Every time I would talk with my father-in-law, he would always speak the same 5 words before we finished our time together: Kiss the kids for me.
As he approached the final days of his life last week, those words were uttered each time we visited him. My words below are a dedication to the man that I’m proud to have called my Father.
A Fathers Love
I’ve learned so much from Victor Savic. He’s modeled the way for me in many ways. A father first, he spent his entire life devoted to providing for his two daughters and wife. He worked tirelessly at various jobs in the food science and baking industry. Like a loaf of bread rising in the oven, he met each morning with a smile and positive attitude that lifted up everyone around him.
Life In The “Old Country”
Born in a small village of the former Yugoslavia, Victor learned first hand what it meant to live off of the land. He came from nothing. He told me once that his family would sleep in the fields a mile from the village so they could begin harvesting right when they woke up as opposed to wasting time getting ready at home. His first job was to ‘watch the cows’ when he was 10 years old. He once dug a football field worth of land 3 feet deep in preparation for a vineyard. He dug it in a single summer all by himself. Odd jobs aside, he used these experiences as building blocks to climb his way out of the life he knew. He was the first person in his entire village to go to college in the US. I can only imagine the amount of courage it must have taken him to pave this pathway.
A Master Storyteller
We built our friendship out of spending good old fashion time together. Before our kids were born, I used to go visit him on Saturday mornings with coffee & bagels. He would slide on his black rubber sandals, grab his cigarettes from the garage, and head out to go sit on the back porch patio. I would follow behind him after hitting play on the 6-Disc CD player that was packed with Serbian music. Although I never understood the lyrics, it brought me closer to him and the beautiful culture that he and my mother-in-law came from. The morning sun would shine down as we both enjoyed hot coffee and plain bagels with cream cheese.
I’d listen to his stories for what seemed to be hours on end. It didn’t take me long to realize just how smart he was. Wired with a photographic memory and a passion for history, he was able to share life perspective from just about any corner of the world. His stories would often start with an exact date, It was June 30th, 1972…It boggles my mind the way his mind would work. Although his brain was full of facts, his heart was built from solid gold.
Do You Need Anything?
His love came through every time we’d talk. I’d greet him with a big hug & kiss while his thick gray hair and big nose would press against my face. 🙂 He would always look me in the eye and ask me the same set of tender questions:
How are you?
How are the kids?
Do you need anything?
All he wanted to do was help. He helped us every time he entered our house, often bringing fresh pita that Nana had cooked and chocolates for the kids. His love was as sincere as the moment he handed over his daughter to me at the altar. His ability to make you feel protected and cared for was proof that the image of God was being reflected from his spirit.
One More Vacation
Days after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis we were able to book a family vacation at my cousins cottage. We spent as much time with the family as we could. On one of our last days, a wonderful neighbor offered to take us on a boat ride around the lake. Victor mustered up the energy to walk down the steep steps and the long dock into the pontoon boat. With the summer breeze blowing upon our faces, our smiles shined extra bright as we putzed along the lake soaking in every moment.
After a long month in the hospital, we were able to find a way to bring him home into hospice care for his final days. This was such a blessing as all he wanted was to be in his family room with the 40+ years of memories that existed within the walls that surrounded him. Even in his state of illness, he maintained such a positive attitude. His resilience and desire to focus on everyone else was evident. We even had the chance to gather around him and sing happy birthday to our son. Being at home with his kids and grandkids was the center of his universe.
The Final Night
On the eve before he passed away, we had the chance to gather around his bedside to say our final goodbyes. His eyes were open, his body laid still, and he was unable to speak. His favorite Serbian music played in the background as we wept over him.
I held his hand tightly thanking him for all that he had giving us when all of a sudden, he lifted his hand up and held my face in the same manner he did with each of the grandchildren. As tears flowed out of my eyes and onto his hand, I knew that he was saying goodbye and reminding me one last time to, Kiss The Kids For Me.
“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.”
