Beware friends and family... If you think you are going to blush or be shocked, just don't read any farther.
You can't hide pride forever!
It’s been too long. It’s time to let you in on a family secret.
When a man has seven children (four by conception and three by selection) there will be a large variety of reasons to be proud. It could be excellence in sports or academics; it could be generosity or patriotism. A dad with seven children doesn’t have to look very hard to experience opportunities to be proud. Sometimes proud moments appear in places and for reasons that I didn’t see coming. Maybe even a little embarassing. That’s one way a family secret can get started.
I want to share one of those moments with you tonight.
For some, it takes every day that we have together to create that special indefinable bond. Some unfortunately live a lifetime without making the connection that creates it. Songs, poems, stories, and plays have been written about it. Artists have tried to paint it and photographers have tried to capture it in images. The power of love has been at the core of our healing and sense of peace for centuries. A search for the phrase on the Internet returned more than 3.5 million responses. Clearly, it’s something that matters to many of us.
Every piece of a football players uniform and equipment has a job to do. For the most part - from mouth guards and face masks to helmets and shoulder pads - the job is one of protection. The uniform is also designed to communicate. For instance, a player's number not only helps identify who he is, but also signifies the position that he plays.
Last week, when Cindy began her latest battle with cancer, a football players uniform took on added importance for us. Mixed in with the many prayers and well wishes received from friends and family, was a simple heartfelt photograph sent by a very special first-time player. Our oldest grandson Easton (almost ten) laced up his new cleats for the very first time. No big deal, you might think. Except the laces he chose were brilliant pink! He'd seen the pros do it and he knew it was how he wanted to dress for tryouts. His uniform, that day, was designed to communicate a special love between him and his Grandma Cindy and to protect her from the cancer that would be her opponent.
We love you Easton. Thanks for saying so much without saying or writing a single word.
Well today was the day. A one and only first day of chemotherapy for Cindy. Now don't get me wrong, there will be more days of chemo than either of us will want to see. But there will never be another first day. After today, we won't be rookies again.
We entered Overlake Hospital's Oncology department and were welcomed by two cheerful RN's who showed us around and invited us to choose from any of the 12 to 15 leather recliners that border the circumference of the brightly lit room. Each of the cushy oversized chairs was paired with a much less comfortable staight-back folding chair. Clearly, the "chemo-buddy" isn't the person that anyone cares about making comfortable.
Last year we found out that my wife Cindy had breast cancer. She faced it head on and made the decision to have the extreme surgery. You were there for us. You prayed for us. The surgery was successful and we began the process of moving on. Almost...
During the surgery, Cindy's lymph nodes were examined and were found to contain cancerous tumors in the form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). We were told that she was fortunate to have caught it early and that it was not in any of her organs or bone - just stage three. No treatment was necessary. Cindy would just have more frequent exams during a period of waiting and watching the (hopefully) slow development and growth of the tumors. Again, you were there for us. You prayed for us. And a year went by without too much concern. Until...
There are days when I least expect it that I am blessed by the well-chosen words of a text message from someone special. Yesterday was one of those days. Thanks Abby!
"I'm looking up at a pink and blue sunset after a workout on Mooberry track and I realize that you and I share this sunset. I realize that you've looked up at the very same one along with all other Cougs. Its the sunset that cuts through our campus and sits on rolling wheat fields. It tells you that you can rest because the day is over." - Abby Student
Childhood Fourth of July's We're Some Of The Best!
Memories come from unexpected places. Something causes us to reflect on times of our past. Something that we experience feels similar to times gone by. This picture, and the memories triggered by the items that are in it, transported me back to my youth like a shot through a time capsule. This grouping of memorabilia was in a display case at Blueberry Hill's Farm and Restaurant in Manson, Washington. I spotted it for the first time when my family and I visited there last year. It was one of many such visits that we make several times each summer for their world-class breakfast. Why I hadn't noticed it previously I don't know, but I recorded it in a picture and saved it for nearly a year. Today is the right time to share the picture and the memories it triggered.
