Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Uncle Justin Lectures on Being a Man #3 - Gentleness

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  As your uncle I am charged with certain aspects of your character development and (with full permission of your parents, of course)  I would like to continue our little chat series on what makes a good man.  We've spoken of courage and moderation and I've had your rapt attention, specifically because you're little and cannot, as of yet, run, walk or crawl away.
Gentleness is what we're going to talk about today Nephew.  As a man you've won the gender lottery when it comes to raw physical strength and musculature.  You are going to grow up and someday have your own home and family.  There's a good chance, as a man, that you're going to be the tallest and strongest member of your household.  This is the case in my family.  In this type of situation there are men who become the worst sort of tyrants by using that strength to hurt, bully, torment and "rule" their loved ones.  It takes no effort to physically hurt someone who's smaller than you, Leif.  There is no worry of this weaker person hurting you back.  In your life you will run across a lot of cowardly men who seem to thrive on the abuse of those that are weaker.  Put a pair of gloves on them and place them against someone their own size? You'll see them cower and whimper like the weaklings they are.  That may seem a little strongly worded, but I have little patience for abuse of this kind.  The choice to abuse your strength would be the choice to raise your children with fear, not love.  Fear can be conquered.  Love cannot.
To be gentle is to show your strength, for the aforementioned reason that you don't have too.  It is one of my deepest hopes and prayers for you that you grow into a man that uses your strength to provide a home where the ones you love rely on that strength to provide them with a sense of security and safety. 
In your gentleness, they will see God.

I love you buddy - Uncle Justin

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bedtime Story Nephew: The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse - Aesop Fable

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  I hope you're still awake and ready for a bedtime story.  Enjoy, I love you very much.

video


Love - Uncle Justin

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hello Leif

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  It's been a couple days since I wrote you and I hope the past days have been as good for you as they have for me.  I'll be coming up to visit you in less than a week.  I'm very excited to see you in the flesh and speak to a real person rather than a computer screen.  It's more personable.  Elijah, your cousin, and I went fishing for a few hours today.  No luck.  He also went to a birthday party and came back completely muddy, stained and tired.  He had a great time.  I love you buddy,

Love - Uncle Justin

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bedtime Story Leif - Father William by Lewis Carroll

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  I already wrote you tonight but can't let you go to bed without a bedtime story.


video

  Love - Uncle Justin

Getting ready to see you

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  I'm looking forward to seeing you soon.  We're getting the Chevy all cleaned out and ready for a road trip.  We're doing what we usually do here when getting prepared.  Your Aunt Crystal gets ready two weeks before and I usually get my stuff together right before we leave.  I could get my stuff ready earlier, but I'm a creature of habit and unwilling to change this late in the game.
We have a present for you.  Your Aunt Crystal picked it out and I think it's a fine choice.  I can't tell you what it is, but I need to make assurances to your parents up front that it's not alive, combustible or poisonous.
Have a nice evening Nephew.  I love you very much.

Love - Uncle Justin

Monday, June 20, 2011

Family

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  It's a little late and you're probably asleep.  However, I remember some late nights with wide awake babies so I'll write you anyway.  If you're up your parents will have something to read to you. 
Anyway Nephew, Just wanted to remind you that I love you and am proud to be your uncle.  You've got a good family to take care of you and good families stick together.
I don't know how things will be in the future, but we're dealing with some economic difficulties at present.  I hear more and more stories of families condensing or taking care of each other to make ends meet.  This is interesting, especially here in America where we're notorious for needing our 'space'.  Our beauty is in our individualism and self-reliance.  However, there's nothing like a job crisis to make a family start grabbing that helping hand, surrounding the wagons and praying for daylight.  That last sentence mixed a few metaphors, but you get the idea.  Having a strong and supportive family is 90% of life's battle. 
The key here is the word support.  Knowing your bloodline, I can guess that you will be a bit stubborn and strong in your conviction.  That is a good thing.  We are a family of individualists.  One of the best qualities of our family is that we stand on our own two feet.  You will have support if you stumble in life, my boy, but only enough to get you back up and moving again.  Being carried is for squares.  You are going to be stronger than that.
Sleep well Nephew.  I love you very much