My friend Shawn is extraordinarily creative. His imagination allows him to create just about anything you can think of. Recently, we built a chalkboard sign to hang on my kids wooden playhouse.
Proud To Share
I came home from Shawn’s excited to show my wife the sign we built and my vision for it. I eagerly took it outside to find the best place to mount it on the playhouse. However, I quickly learned that no matter where I placed the sign, it was going to disrupt the way our kids run around the house. I feared my daughter would hit her face on it as she often was being chased by her older brother. I needed a new plan on how to use the sign.
I had another idea on where to mount it. This idea was more for my wife and I then it was for the kids. Let me explain…
We have this incredible 60 year old tree that anchors our backyard. Every morning I go in the yard with our two dogs and walk barefoot over to this giant tree and greet it with a morning stretch. I often wonder what this wise old tree is saying back to me. As I thought about the idea of a talking tree, I realized that this tree would be a great place to mount the sign! Especially since we look directly at it when standing in our kitchen.
My thought was to write verses on it to memorize & inspire us. I explained this idea to my wife, which she loved, but I could tell she was eager to evolve my thinking.
“ONE WORD!” She said out loud.
“One word a week to ignite a fire in our bellies & inspire our day.”
I smiled at her and thought, one word it is 🙂
Our First Word
I still needed to paint the sign and get some long screws to mount it to the tree. My building adventure continued as I ran to the hardware store to finish the job. When I returned, I began to sense that I was spending a little too much time on this project. I hurried up and painted the sign to complete the task at hand.
As I walked inside the house, I could see the kids were losing steam for the day, dinner wasn’t ready, and the excitement of the sign project was fading fast into the sunset.
My wife and I began to bicker about something petty and it led to one of those arguments when you can’t even recall what you are arguing over. I think we were both just feeling tired & ‘hangry’!
As we found our way into bed, we said our prayers and drifted off to sleep as I knew tomorrow would bring about an apology and a fresh start.
The next morning, I woke up to let the dogs out and walked over to the tree. With an extra pep in my step, I proudly stretched up and saw the sign.
And there it was!
The first word.
Choice I thought?
What the heck does this mean? This doesn’t feel overly inspiring. Heck, it kinda upsets me!
I smiled thinking about our argument and reflected on the first word my wife had chose to write. I’m pretty sure she was reminding me that I have a ‘choice’ on how I speak to her 🙂
I spent a lot of time that week reflecting on this simple, yet powerful word.
We All Have Choices
Choices on the words we use.
Choices on how we spend our time.
Choices on who we choose to pour our energy into.
It’s amazing how a single word can have such an impact on how we feel & act. It can lift us, inspire us, deflate us, and even change our world.
As you begin your day, take some time to reflect on the words you speak and the signs all around you. They are often lessons to be used for guidance and growth. And if you are feeling stuck or down on your luck, then you can always just build one!
Here are a few more of the words that have spoken to us this month. May they speak power into you!
“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when your riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” — Bob Marley
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A man of many interests and a wellspring of energy, Skidmore Studio’s Mark Ostach is on a mission to motivate people to become the best possible version of themselves. Mark holds degrees in economics, psychology, technology, and even had a short stint at massage therapy school. He is determined to remind the world that human connection is the most powerful connection we have.
Every time I need to cry I call my mom.
I’m not sure exactly why, but it works like a charm.
Tears of Joy and Sorrow
Yesterday my parents and brother joined my family at Christmas service at Kensington Church. As I sat between my mom and my wife I could feel the tears begin to swell.
While holding my mom’s hand I could feel her healing touch and the bond that exits between a mother and son. Our bond is particularly special. In an instant I felt a download of emotions from every Christmas service we’ve attended together for nearly four decades.
As I held my wife’s hand, I could feel the love that exists between us as we try our best to hold down the fort with two toddlers at home. My hand laid upon hers as I felt the rings on her finger, reminding me of our wedding day and the birth of our children.
The hands of these two women created a connection that words cannot describe. Only through tears could I express how I felt.