Late last winter, while visiting with my son Ryan, I learned that my grandson Easton had been invited to be a member of a "select" little league baseball team. He could become a member of Utah's Herriman Mustangs - a hand picked team of nine-year-olds who showed enough potential to move to the next level of competition. Mustang coaches had noticed Easton on his prior season's team and felt that he would be a good addition to the team.
The first conversation was between the coach and Ryan. The next between Ryan and my daughter-in-law Rachel. It would be a bigger sports commitment than Easton or the family had been involved in before. A longer season, more practices, more tournaments, and more games. It would also be more of an investment with more travel, more equipment, and nicer uniforms. It was an opportunity that needed consideration on several levels. Ultimately the decision was to give Easton the option to decide. He considered the opportunity and chose to join the new team of boys - most of which he didn't know. From that day forward, Easton was all in. He listened intently to his coaches, asked for extra batting practice with his dad, and his appetite for a playing catch was never satisfied. It was obvious that Easton was going to do what it took to be a ballplayer. I didn't think that I could be any prouder of him, but I was wrong.
Something I remember about my dad was the way he encouraged me. Not with long lessons or expressive stories. No, my dad said more with just the right few words. Here's a few that made a huge difference. Give them a try. You can do it!
"I love you. Don't be afraid. Give it a try. You can do it. Don't give up. I'm here for you. Nice job. I love you." - My dad
Please leave a comment below to share what your dad gave you. Thanks!
When the wheels in a toddlers active mind start to turn and when the inner curiosity starts to take the shape of spontaneous questions, it can be a very magical time. These trusting little ones don't have preconceived opinions or points of view. They aren't trying to stump us or make a compelling point. They just wonder out loud and are open to learning from anyone who will share an answer to their many - some might say constant - inquiries.
Mom's and dad's who recognize these magical moments and patiently respond are some pretty special people too. Today, my daughter-in-law Maegan posted this short status update on her Facebook page. I doubt that she knew how much I would smile and think about what it must have been like at her house today.
"Do you like spiders or webs better?" "What is carpet made of?" "Where did the word mask come from?" "Can I hang a spatula on my toe?" Just some of today's gems from my inquisitive little toddler's mind...never a dull moment!
Sawyer is one of my six amazing grandchildren. There's a lot of stuff he would like to know... and his mom and dad are there to give him the answers. So... how, exactly, do you hang a spatula on a two year olds toe? Huh?
Not all edges have to be complicated, mysterious, or hard to find. Sometimes an edge in life can come from simple and even obvious places.
During the last 48 hours, while relaxing (not really celebrating) the 2013 version of Memorial Day Weekend, Cindy and I had the opportunity to host five 19 to 21 year old college students at our home on Lake Chelan. Now I know what those who are my age might be thinking... "You call that an opportunity? That's no opportunity! That's a punishment that should be avoided like the electric chair."
Well that's not the way we saw it and it's not the way it worked out.
Sometimes opportunity and action line up to create a special situation. That was the case for me on my recent trip to Pullman, Washington - home of the Washington State University Cougars. I was in town for the annual Murrow College of Communication Symposium and Advisory Board Meeting. As luck would have it, those two events were taking place during the same week that my old fraternity - Alpha Gamma Rho - was holding the annual Barn Daze celebration.
But that's not all. You may recall that I also have two daughters, Abby and Amelia, who are sophomores at WSU. Amelia is studying to teach foreign language and Abby is a Communications major.
Alfonso Pompili was my father-in-law for eleven years. We had some good talks on his front porch and I am better off for having had the chance to know him. When he passed away last summer I wrote a tribute to honor him. There wasn't time to create the video before his memorial service, but I was able to get one done before his wife and children gathered together at Christmas. I'm sharing it here for those who weren't able to go to Morgantown.
Alfonso Pompili, Sr. July 31, 1926 - August 25, 2012
He was a husband, father, grandpa and friend. The number of lives he touched and the love that he shared was huge yet unassuming. He will be missed by those that had the good fortune to know and love him.
This is a tribute to the man we knew as Alfonso, Fonsie, and Pap.
Earlier today I saw a friends post on Facebook that caused me to pause and think a little bit. It was a challenge that urged readers to think about what they're grateful for... right now... in the moment.