Love - Uncle Justin

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hi Leif

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Be good to your father today.  With the exception of the thousands of things he has done for you today, the day is his.  My own son, your cousin Elijah, made me a nice father's day card in church today.  I opened it up and he had spelled my name all on his own without his teacher's help.  I was very proud and so was he.  I asked him what the picture he drew for me was and he said, "It's so cool.  There is a lot of fire and there are people in the fire.  The fire is burning them"!  I looked at the picture for a moment and told him how much I liked it while giving your aunt Crystal a side glance.
No wonder his Sunday School teachers looked at me kind of funny when I picked him up. I assured them that people burning wasn't a usual topic at home.  I don't think they believed me.
No matter.  As his dad I had his back and willingly take the blame.  Maybe when he's older he'll do an art deco on Dante's Inferno.
Have a great father's day Nephew. 

Love - Uncle Justin

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Uncle Justin Lectures On Being A Man #2 - Courage

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Your Aunt Crystal told me I needed to send you a note with a little more meat in it, so I feel another lecture is in order.  As your Uncle I am charged with certain aspects of your character development (with full permission from your parents, of course).  Being a man comes with some very important responsibilities.  Don't worry though Nephew, there are several good things about being a man that balance out those responsibilities.  I'll tell you about those later.  Now, we have some business to attend to.  The issue of courage is at hand and it may be one of the most important things you need to acknowledge and harness.  As a man, Leif, you must be courageous.  An interesting aspect of life is that in order to develop the good parts of one's character you must go though difficulty.  This is distinctly true with courage.  No matter how many times you'll read it in a novel or see it in some play, it is not true that someone has courage.  Courage is a practice.  It is something you do.
The word courage stirs the sinew and brings front images of strength.  It never comes by itself.  Courage always brings along ugly words like fear and pain.  Courage is the measure of your spirit in the midst of fear and pain.  There will be times in your life Leif, and I hope they are few, were you will be afraid.  Fear is not always a bad thing.  Fear keeps you safe.  It basically regulates stupidity.  Fear is something that tells you if you jump off your house it won't work out well for you.  Listen to it.  The problem is that too many people use fear as a commander, when they should use it as a consultant.  Fear should never get in the way of sound judgement.  There are many men, Nephew, that never get over being embarrassed when fear takes over.  For example, you don't drop a baby to swat a spider off your leg.  You should always be prepared to take the adrenaline rush of fear and use it to steel your nerve and fuel your decision to stand up for what's right.
Pain is also another source that brings courage.  Our bodies are wired to avoid pain, but sometimes having courage mean taking a little pain in the name of what's good and right.  I won't beleaguer this point with you Leif.  There is much time for it when you get older.
As a man you must be courageous in the face of fear.  Protect those you love when they are threatened.   Stand up for what's right and true.  It is moving forward when all those around you retreat.  It is standing up when all other's cower.  You are an American, Nephew.  In this country, we stand.

Love - Uncle Justin

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good Night Leif

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  We had a nice evening as it's Thursday and that means the municipal band concert down at the park.  The weather was cooler than normal and we go to spend some nice time with friends, eat good food, listen to music, enjoy tradition and catch the fireflies (I was corrected as they call them lightning bugs down here) that dotted the night sky.  I think you would have enjoyed it and we would have enjoyed having you with us.  Things are always much more fun when children are around.  Talk to you soon Nephew.  Good night.

love - Uncle Justin

Thursday

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Thought I was lost didn’t you?  It’s been a pretty busy week up here for me, and sometimes priorities get messed up when things start coming at you pretty fast.  Namely making sure I spend some time speaking with you.  So anyway, hi Nephew.  I’ve been thinking that things by you must seem pretty nice.  You’re probably thinking “Man this place is nice!  It’s warm, balmy even”.  Boy those Wisconsin winters have some surprises for you in about four months.  I’m going to come see you at Christmas and only be able to see your tiny head underneath a pile of blankets.  Just a little guy wrapped up so tight and warm he can’t help but sleep.  In a few short years those winters are going to bring you a lot of fun.  Your parents know all the great snow hills, Smores by the fire, snowball fights, building snow forts and watching the Packers in the playoffs. 
What more could a boy ask for?  Maybe some heat.  I remember as a kid pushing the cat out of the way so I could lay by the heater.  If you ever find yourself cursing the winters in Wisconsin, just bring yourself down here in Missouri for a little visit in August.  You’ll be begging for the cold.
Take care buddy.  I love you very much.
Love – Uncle Justin

