey

There’s a very cool place that is a five minute drive from my house called Station Road Farm. Many towns have a place like this where you can buy flowers, produce, mulch, pumpkins, etc. It is a popular location because it’s a farm that seems to have been dropped in the middle of a suburb. This has been a favorite shopping option for my family for years. It gave me a chance to keep close to my roots because I grew up on or near a farm for most of my youth, and my kids got to have a quasi-farm experience.

I remember on my relative’s farms that there were always animals. There would be multiple dogs and cats that just seemed to come with the whole environment. So, when we visited Station Road Farm, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the same thing. When my kids were very young, we were making a visit to pick up tomatoes and corn when they were distracted by new kittens roaming around the property. The cashier was very observant and she looked down to my daughter and said, “The kittens are free to a good home. Would you like to take one?” My daughter got those big eyes that kids get when they want something, and she cooed, “Can we Dad?” We didn’t have any pets at home, and I couldn’t say no to those eyes. I said, “If you see one that comes up to you, I’ll think about it.”

As if divine providence was upon her, a small yellow kitten started wrapping itself around and around my daughter’s legs. She squealed and said, “Dad, look !!” We drove back home and picked up my wife and son and brought them back to see the kitten. They loved him too. That was the day Bailey came home with us. We weren’t prepared and had nothing needed to take care of a new pet. So, we made a trip to the store and bought everything we needed – and then some.

That was 14 years ago. He has been a wonderful part of our family who had some very unique qualities. Every night when the kids came home from school, or Debbie and I came home from work, he was at the door to greet us. Every. Night. He also loved playing fetch by chasing a small rainbow striped ball up and down our basement steps forever. Bailey was never a lap cat, but he was ever present. If we were in a room, he was there with us. He always knew where we were and he did his rounds to check on everyone to make sure things were good.

This weekend Bailey passed. We fondly shared stories of his life. There were visits to elementary school for Show & Tell with both kids. Then there was the time of how he survived a thunderstorm when he fell out through a screen on our second floor and stayed on a small strip of the roof soaked and mewing until we pulled him in. He begged at the table and was a fan of lunch meat and licking tuna cans clean. Everyone is biased about having the “best” pet ever, but I would say that Bailey was the best fit for our family. I don’t think there’s any better description that fits him. I’m so thankful he chose to wrap around my daughter’s legs.

I know that I normally write about how to make HR better, but we need to remember that our lives are so much more than our chosen occupation. We have so little actual time truly interacting with people even though we feel it consumes every waking moment of our time at work.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the encounters and interactions you have with people, I challenge you to cherish them instead. People pass in and out of our lives daily. Instead of letting them pass you by, be intentional and connect with them. Who knows, you may be the exact connection they needed at the exact time they needed it.

Value others. Celebrate their lives and the time you have with them. Never take it for granted and be thankful for the time you have.

Thanks Bailey for being a vital member of the Browne family !!

Dads.

I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.

In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.

Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.

My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .

Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.

This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.

When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.

Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.

Now to today . . .

As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .

Kids and Tree

My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.

This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.

Happy Father’s Day to one and all !!

 

 

Fly Like An Eagle !!

This post isn’t a tribute to the incredible Steve Miller Band, but I may have to do that at a later time !! No, this week I’m straying from the world of HR to pay tribute to my son, Josh.

Josh as Eagle ScoutMy son became an Eagle Scout on Tuesday !! There really aren’t words that capture how proud I am of him. He has been in Scouts for almost 12 years and I was fortunate enough to travel along with him. It’s hard to picture that the little first grader who started as a Tiger Cub Scout is now a young man who will surely change the world !!

There are so many things that I love about Josh which made his Scouting experience unique and singular. My son is a free thinker who looks at the world as if it were an endless landscape. He took merit badges that others didn’t because he wanted to track things that interested him. He was disappointed that he wasn’t able to get the Truck Transportation badge before reaching Eagle. He really wanted to do this !!

Josh is smart, creative and has a sharp sense of humor. He often encouraged the other scouts in the Troop to look at things differently and try different experiences. He’s becoming a confident speaker in front of his peers and in front of crowds. It’s great to see him continue to develop and grow.