Here's what the post said... "A friend, R. M., posted the following on her blog this morning: "My challenge to you, right now, is to write out ten things you are grateful for. Type them in the comments, scribble them on paper, tweet some, write them on Facebook, say them out loud. Make the choice."
The timing was perfect. I'd been resting on the couch for nearly three days fighting a head cold that had gotten the best of me. I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and needed a little reminder that I really had nothing to complain about. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here's my list.
For a father who modeled a committed work ethic and belief in family values.
For a mother who was always there for her children and never resented a moment of the time it took to raise us.
For children who have made me incredibly proud of them for their accomplishments and for their differences. And for a wife who loves me for who I am and reminds me of it daily.
For the unconditional love and trust that comes from grandchildren in ways that you can only understand by experiencing it.
For second chances and the ability to both accept them and give them.
For all the positive people in my life who see the glass as half full - looking forward with hope and anticipation.
For mentors who've believed in me - encouraging me to stretch myself, think differently, and look beyond the obvious to see what others don't.
For the opportunity and resources to help make a difference in the lives of others.
For the realization that no matter how difficult the challenges in my life may seem there are people who would exchange them for their own in a heartbeat.
For a country that enables me to live, learn and love where, what and who I choose - and all the men and women who protect and defend our freedom.
And there's one more. It's one that those who live with me or work with me closely have come to know and understand. I'm grateful for "Second Thought Rod" - the voice of reason and my inner compass. Without him, a lot of poor decisions would have been made.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you grateful for?
October is breast cancer awareness month. Today, my PEMCO colleages gathered for an hour long program that we call @PEMCO Live. As part of the program, I was asked to talk about the reason we chose to support the Lee Denin Day fight against breast cancer. I was asked to share the story from a man's perspective. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I was proud to stand up and speak out against a disease that hits to many of our family members... a dissease that has come inside our home. These were my remarks:
One in eight women will have breast cancer within their lifetime. There are 100 new cases diagnosed each week in Washington State alone! Some, those that are the most fortunate of that group, will go into remission. Some are described as having no further evidence of disease. And some will die with it… but not of it. They are the breast cancer survivor’s – the lucky ones.
It's hard to talk about being a breast cancer survivor, because there is still no definitive cure. But one day there will be. Until there is, it’s important that we each find a way to – in my words – “play the ace of human.” It’s the play that trumps depression, sadness, worry, and fatigue. You see, the ace of human is love.
Clearly, I’m not a breast cancer survivor. At least not the way most of us would think of one.
I don’t have firsthand experience about the recommended monthly self-examinations, the annual mammograms, the nervous waiting, the call-backs, the needle-biopsies, the MRI’s, or the ultra-sounds. I haven’t considered the choices between a lumpectomy and the accompanying need for radiation or chemotherapy treatments, versus a single or double mastectomy where I choose to give up a part of my body.
I haven’t made decisions about whether to take a post-recovery drug that lowers my odds of breast cancer recurring but increases the likelihood of contracting uterine cancer or dying without warning due to a 1 in 1000 chance of experiencing a fatal stroke. I haven’t wondered if people would look at me differently and I haven’t had to consider a reconstructive surgeon’s opinion that there is a 50-60% chance that my reconstruction could go horribly wrong.
I haven’t done any of those things. But my wife has done them all.
It was on Tuesday, February 7th. I was here at work and Cindy was at her doctor’s appointment after her second mammogram in as many months. The first wasn’t clear enough and something suspicious had been detected.
It was mid-afternoon before I noticed that I’d received a text message earlier in the day. It was short and to the point. The core of the message said…
“Not quite the results I was hoping for. Don't call me yet, I'm still processing the information. Biopsy on Thursday."
It’s been eight months since that day in February and a lot has happened.
For Cindy all the aforementioned tests and decisions culminated in a bilateral mastectomy. During the surgery a small number of enlarged lymph nodes were removed and tested for indications of breast cancer. The good news is that that the nodes were free of breast cancer.
The bad news is that yet another form of cancer – non-Hodgkin lymphoma – was found. No one ever said that the fight with cancer would be fair.