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Today is for thunderstorms here in Missouri.  We need it.  The summer sun and heat beats down on all things living.  The cool breeze and rain are a blessing.  Saw a rainbow yesterday.  It was full color and held a perfect arc across the horizon.  The weekend was a good one.  We went to the lake with some friends, swam in the waters, threw a football around and soaked up a little too much sun.
I was able to enjoy breakfast at my leisure this morning and finish reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  A timeless story that I'm sure will enchant you when you're old enough to read it.  Have a great day Nephew.  I love you very much.

Love - Uncle Justin

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Uncle Justin Lectures on Being a Man - Lesson #1 - Moderation

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  As your uncle I get the privilege of teaching you things and assisting in the monumental task of making a man out of you.
Don't worry little guy - I know you're still very small, but we have a lot to go over and I want to make sure we get all the ground rules for being a good man down on paper. I think the issue of moderation is a good one to start with Nephew, especially since you're an American and as a country we have issue with moderating anything.
There are many things in life that are good and that will give you great joy and pleasure.  However, nothing is free in this world Leif, there are costs to pay.  Life's pleasures are meant for your enjoyment, but you must have the discipline to moderate your submission to anything that takes away your control.  As a man, Nephew, you must be in control.  Somebody or something having control over you is unacceptable.  I don't want to be confused on this point here Leif.  Submission to God or to your spouse is a must and is good.  I mean control as in creating your own demons by allowing yourself to be lost because you gave power to a physical pleasure that dominates, destroys or changes you in some way that you would have never allowed if under your own disciplined influence.
The issue of disciplining yourself in the moderation of life's physical pleasures is a daunting task, but if you want to be a good man, it's something you must do.  This is not the best news, I know, but the payoff is worth it.  Unless you get self-righteous about it.  Then we would have to have another talk.
Do we have to moderate everything?  Is moderating always good?  The answers to both those questions is a fast no.  As a man you must be decisive, strong willed and ready to take a stand.  You must moderate life's pleasures so that they do not take you over, but you must never moderate your courage or dignity.  Here's a quote from Dan Millman's Way of the Peaceful Warrior:
"Moderation? It's mediocrity, fear, and confusion in disguise. It's the devil's dilemma. It's neither doing nor not doing. It's the wobbling compromise that makes no one happy. Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation...is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew".
I don't want to be confused on the point Nephew, I don't want you to be a brash, loudmouth, unyielding, blustering buffoon.  Then we would have to have another talk.  But, I want you to be a man of decision.  One that stands up for what's right.  A man either does the right thing or does not, no wavering or waffling.  There are a lot of people you're going to run across in your life who'll try and muddy your sense of right and wrong.   Follow your gut Nephew, stand by your principals and kindly shrug them off, for they would be more than happy to see you jump on your own sword. 
Wordy tonight - sorry about that Leif, but that is the way lectures usually are.  I love you very much and can't wait to see you.

Sleep Well,
Love - Uncle Justin.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekend Time Leif

Hi Leif

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Enjoy your first weekend on earth.  I hope it lives up to your standards.
Things are fairly simple for you now Nephew.  Your wants, needs and emotions are so pure it’s a beautiful thing to see.  Being young as you are your needs revolve simply around comfort, hunger and safety.  You’re either feeling safe or you’re not, hungry or not, comfortable or not.  The older you get, so will the complexities of your needs grow and this is a good thing.  Complex people are more interesting.
I have my own boy, your cousin Elijah, and the speed at which these changes occur steals my breath.  You’ll find, Nephew, that everything beautiful is also fleeting – but that is not a bad thing and I don’t want to be confused on this point, it’s rather important.
When my boy changes, whether be it from crawling to walking, babbling changing into words or soft baby features becoming hard lines and muscle, I feel a tinge of sadness at the loss but this is enshrouded by a torrent of wonder, love and awe at the continuing growth of my little boy into a man.  Yesterday I was playing with him in the pool and was struck dumb for a moment when I noticed his feet had become longer.  Who notices that?  Anyway, Leif, I digress – get used to adults doing that.  We mean well.
I’ll be thinking of you.