He didn’t settle on his project either. He wanted to do something that made an impact and would help many, so he decided to build a 12′ x 12′ shed for a local Animal Shelter. It was the largest project anyone in the Troop has ever attempted. He not only was successful, with the help of many of our scouts and adults from the Troop, but he also raised the most money ever for an Eagle Scout project. I’m not surprised that Josh wanted to “go big” because that’s how he sees life.

He faced a challenge that most Scouts don’t face while they work their way through ranks. His Dad was the Scoutmaster of the Troop at the same time he was moving up. Josh and I are very close. He would deny that if you asked him because our personalities are so similar. At times we are oil and water, but that never stood in his way. I can proudly say that Josh was able to develop relationships and become a strong individual even with me in the Scoutmaster role.

The other thing that I just have to say for him and about him (because we’ve talked about this) is that my son is a great example of why we shouldn’t stereotype and generalize his generation !! He is a fierce millennial and hates it when my generation (and others) say things about how his generation won’t be successful.

Did you know that only 4% of boys who start scouting become an Eagle Scout? His accomplishment has absolutely nothing to do with his age, and everything to do with his character and work ethic !!

He’s about to literally “fly” from our house as he heads to college in the Fall. It won’t be the same to not have him here to go to weekly Troop meetings on Monday night or go on another camping adventure or a national event like going with him to Sea Base. He’s not set on a firm major yet in college, but I have no doubt that he will be successful in all he does just like he was in earning this honor.

I can’t wait to see what he will do and who he will become. It will be an adventure I’m sure !!

Oh, yeah. I needed to close with this . . .

 

Those Who Serve !!

Today is Memorial Day and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my parents and my brother’s family. As we all get older, it’s harder and harder to get all of the kids (now young adults) together with everyone.  We were able to grill out, share stories, see how fortunate we are to have such great kids.  I cherish my family and this day, more than most, makes this even more true.

You see, one person wasn’t able to be at our gathering, my biological father.  My dad, John Browne, was a veteran of the US Army.  He served during the Vietnam War and went on four tours during his service.  The Army was really the only choice at the time for my dad.  He was an average high school student and the Army was a way to have a career and develop skills to use later in life.  He entered as a private and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  He ended up being a highly decorated person for his bravery, valor and leadership of his troops during the war.

Dad PicIf you notice, I keep noting these things in the past tense.  My dad passed away in 1968 after losing a battle to Hodgkin’s Disease cancer at the age of 26. It’s amazing to me that he survived the difficulty of battle only to lose to a disease.

I’ve heard that my dad was caring, gregarious and had a deep laugh that came out easily and often.  He was a dedicated friend and loving husband and father.  I was only four years old when dad died.  I have a handful of memories of him, but wish I had more time to have been with him.  From what I’ve been told, he and I are very similar !!  We look the same, have the same voice and I guess I even walk like him.  When I laugh (which is often), my family has said, “That’s just like John.”  I’m sure he loved life and lived it to the fullest !!

One other thing that gives me pride . . .

My dad volunteered to be in the Army.  Just when the draft was going to come into full force and be a dividing factor in our country’s history, my dad chose to serve.  He knew that he could be called to be in harm’s way, and he signed up anyway.

Today, there are thousands of men and women who are just like my dad.  They weren’t drafted into service.  They chose to serve, and they continue to do so in both times and circumstances of war as well as humanitarian efforts around the world.  We are so comfortable in our day-to-day lives that we take for granted these folks who protect our freedom.  That’s a shame and something none of us should take for granted.

Without these thousands of people willing to step in and serve, I wouldn’t be having a picnic with my family this Memorial Day.  So, I wanted to say “Thank You” to all the people of the Armed Services – not just on this day, but every day.  When you see someone in uniform, thank them in person.  They deserve this and so much more !!

I hope you join me in being thankful for those who serve !!

 

Thanks Mom !!

Yesterday we had the chance to thank all of those fortunate to be mothers.  It is incredible to see the outpouring for moms, and every bit of it is perfect !!  I hope you took time to thank the moms in your life yesterday because they deserve your thanks EVERY day !!

Honestly, this is a huge work issue as well.  Please note one thing here . . . I think ALL moms work !! The mothers who are able to be at-home-moms work hard every day with their families, communities and kids.  Don’t ever think that this isn’t valuable.  It’s an incredible gift that they give with immeasurable value.