For me, the day that I received that text message was the day that my priorities in life became instantly clear. I learned that it’s much harder to decide what to make important when things are going good than it is when life throws someone you care about an unexpected curve.
And for us – well we became even more of a team. We attended every appointment, consultation, and procedure together. We discussed every decision… and we considered all the options together.
We were surprised by the outpouring of support from our friends and acknowledged that the thoughtfulness and genuine concern that was shown to us by others truly made a difference.
Today, I’m here to invite you to stand up to breast cancer.
If you or your wife have been personally touched by breast cancer please stand up.
If your mother, daughter, or grandmother has had breast cancer please stand up.
If your sister or aunt has had breast cancer please stand up.
If you have a niece or a cousin who has battled breast cancer please stand up.
If you’ve had a close friend or neighbor who fought breast cancer please stand up.
If there’s someone you know that has encountered breast cancer, please stand up.
According to the National Cancer Institute – and I quote here - "An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included.”
You don’t fight breast cancer with a pink ribbon alone; you fight it with a team. You are all included in the survivorship experience. Thanks for standing up for the fight against breast cancer.
Thanks for being part of the team and for “Playing the Ace of Human” by sharing what’s in your heart.
Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.
The conference room at the REI Flagship store in Seattle was filled with leaders and senior staff that guide our company's strategic direction and operational implementation plans. The meeting was part of PEMCO Insurance's Interactive Leadership Series and the guest speaker for the day was Dr. John Medina - the best selling author of "Brain Rules" and one of the country's leading authorities on how the mind reacts to and organizes information. This was the groups second engagement with Dr. Medina and the expectation was that we would be getting deeper into the information around how the human brain can best influence accountability and trust as components of leadership. And we did.
Dr. Medina used humor, empathy, tone and volume to keep his audience engaged.
When he talked about the functions of the "lizard brain" he referred to the four F's - Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Mating. (Yes, he said he wanted to keep his talk rated PG-13).
He mixed in examples of "games you can't lose" like bobbing for water, and connect the dot. And along the way, sprinkled in through the course of our time together, there were some valuable non-business anecdotes and stories. Those who listened carefully and paid attention to what was said between Medina's major points, may have come away with even greater value. I know I did.
It’s an understatement to say that September 11th means a lot to our country. The horrific terrorizing events of that day in 2001 have captured a place in the hearts and minds of all who experience them, regardless of how or where we heard the news. It’s a day that must never be forgotten. Of that I’m certain most everyone will agree.
Yet as important as it is, this isn’t a post about the day that you are remembering. It’s a post about that day but not that date.
Yesterday, while thinking about the edge that my mom provided our family, I paused to consider how much she influenced the marketer in me. “Don’t forget to say please and thank you,” she told us, and “always tell the truth” was a value she consistently modeled and expected. Like most mom's, she was a brilliant communications strategist capable of pulling out gems like, "If you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything at all."
Yes, we marketers can learn a lot if we think back to the lessons our mother’s taught us. I invited the marketing professionals among my Facebook friends to consider and share the marketing lessons that their mother may have taught them.
1. Be polite, friendly, and honest.
There was no shortage of reminders about saying please and thank-you when mom was around. She knew the importance and value of well-mannered requests and in showing respectful appreciation. Misleading, omitting, or altering the truth was simply not tolerated. Like consumers today, mom could always tell if we were anything less than forthright.
2. Keep your room clean.
There were a number of wise submissions from marketers whose mothers kept the environment and safety at the top of their list. “Wipe your feet… Clean your room… Wash your hands… Be home before dark…” As in marketing, it was all about respecting the community, being aware of our surroundings, and doing the right thing.
The plan was to completely clean and organize the piles and boxes of clutter that have accumulated around the edges of my home office.. It's the kind of mess that sort of grows on you. An unfinished book here, a few magazines there, a few pieces of to be recycled electrical equipment in the corner. You know the look. Some call it "organized chaos." Today was my day to get it all back into shape.