Love – Uncle Justin

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Walk

Hi Leif,

I would like to sing you a lullaby.  I used to sing this to my own boy when he was a baby and it put him right out.  I will try to do Anselmo credit.


video




Love - Uncle Justin

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Greatest Thing A Man Can Do

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Your getting to be a right old man! You've got a couple days in the bank, things are looking good.  I'm doing pretty well myself.  Went to work.  The usual thing.  Got a little caught in the drudgery of the usual thing, but that's okay.  For, in doing the usual thing, I have done the greatest thing.  Lucky for you I am your uncle so you have full permission to bask in the glow of my greatness. 
Seriously though Leif, this did bring up something that I wanted to speak with you about (with full permission from your parents, of course).  Leif I want to let you know that you too can do the greatest thing.  This will be difficult, but I have faith enough in your gene pool that I'm at least sure you'll come around to making the right choice in your own time.  Here you go my boy:
The most important thing in life (and thereby the most difficult) is faithfully doing the mundane day to day things to your best of your abilities.  The greatest men on earth quietly went to work day in and day out, took out the trash, played with their children, took time with their spouse and time for God.  Men tend to be a bit of a selfish animal, Leif, it takes a real one to stick to their families and responsibilities.  It is my greatest hope that you will turn into a man of moral virtue, courage and fortitude.  Thirty years from now when your alarm (I really wanted to type 'bell' there.  Can we still say 'alarm bell'?) anyway when the whatever goes off that tells you that a new day is here and it's time to get up, you'll be a man that can be counted on to take care of business.
If not, don't worry about it, I'll be there to wake you up.  Social security will be so messed up by then that each of us old folks will probably be assigned a youngster whose work output pays a direct percentage into our monthly checks.  I put dibs on you.

Love - Uncle Justin

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuesday

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Also, that your first day out in the open went well.  Mine was pretty interesting.  I'm sure you had the better of things since absolutely everything is new to you.  I look at my foot and I think "There's my dang foot I've been looking at for the last 30,000 odd days".  You see yours and it's like "WOW!  What is that thing! It moves!  I'm going to try and gum it a bit" - you get the idea.  When you get my age you're only merited a couple surprises a day.  You find more if you look for them and less if you don't.  That will be up to you. 
There's not much to tell you today.  Tuesday are usually like that.  Just wanted to drop you a note and tell you the world seems a little nicer having you a part of it. 

Love - Uncle Justin

Monday, June 6, 2011

Safe and Sound

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  It was nice of you to finally make your appearance, the labor lasting over a day.  You're lucky you're so handsome that you make up for the hard time you gave your mom.  Don't let it bother you my boy.  You were very much worth waiting for. 
However, Leif, I am your Uncle.  That gives me carte blanche (with approval from you parents, of course) for lectures on life and I find this an opportune time for a few words on the subject of miracles.

The first part is easy.
You are a miracle Leif.

God had a plan since the world was made to create you and that you would be born this day, at this time, in this place and to this family.  I think we're a pretty good family but you can make your own mind up to whether that plan was a blessing or a curse, but I digress.  The point Leif is that I never want you to make the mistake of looking to your birth and seeing so many machines and doctors and missing the fact that this whole beautiful thing doesn't just happen.  It's something special.  You are special and I love you very much. 

Love - Uncle Justin

Good Morning Leif

jHi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  Nephew, you're making us all wait a bit for you to arrive.  That's okay.  You have a captive audience and it's good to keep the suspense up.  Just don't wait too long.  We would like to see you.
I await the call that tells me you made it into this world safe and well.  I'm going into work now.
Talk to you later.

Love - Uncle Justin

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welcome to the World Leif!

Hi Leif,

I hope this note finds you well and happy.  I'm your Uncle Justin.  Let me tell you how happy I am that you are finally born and I bid you a hearty welcome to the world.  As your Uncle I look forward to teaching you lots of things, mostly things your parents will not.  That is what Uncles are for.  I have several.  I know.
I have several Nephews and enjoy my time with them very much, but you my boy are the first born into my family.  I don't like to play favorites but I feel something very singular in my heart for you.  You are a special guy.
The world has a lot of great things in store for you, but for now all you have to do is rest and be loved.  There are a lot of people who love you Leif.
I am so happy you are here.

Love - Uncle Justin