For those great moms who also have a job outside of the home, I think we need to give you more validity and attention.  It’s an amazing testament to you as a professional to be able to do all that you do in the workplace !!  You see, I have a marvelous example to draw from – my mom.

thank-you-momMy father passed away when I was 4 and my brother was 2 back in 1968.  So, my mom became a “single” mom as a widow during a time when that was much more of an exception than today.  We have an amazing extended family who pitched in to watch my brother and I during the day so she could work an entry level administrative position as well as take college courses to become a teacher.  She earned her degree from Bowling Green State University and began teaching in the vocational school system.  She taught future administrative assistants who were predominantly women.  So, she modeled her success to those who would go on to have careers of their own.

Now, I know everyone says their mom is the best.  I’d have to chime in with that as well but with a twist.  My mom has influenced and encouraged hundreds and hundreds of young women to pursue a skill and impact workplaces.  She has seen them grow into incredible adults, been to their weddings, held their children and seen many of her student’s children graduate.

Before she retired after 30+ years of teaching, she received her Master’s Degree, remarried a phenomenal man, and started her career as world’s best grandmother.  She continues to put forth a witness of grace, joy and encouragement to all that she encounters.

So, today, I’d like to say THANK YOU !!  Thanks to my mom and to all the moms who are out there in homes and in the workplace.  You make the world a better place because of who you are and all you do !!

I call him “Dad” !!

Other than being married, the greatest joy I have in life is the gift of being a father !!  You’ve seen me write about both of my kids, Melanie (18 and soon heading off to college) and Josh (14 and planning to take over the world).  I’ve even written about my biological father who was a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.  Today, however, I’m writing about my dad.

You see, I hail from the Center of the Universe which is also known as the Village of Ada, Ohio.  This is where my brother and I grew up during our formative Jr. High and Sr. High years and where my parents still reside.  This story starts about one year before we moved to this incredible mecca !!

My mother is in the 1st wing of the “Mothers Hall of Fame” !!  That is not an exaggeration.  ANYONE who has met my mom would say this within minutes of meeting her.  Since I was the “man of the house” since the age of four, I was very protective of my mom and didn’t quite get why she had to meet someone else. Thankfully, I wasn’t really in charge and the good Lord brought Don into my mom’s life.  He seemed cool enough, but I didn’t want him getting “too close” to my mom.

One night after they had been “courting” (that’s what they called it – not me), he came to the room where my brother and I stayed and we had the following conversation:

Don – “Boys, I wanted to talk to you and ask you something.”

Steve – “Sure.  What do you want to tell us?” (I didn’t allow my younger brother to speak because I was – and still am – the firstborn)

Don – “Well, your mom and I have decided to get married.”

(My brother and I were stunned and shocked.  How could she do this?  We didn’t need him !!  He went on . . .)

Don – “Well, boys, I just wanted to ask.  When we’re married, do you want to call me ‘Dad’ or ‘Don’ ??”

(Get ready for it.  Here comes the most calloused response in the history of families !!)

Steve – “We’ll call you ‘Don’ because you will NEVER be our father !!”

(Did I mention that I was an idiot 13 year old punk?)

Don – “That’s fine boys.  Good night.”

He didn’t put up a fight and was incredibly gracious (as he always has been.)  Later that summer in 1976 during the glitz of the Bicentennial, my brother and I stood in polyester suited glory at my mom and Don’s wedding.  We moved to Ada and the rest is history – well, sort of . . .

Don raised my brother Mark and I as if we were his own sons.  He was always fair, structured and showed us amazing things.  He taught us about work ethic, manners, treating women with respect and most of all . . . love mixed with incredible humor !!

The day of my high school graduation, he grabbed me and hugged me and told me he loved me.  He followed that with, “So, when are you moving out?”  Through laughter and tears I embraced him and said, “I love you Dad !!”

He always had been my “Dad” and now I realized it.  He has been nothing but amazing my whole life with him.  He showed me, and continues to show me, the mantra I live by:

Model the behavior you expect in others.

He’s now a grandfather five times over and he comes to most of the grandkids events.  He never missed one event my brother and I were involved in – EVER !!

This week he made sure to let me know that he was retiring at the young age of 70.  I adore my father !!  If I can be half the man he has been for me, then I know that I will have left a grand legacy.

Happy Father’s Day to anyone fortunate enough to be a Father.  Never take it lightly for you are leaving a legacy to each and everyone you touch !!