But I made that one big mistake. Even though I knew what was in the oversized plastic storage container - the one that is big enough to double as a Costco shopping cart - I unsnapped the lid and began sifting through a lifetime of this and that. One memory after another.
Looking back through my blog this morning I saw a post that I wrote last year on the day before Easter. It was focused on our twins, Abby and Amelia, and the commitment that they were about to make as an expression of their belief and faith in Jesus Christ.
The focus of my post was that five letter word - "faith" - and how much we rely on it to get through so much of our lives. Faith and trust are key components of what give us hope.
Now, a full year later, I'm once again thinking about faith, trust and hope. This year it's very personal.
The love of my life, my wife Cindy, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We're fortunate in some ways, because despite not being identified in her annual mammogram, enough suspicion existed that a series of five or six additional tests and examinations were conducted that made the diagnosis clear and certain. I'm very thankful for that, even though I was praying for it to be a big mistake. I must admit that there was a brief time when I was about to give up on the praying. Having someone tell you that your wife has breast cancer after weeks of praying for a different outcome can cause that to happen. Until I was reminded that finding such a small tumor was in and of itself a bit of a miracle. Of course, that's the right way to think of it.
Today I participated in my Aunt Melba's memorial service. There was a big crowd of family, neighbors, and friends who arrived to celebrate her life and pay tribute to her memory. I was asked to participate by making a memorial video and sharing a few words that express my feelings about the aunt that was also my next door neighbor for the first twenty years of my life. She was my mother's baby sister and could have easily been considered a second mother to my sisters and me.
So what do you suppose I decide to talk about? I doubt you'll ever guess.
If you'd like to know, you can read the story in the "Personal Edge" section or you can simply click here.
If you've been following along for the past five months you know that I've been providing weekly updates about my effort and progress toward a healthier life - a life that weighs at least 100 pounds less than I did last summer. So far, after twenty-two weeks I've released 45.5 pounds and at least six inches in my waist. Averaging approximately ten pounds each month keeps a smile on my face. The interest and support of so many friends and family helps me to hold myself accountable. If you'ld like to look at the journey so far just click on the "Healthy Edge" tab and scan through the weeks that are posted in that section of this blog.
Whether you are on a similar journey or not, I want to introduce you to one of the most amazing kitchen appliances that we own. It was a gift from two very close and caring long-term friends last Christmas and it's really getting a workout. It's called "Yonanas."
Our Yonana is like a kitchen wizard that turns the goodness of fruit into the greatness of a soft-serve ice cream like desert or a refreshing sorbet. In less than five minutes it blends frozen fruit, without adding anything else (no sweeteners, no liquids, nothing) into the most satisfying and amazingly delicious treats. We enjoy what our Yonanas makes at least a few times every week.
While the whole world is remembering the tragic attack on our country of a decade ago today, I'll be spending time at a family reunion. One who will be missing, of course, is my dad - George Wayne Brooks.
Today is his birthday and I'll be thinking of him with each conversation that I have. He was born on September 11th, 1914 and would have been 97 today. That would be pushing the "age edge" in my family for sure. But losing him at just 65 years old was much, much too soon.
Not long ago I recieved the annual statement from the Social Security Adminsistration that recaps all the years that we have paid into the struggling federal retirement system. You know the one – we all get them. They list the years we worked and the amount we paid into the system. It even gives us an estimate of benefit that we will someday hope to collect. Frankly, it’s pretty depressing.
As I looked over the statemeent, I thought about all the different types of work that I’ve done and all the jobs that I’ve held. There were jobs that kids have to make a few bucks in the summer, and jobs that develop into a career. I decided to make a list and see how much I could remember. The first social security payment was in 1968 and the time frame spans over fourty years. No wonder I feel so tired!
I suspect that each of these endeavors could be a story in their own right. Maybe I’ll tackle that someday. For now, this short summary is at least a record for my grandchildren to think about someday. A work ethic is something that is built and developed from a young age. I don’t think we see enough of that anymore. Here’s my list… not necessarily in chronological order.
When I went to bed last night I planned to wake up, alone at our house on peaceful Lake Chelan, where I would sit down and write a fathers day tribute to my dad, George Wayne Brooks.