There was so much to be thankful for in this moment, yet so much emotion in a room full of people just like you and I.
Reflecting In The Light
I turned to my mom as she wiped away tears from her check.
I just got done doing the same to mine.
My tears were those of appreciation for the life that God has provided me with.
Yet as of late, I’ve let the frustrations of life damper the light that shines within.
I’ve been insensitive to my wife (a lot).
Short-tempered with my children.
And been feeling rather downcast.
Maybe it’s seasonal depression?
Maybe it’s because I’m tired?
Or maybe it’s because those closest to me are going through difficult times of divorce, disease, and discouragement.
As an EMPATH (a personality type that over empathizes for others), I have the tendency to take on the weight of the world. Sometimes it fills me up and allows me to give to others and not just focus on myself. Other times, I get overwhelmed with emotions making it hard to sort through the feelings on my heart.
I was reminded today that it’s not on me to fix or heal other people’s situations. I can only shine the light that exists within me and hope this brings peace and healing.
Let There Be Light!
These four words hold so much.
They were the first words God spoke into the world.
Light was the first thing each of us experienced when entering into the world.
And light was even present at the exact moment each of us was conceived!
Seeing Life In A New Light
Scientist recently discovered that at the exact moment a sperm penetrates an egg, the egg release billions of zinc atoms that emit light.
This means that sparks literally fly at the moment of conception! How amazing is this?!? As you sit with this thought, it points to the significance that light has on our existence. It’s the source of so many things.
The Source of Vision
Without light, we can’t see a thing.
This holds true physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
As we sang together at the end of church I could literally see hundreds of candles lighting up the room.
It was giving light to the darkness in our hearts and allowing us to see the power that comes from a single light that spreads to others.
My Hope For You
Take time to be with the light that shines within you.
Reflect on the things that may be covering it up.
Grab a candle, put on some music, and light up the room that you are in. Even if you are by yourself.
And know that the greatest source of light is looking for a crack in the door of your heart to shine through!
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
I’m currently reading the book Whisper: How To Hear The Voice of God, By Mark Batterson. Like all of Mark’s books, he has the ability to make the pages come to life and inspire you to dig into your spiritual health.
Taking care of children may be the hardest job on earth.
I’ve had the chance to spend some solo dad time with our kids as my wife headed out for various photoshoots (she’s a gifted photographer). The day would start off with smiles and laughs (as shown above).
But as the morning went on, I found my sanity melting away as each hour that passed felt like an entire day!
Between nap schedules, making bottles, temper tantrums, soiled bed sheets, and amazon prime deliveries (which always come at nap time #doorbell #dogs-barking) I felt like I was going insane.
During any moments of downtime, I found myself turning to my phone to catch a glimpse into the outside world. It went beyond checking social media and email. I found myself checking Slack, Skidmore’s internal messaging system for project updates, lunchtime banter, and random gifs that made there way into the rhythm of the work day. Anything that gave me a sense of connection!
Facebook, Instagram, & The Obituaries?
Although a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram appears to fill the social void of adult interaction, it often leads to feelings of envy and increased loneliness.
I recently asked my mom for perspective on what she would do when feeling exhausted and overdue for some social connection while raising 4 kids in the 1980’s. Her response was telling.
She would reach for the newspaper and read the obituaries.
Yes. The obituaries!
She went on to say that it made her feel better because she knew that she was alive — even if she was juggling the needs of 3 toddlers and a baby!
At first I found this strange.
But then I quickly realized it’s really no different than what motivates us to check our phone.
We crave connection.
We seek attention.
We need human interaction.
We were designed for real relationships.
But it’s not just stay-at-home parents that can feel lonely.
The corporate workplace is also showing signs of loneliness.
So Why Are We So Lonely?
Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT and author of Alone Together says it best:
“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere.”
Another great example of Turkel’s work can be seen in this video “The Innovation of Loneliness”
Ways to Combat Loneliness
Although checking the obituaries seems like an odd way to combat loneliness, the act of picking up the paper and reading the the death notices probably takes a sum total of 5 minutes.
