The Birdhouse Project

Aberrant

Aberrant is defined as:  departing from the right, normal, or usual course. 2. deviating from the ordinary, usual, or normal type; exceptional; abnormal.

Am I exceptional or abnormal?  I've asked myself this very question many times since Blake's death or after the experience of my second divorce.  In one breath, living in my car to gather my brain appeared to many as abnormal, yet as I exhale I see the strength in even taking the first step to do such a thing.

In my mind, I'm neither.  I'm simply me.

I never departed from the right, as what I did was never wrong.  It was simply what I needed to do.

Normal is simply a perspective, place upon something.  A judgement by others who have no business.

When I look at my life, the death of my son, two divorces is my course.  I can take no other.

 

This morning Taylor was reading from her ethics book and brought up this word.  It intrigued me, so I wrote about it.  

 

A few simple words...

This morning, I had the opportunity to walk over to the FHSU Memorial Union and speak to a group of middle and high school students who are on campus for a conference.  The title of my 30 minute time to talk was "Live it".  I meandered a bit aimlessly this morning, a general idea of what I was going to say.

I typically don't have a defined path, I guess I just sit and listen prior to speaking.  Yeah, without a doubt my talk will be about life.  Yeah, without a doubt my talk will include death.  To some, the idea of talking about death to a group of 7 thru 12th grades may seem a bit crazy.

As I approached the front of the room to begin talking, the kids were shifting, moving from butt cheek to butt cheek.  Yeah, they were ready to get up and go.  Pencils moving, water bottles rolling, they were just being kids.

A few simple words brought complete silence to the room.  My voice crackled as it always does, tears filled my eyes as they always do.  "My son Blake was killed in a car accident just outside of Hays, KS".  I can't say it without tearing up, the emotions flood my body like gates opening at the Panama Canal.

Not a pencil moved.  Every eye in the room was glued to my next word.  "I don't want to be here, but it's the only way I can keep my sons voice alive" I shared.  The lessons he taught me far to powerful to hoard, to stack within, one upon another.  In time, his death would be wasted.

I was exactly where I needed to be, speaking from the heart.  The message within the voice.  The voice from a broken heart.  The broken heart that will forever mend.  The mending that takes place in changing lives.  The changed lives that create new life.  

The cycle of life begins with me, in this moment of time.  A beginner forever.  Doors never to be sealed, but to be broken down.  "Live it" 

A Message in the LIght

A Message in the LIght

Last evening, I posted a picture of the home I'm restoring.  Yeah, I've posted a lot of pictures over the past months but there was something about this one that spoke so much more then the rest.  It was at night and the porch light was on.

One of the first things I did when I started the renovation of the old beauty was to disconnect the existing power from the home and swing it over to a new entrance and 200 amp main panel.  This meant that the entire home went dark.  

What used to run through the veins ran no more.  Light switches that functioned since 1909 were now useless.  Outlets that gave power, useless.  Places where you dare not put your hands, now safe.  There was a sadness to it, but it had to be done. 

Months have passed, sweat and blood poured into the walls.  Many forks in the road passed. Some decisions seemed logical and some took time to fall into place.  We sat on the porch daily and talked about tomorrow, the next step forward.

Even in the darkness, even in the indecision, I knew the day was going to come where the darkness would be covered in light.  I knew the day would come where the porch would again shine.  Slowly, surely, the day did arrive.As the circuit was energized yesterday afternoon, the switch flipped, yes, the light did shine.  With a smile I instantly knew that I would be back.  I wanted to let the light shine in the darkness.  I wanted to see this light shine at night.  I wanted to see the message in the night.

So that's what I did.  I went home to have dinner and patiently waited.  As darkness settled in, I knew the light was shinning on West 17th.  I couldn't wait so I ventured that direction.  As I approached, I simply couldn't wait.  

Yeah, the old beauty shinned again.  The front door graced in light, the pillers appeared as beams of light.  The message clear.  I never left, patiently I waited for you to bring me new life.  To allow me to shine, to allow me to live again.

The parrallel's to my life's journey.  The darkness, waiting to be covered in life.  The house is me, it's us, we're both arriving home.  It's good to be home, within.  To shine again, the message in the light.  

 

Have you ever...

Have you ever slept in your car while it was raining? I remember driving south out of Washington State I found a nice little spot to park for the night and rain moved in. I laid there looking up at my side windows watching the raindrops run down my window.

The drops would begin as one, partner with another, than another and yet another. A single raindrop, slowly sliding down would gain more and more momentum as it gathered other drops. It would reach a point it was no longer meandering, but on a mission.

Reminds me of my life as I was grieving death and divorce. Now I have momentum, a force, a voice, passion, life. I started slowly, meeting people like Dave, Glen, Mitch, Daryl, Tanya, Darcie, Mary, Max, Alex, Jarred, Taylor, Steve...

