Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Words of Wisdom

I'm reading the book "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch.  It's about a man dying of pancreatic cancer.  As I'm reading he reflects on life lessons.  Here are two lessons from one chapter that particularly struck me:

One was about his youth football coach:

"Coach Graham used to ride me hard.  I remember one practice in particular.  "You're doing it all wrong, Pausch.  Go back!  Do it again!"  I tried to do what he wanted.  It wasn't enough.  "You owe me, Pausch!  You're doing push-ups after practice."  When I was finally dismissed, one the assistant coaches came over to reassure me.   "Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn't he?"  he said.  I could barely muster a "yeah."  "That's a good thing," the assistant told me.  "When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you."  

This is a different look into criticism and how we take it.  I often think it's because someone doesn't believe in me, but is a great perspective.  

The second quote: 

"There's a lot of talk these days about giving children self-esteem.  It's not something you can give; it's something they have to build.  Coach Graham worked in a no-coddling zone.  Self-esteem?  He knew there was really only one way to teach kids how to develop it: You give them something they can't do, they work hard until they find they an do it, and you just keep repeating the process."  

I like this.  This is why we want our kids to be good at something.  It is important for them to know they are loved beyond "doing" anything, but once a kid takes off at something, it can really build confidence.  I remember learning the Rachmaninoff "Prelude in C# Minor" for my Senior Piano Recital.  I honestly didn't think I could do it.  But, after MUCH practice and hard work, I was able to get it down.  I remember thinking, "if I can do this, I can do anything!"  

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Dad: A Tribute

There are a few things you only do once in your life.  On Wednesday I did one of those - I buried my dad, Robert (Bob) Vukmirovich.  Many friends and family gathered to pay tribute to a very special man.  On Tuesday night, after a short Eastern Orthodox memorial service (my parents are Serbian Orthodox), I had the chance to talk about my dad.  Though it was hard to do, I felt like it was something that I NEEDED to do.  With my mother, wife, children, friends and family watching, I spoke of dad.  This is basically what I said:

So many people over the past few days have told me how kind and patient my dad was.  I thought about how they perceived these character traits.  What it really came down to for me was that my dad was FULLY PRESENT wherever he was.  If he was talking with you, he would put aside distractions and really focus on you.  This was often in contrast to my mom and I who are frequently known to say things like "there's a bird!" during conversations.  My dad gave of himself to you, enjoying the moment.  A particular example of this was when he and my daughters would play "the quiet game" while they traveled in the car.  Who could be quiet for the longest was the goal.  My dad, (they call him Deh-da - the Serbian word for grandpa) would usually let the kids win as all grandparents should.  On one particular playing "the quiet game", Deda "lost" by saying "I love rainbows!" - one of those random, kind of out-there statements.  If you saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory think "I love grapes!"  So this phrase began to be adopted by our family as a message of being in the moment.  You'll hear my kids every once in a while say "I love rainbows!"  A great way to remember Deda.

My dad also had an incredible desire for touch.  It would have been one of his top Love Languages - a book by Gary Chapman.  This was true every time we got together.  I wouldn't just give him a quick "hey there" hug.  No, these hugs were the real deal.  It was intentional touch time.  I remember one time when I was very young.  Waiting for Christmas Eve guests to arrive.  Now our family is Serbian.  And Serbian time runs anywhere from 15-45 minutes behind the rest of the world.  So I was waiting for cousins to come open presents.  I was getting tired too from all the excitement.  So, I cuddled up to my dad in our sweet Avocado green La-z-boy recliner.  This was the type with the smooth, kind of pleather finish.  Bring on the 70's baby!  So we squeezed in the chair together and we both took a little nap.  I felt safe in the lap of my daddy.  So I rested.  I think that's kind of what my dad just went through.  He was tired, so he crawled up into the lap of his heavenly daddy and is now at rest after a long and tiring journey.  