I had a vision and a plan for the tribute I would write. I had a few ideas about what I would say and the stories I could tell. But somehow when I woke up this morning I was inspired differently. Brief thoughts -single words and short phrases – of memories and characteristics of the all to short time I had with my father – were flowing into my mind. It seemed more like a poem than an essay. Each thought could easily be the theme of its own story at another time. So I went with the inspiration that was present and shaped the words and phrases into the following poem.
For those who knew him I think it will remind you of who he was. For most of you, who never would have met my dad, please allow me to introduce you to the greatest man I ever knew.
Being a Cougar provides an edge of lifetime value!
Yes my friends, being a Washington State University Cougar is something that lasts a lifetime. It's an edge that every Cougar alum knows about - benefits from - and loves. I can't begin to count the times that a warm and uplifting "Go Cougs!" has been shared between men and women of different generations, different nationalities, different political affiliations, and different religions simply because one person sees the other wearing "the logo" on a hat, jacket or shirt. It happens when you least expect it. For me, most recently, it happened in a 747 at 30,000 feet during a quick hello with the couple who shared my row.
It's something that belongs to us and that no one else can have. It's Crimson Pride. And it's baked into our very core.
I've been very fortunate that I have found ways to get back on campus with more frequency during the past few years. A role on the College of Educations Advocacy Board allows me to interact with the Dean, faculty, staff, and students. I've had the opportunity to serve as a guest lecturer in the College of Business, and most importantly, I took two future Cougs on a campus visit that helped our twin girls make their decision to become Cougs next fall.
As I headed off to the local grocery store, I was focused on getting the few things that would make a simple and enjoyable afternoon birthday barbeque. I thought about traditional burgers, considered chicken, and settled on teriyaki pork tenderloin along with a rack of ribs. Sides will include potato salad, a medley of grilled veggies, and strawberry shortcake for desert. Sounds good, is easy to prepare, and will be just fine.
As I walked the aisles of the grocery store I thought about the many backyard barbecues that took place around birthdays while I was growing up. There was something special about them. Something different.
What leaves enough of an impression in a nine-year-old boys life that he would remember it nearly 50 years later?
Memories of tension, heros, accomplishment, wonder – and the fair.
When I was nine, John F Kennedy was President of the United States. There were a lot of things about him that made him special. But what I remember most, other than his assassination, is that when I saw him on television I worried about something going on in Cuba – something that my dad said could cause “the end of the world."
The April visit took place just four months short of forty years since making my first cross state trip to the small town of Pullman. When the journey began, I was leaving from my even smaller hometown of Lake Stevens. I didn't know it at the time, but I was beginning one of the best trips of my life. A trip from student to teacher - a trip that doesn't end.
I was in the cab with a coworker when I noticed a familiar face had suddenly appeared on my muted iPhone. We were on our way to dinner at a favorite Chicago restaurant after an afternoon of listening to insurance seminar speakers. It would be easy not to take the call. And if it had been anyone else, I might have let it go to voice mail.
With your first breath, I became a father. But sometimes it takes a while to figure out how to really own that label. What happens so quickly in a delivery room can take time to mature into very special relationships.
My wife Cindy and I are members of a timeshare community in which "points" that we purchace are good for use at various condominium units around the US, Mexico and Canada. We love the flexability and the venues. We've been to Palm Springs, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Santa Fe.
There are times when a memory comes rushing forward from a special time and place deep within us. When that happens it can be both startling and exhilarating. That happened to me today and I'd like to share it with you. The memory is over forty-five years old and, at least for the moment, it's as clear to me as it was while I was living it as a small-town teenage boy.
I'm nearly 58 years old and still find myself occasionally standing in the loneliest corner of the ballpark - right field.
The casual observer might think that nothing has changed. It's still the case that fewer balls are hit to right field. If you're the kid in right, you spend more time counting the dandilions than chasing down fly balls.
But this weekend, a little time in right field was a time for me to reflect.
Rod Brooks (that's me) is VP & CMO of PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). It's important to disclose both of those relationships and to be clear that this is my personal blog where I share thoughts and opinions that are solely my own.Contact me!