I'm a little bit of all these people, yet I'm me, my foot on the center of the universe. It took a long time to see it, but now that I do, it's my obligation to teach it. To speak the truths that I understand, it's my journey, my story to tell for all who've become a part of my life.

A single raindrop on a window, a moment in time when I was looking. I'm glad I was there to witness it, as today I woke to finally understand it.

Be safe and well friends, but more importantly, be yourself. Even if you're the only one dancing on the hill.

Can I become...

I had mentioned in a FB post that Taylor came home last eveing and asked me "is it possible to become a better person and if so, how do you achieve it?"  This was a question posed to her and classmates at the university.  Taylor and I sat and discussed it in detail.  

This is what I believe.  There was a time, not sure exactly when, but there was a time when I would have answered this with an absolute YES.  I was a different person then, not a lesser, just less experienced.

I used to believe that there were some who were better then others, maybe it was because of what they did or what they drove.  Maybe it was their career or because when they wrote it was grammatically correct.  I would say it was how I was socialized to think and I never challenged that way of thinking.

Then divorce, then death, then divorce.  Many miles of reflecting, tears, humbling experiences that have brought me to this moment.  When Taylor asked me that question, I sat looking at here because there is a depth to this that I love.  It made me dig within, this was not a superficial "ketchup or mustard" answer.

No, it's not possible to "be a better person".  Here is why I believe this.  I can't base "better" by comparing myself to others success or failures or what I have beyond my skin.  I can't base "better" on education or experience.  

I'm not a better person then I was ten years ago, ten months ago or ten days ago.  I'm simply still me, more defined with more clarity in my life.  That doesn't make me better then you, my students or the guy sleeping under the bridge.

If I say today I will be more patient so that I'm a better person, does that mean that yesterday when I wasn't patient as I pushed to complete my days goals that I was a bad person?

The question isn't as simple as it seems when you begin thinking beyond the surface.  The point I'm trying to make is that nothing beyond "within" makes you better or worse.  Taking the time to look within and make decisions deeper then "ketchup or mustard" will not make me better, it simply leads me to peace.   

If you're someone who looks at a nice car or a big house or a flashy dress and think, "they're better then me", I want you to know that when you take all the external away you're left equal.  It's not me up here and you down there, it's us.  

Be safe and well my friends, not better or worse, just be yourself.  

99.1 to .01

This has been on my mind all day, so here goes.

Last night I posted an article written by Ashley Davis Bush.  The article is below if you didn't see it. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-davis-bush/dealing-with-grief_b_371...

This really struck home with me, it's not perfect but it's about as close as it can get.  Each point in the article could be summarized in my journey in percentages.  

1.  Grief is a normal reaction. 

I know this to be absolutely true, not only in death but in divorce.  I've said a thousand times that my divorce was actually harder for me then my sons death to get a grip on.  Death is final and divorce is filled with grey.

2.  Grief is hard work.

It's honestly the hardest work I've ever done and I've done some pretty tough stuff in my life.  I restore old homes and have had to eat dirt literally from crawling face down in attics and crawlspace to accomplish my goal.  Slept it off and gone right back to work the next day to do it again.  Resting up from grief is nearly impossible.  It hangs with you, regardless of sleep.

3.  Grief doesn't offer closure.

Closure is simply not possible.  For those of you that think it is, you need to find closure and back your silly ass up because it's not going to happen.  Not because I don't want it, because it's simply something that's not possible.  It's like telling me to pretend it never happened.  If you're in the business helping others and using the word closure, stop.

4.  Grief is life long.

It is in every sense of my being.  It in no way means all I do is sit in my house grasping to pictures or memories sobbing.  Again, it's like telling me it didn't happen.  I've spoken about my sons death or my two divorces many times in workshops, each and every time my heart races, my palms get sweaty and I have a hard time resting up afterward.  Emotions are like petrified wood, different, but very much as real as the day they first lived.  

I also want to touch on the idea that grief gets harder the second year.  It took me a couple months to even begin to realize my son was dead, gone, not coming back.  It took me a couple months to get a grip on the fact that my marriage was over.  It does get harder before it gets easier.  It's not about days, months or years, it climaxs somewhere as we are all different.  

5.  Grievers need to stay connected to the deceased.

This was without a doubt the toughest for me.  How????  Every single time I talk about my son those around me changed the subject.  It leaves a person isolated and left without direction.  The relationship doesn't go away, they have to change and it's up to the griever to figure it out.  Trying to push someone or telling them to disconnect or stay busy, what a joke.  It took me seven years to figure it out.  I really wish that someone would have simply given me the needed space and listened when I needed to just talk.  That's it, not try and solve it for me, just listen.  Have you ever had something that you just couldn't figure out and when you start sharing the problem you begin to answer your own question.  Figuring out this new relationship is no different.  