So that's what I said.  Much more could have been said, but I wanted dad to be honored by brevity.  He would have liked that.  More smiles about his life than tears about his death.  I think that's the way I want to go out.  

I thought I'd finish by letting people know some things about my dad:
- he loved tech toys - we had the first "portable" VCR (11 lbs) on our street 
- he loved model trains - we used make a track that would go around the entire basement
- he loved to sing - a church choir member and director for over 50 years
- he was a chemist - 41 years at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit
- he loved crossword puzzles - everyday Detroit Free Press, New York Times on the weekends
- he loved gardening - especially flowers
- he hated eggs - any kind, prepared any way - even in this last hospital stay he asked "no eggs"
- he had the driest sense of humor - many a groan at his jokes
- he never had an unkind word to say about anyone
- he adored my mom - in his last years he called her "his hero"
- he was my biggest cheerleader (before my wife) - his words were always "you can do it!"
- he was enamored by his grandaughters - always on his mind and heart
- he was a man who was well loved
- he was a man who loved well (for this I am forever grateful)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Baptism: A Dad's Perspective

Just had to put these up.  It was a sacred honor and privilege to baptize both of my girls.  This was a next step in their growing faith in Christ.  We've seen their growth as they pray, as they serve, as they share their faith.  This was the year.  On Sunday, both of my girls drove a stake in the ground to remember the covenant they made before God and many people - to love, follow and serve Christ all their days.  It was, as I said before, a day to remember.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Day to Remember

Yesterday was one of those days.  If you saw the movie, "Groundhog Day", it was one of those I would feel great about repeating.  

Quick rundown of the day:
  • Slept in.  (Bonus: kids slept in!)
  • Coffee mix was just right
  • Read Bible and praised God for some amazing things the day prior
  • Took a shower/shaved my head - NO CUTS
  • Prayed with Lisa and my girls for the upcoming baptisms
  • Came to church during the 9:30 service and there was ONE PARKING SPOT available!
  • Baptized a whole group of people with Dr. Bob, including my new neighbor Marcie Herman 
  • Between baptisms, hung out with my brother, Jason Miller.  I always walk away closer to Jesus after hanging with him.
  • Completely overwhelmed by the attendance at the 11:30 service and was brought to tears as almost half the crowd came forward to receive Christ. 427 at that service alone!
  • Baptized John Nace.  A special guy with a special story.
  • Felt so loved by our church family and friends who came to watch Anna and Sophie be baptized!  Our friends the Geschkes and Longcors (who came from Goshen) were cool surprises!  
  • Baptized Anna.  I couldn't even get the first words out.  Seeing my wife in the pool and Dr. Bob.  After catching my breath, I was able to finish.  I saw a radiant young woman of God emerge from the waters.
  • Baptized Sophie.  Her sweet, calm responses to the 3 questions about her commitment to Christ.  Then as we lifted her from the waters, hearing the crowd around us cheer.  That was great!
  • Gave each of the kids a cross necklace to commemorate the day.  And they were fully grateful!  
  • Went to Logan's after church and had a great steak, baked potato, and the ROLLS, baby!  Our server, Kaitlyn, was top notch as well.
  • Hung out on the bench outside of Walmart with my brother, Corey Mann.  Great to catch up and hear his heart.
  • Got home and a slew of little girls were hanging out around our house.  Lauren Baker and Sophie got heavily into dressup.  No fights between anyone!  
  • Kids off to bed.
  • Watered our plants outside.  Always a time for reflection on the day for me.  Good time with God.
  • Spent some great time with Lisa
It was a great day.  One of the best in recent history for me.  God is good.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Holding Steady

Thanks for everyone's prayers. My dad is holding steady. Fairly lucid - He asked for Diet Coke :). Yesterday the doctors were telling us that we had hours. Today they are telling us weeks. We are now asking what is next. This is where we will need a great deal of wisdom. Thanks for anyone who would lift up a prayer on behalf of our family.