6.  Grievers are changed forever.

Now I can tell you without a doubt that I didn't go easy.  I kicked and screamed as I slide down the slope into this reality.  I cussed, flailed wildly, everyone was to blame but me.  I was not going down without a fight, but when I hit bottom I made a thud so loud birds across the state park I was in took flight.  Something I discovered was this, if something good changes us for life, why can't tragedy do the same?  The death of my son, divorce, they are a part of who I am.  I'm changed for the better.

7. Grief can choose transcendence.  

Without a doubt, this is exactly what I've done.  I mean this scores a 100%.  I had to find an outlet for my regret.  The things I wished I had done differently or even the things I didn't get to do were eating me like an ameba in my brain.  When I started helping others through The Birdhouse Project, what I'm writing today, listening to others, it's how I transended from sadness to happiness.  This can also transend into negative just as easily, drinking, drugs, lashing out, the emotional reactions in the negative direction are just as powerful.  

 

My final thoughts.  99.9 to .01

I can live each and every one of these to the most positive impactful life changing inspiring choruses in my life 99.01% of the time, but the power that is held within the pain of .01% of my human emotion can bring me crashing to my knees.  I can be empowered and drive by the cemetery and see my sons grave and I want to puke.  I can be empowered and hear a student introduce himself as Blake and wretch my body like a contortionist to keep from bursting into tears just from hearing his name.  

My son lives within me, I see him in everything I do, say and touch.  It's truly heaven on earth, I wouldn't change a thing.  I am 1 through 7, but I'm also Kris, a builder, a teacher, a visionary.  I'm grateful to be home, not in the physical sense, the spiritual one.  Be safe and well, but more importantly, be yourself.

"When I began doing things that seamed insane to other, I was simply seeking my own sanity.  When I arrived, I discoverd my reality".  

Everyday life...

The parallel's from everyday life to grief sometimes hit me like a ton of bricks. In the past few days, I've gone from one life to another. I knew it was coming and the transition has still been difficult. My attention needs to shift yet I'm still swimming in the middle. I can see where I was and where I need to go but I also know that I'm not there yet.

West 17th has been my priority, along with several other things I do. Now, school is that priority and making that shift is hard to do. I can't just shut off West 17th but I see that my mental attention needs to shift or I will not be giving teaching my full attention and that's not acceptable in my book.

Now, the parallel. I see this, I know this, I understand this and yet the transition is difficult. It's no wonder why our bodies and minds fight back when tragedy strikes. It's no wonder we go into scattered and chaotic thinking after something major happens. It's no wonder we don't know what to do, how to do it or when to do it.

The point I'm trying to desperately make this morning is that I know it and still have to force myself to stop and reflect instead of run and react. I'm still learning, I'm still a beginner. Just knowing this doesn't fix it, but it sure makes me feel much more in control.

Be safe and well friends, but more importantly, be yourself.

Physical vs. Mental Tired

This past couple weeks has been a bit crazy and crazy extends for another week, so I'm preparing myself mentally.  The thought of doing this was something I would have NEVER considered or given any attention until after my time in exile.  There is a distinct difference between physical and mental tired and you have to honor both of them in different ways.

I'm an assistant professor at a local university and have had the summer off from teaching, my main focus has been the restoration of West 17th.  Mental work goes into restoration but for the most part, it comes natural to me so the biggest challenge has been the long hot days and the physical toll it takes on my body.  

I've always said that after going to teach The Birdhouse Project I'm a different kind of tired. I don't know that I've made the connection so solid as I did this week.  This week I'm teaching 2 two day sessions to teachers from around Kansas who want to learn more about CAD and CNC machining.  We've been starting at 8 and finishing around 4:30 daily.

After taking a few weeks off from teaching, Monday evening my head was buzzing.  I stepped back from the feeling and reflected on how similar it was to my feeling within after teaching the project.  It's a different kind of tired.  It's not muscles needing blood, it's the neurons in the brain saying, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa".  

When I teach at FHSU or the project, I don't regurgitate information.  I put myself into the moment, I share it the best I can.  If I don't, there's a complete disconnect.  I teach through and feel my past experiences as I share what I know.  At the same time, my mind is completely open to what I don't know and it wants to take in new.  Teaching is about learning, learning is about teaching in my opinion.

So I've had to honor that space.  Understanding that a good nights rest is important, but allowing my mind to shut off is even more important.  Last evening after three full days of teaching and going to West 17th to keep the guys working, I came home and was numb.  Taylor could sense the disconnect I was having and we talked about it, the conversation led me to a much needed neuron destraction.  

I bring this all up because this morning I feel relaxed and refreshed.  I recognized that body was willing to push forward but my mind was saying no, I had to honor that request.  By stepping back from all of it and simply understanding the battle within, I feel as though the brain and muscles have reached a comprimise.  

Understanding is learning, learning is teaching within, teaching within leads to teaching others, teaching others leads to changed behaviors and changed behaviors leads to peace within.  Then the cycle starts all over and we become more and more open inspiring self.  Be safe and well, but more importantly, be yourself.  

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