In today’s scrollable world, it’s easy to spend countless hours hoping to find meaningful connection in our day. And the more we scroll, the less likely we are to find time to be in relationship with those around us.
Deep down inside I know there is a way for us to truly find connection beyond our screens.
Here are a few suggestions to combat loneliness:
- Seek involvement in community (join a small group, engage in mentorship, start volunteering)
- Take a mental health day off work
- Skip the email or text — Call a friend!
- Find someone to talk too (a therapist, friend/family, co-worker, etc.)
Whichever ways you choose to combat loneliness, there’s a good chance it will have a positive impact on you and on someone else — which is a great way to start making a shift in the loneliness epidemic.
And for those parents out there, be present with your children and put down the phone — especially while changing diapers!
Are You Devoted to Facebook?
According to the Webster Dictionary, devotion is defined as:
1) Passionate, often selfless affection and dedication, as to a person or principle.
2) An act of religious observance or prayer, especially while in private.
Personally, I view devotion as the intersection of my intention and energy utilization throughout the day. Where are my thoughts pointed? How do my feelings drive my actions? How does my TODO list impact my ability to be interruptible?
A little while back I was given great words of advice from my dear friend and therapist, Suzy. She shared a mental exercise to help me become more aware of how I devote my energy each day and today I’d like to share it with you.
The Energy Unit Metaphor
Imagine you have 100 units of energy to spend in any given day.
Let’s say you wake up late — (boom 15 units off your day).
You find yourself running behind, skipping breakfast, and feeding your mind with fear based thoughts rather than oatmeal and a green smoothie (minus 10 units).
You hop into your car and race off to work (minus 10 units). While stopped at a red light, you check your email (I know YOU wouldn’t do this) and discover a nasty email from your boss (minus 20 units).
As you continue your commute you find yourself at a standstill on the highway (minus 20 units).
You decided to check Facebook “real quick” and reveal that your ex-girlfriend is “now in a relationship” with you old best friend (minus 30 units).
Before you’ve even arrived to the office, your already out of energy units! What happens next, seems to be the new norm.
You become “so busy” as your scurry throughout the remainder of the day. This results in a lack of margin to allow for the unexpected things that always seem to pop up (i.e. your child is sick at school, your friend needs a favor, etc.). Being low on energy units can zap your ability to be useful when responding to these spontaneous pokes for your attention. Richard Swenson, author of Margin has this to say:
Being useful to God and other people is a large part of what life is meant to be. And yet “usefulness is nine-tenths availability”. When others need help, they don’t need it two days from now. “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, answer this question:
Are you interruptible?
How are you spending your interruptions?
I don’t know about you, but I’m most interrupted by the Internet, especially Facebook.
FACEBOOK TIME ALLOCATION
According to Neilson Research, the average Facebook user spends 8 hours a month (or 15 minutes a day) connected to Facebook. This number doubled from 2010. If the amount of time continues to grow, Facebook could consume 96 hours a month of one’s time and energy! Talk about devotion! This can really jeopardize your time alone and your ability to allocate time where you need to most.
“FACEBOOK IS LIKE A FRIDGE. YOU KNOW THERE’S NOTHING NEW INSIDE BUT YOU CHECK IT EVERY TEN MINUTES.”
Ignoring the extreme time projections above, let’s just look at the average user spending 15 mins a day. What else could you do with an extra 15 mins each day? Here are ten suggestions:
- Meditate — Check out Headspace
- Read a book
- Reflect in Scripture
- Make love
- Call an old friend
- Go on a walk
- Give your significant other a back rub
- Write in a journal
Let’s face it, these items yield more joy in life than a time spent allocated to Facebook.
WHAT ARE YOU DEVOTED TO?
Before you find yourself saying “I’m not devoted to Facebook”, ask yourself if you can relate to any of these other digital devotions:
- Video Game Benders
- Nextflix Marathons
- Taking the Perfect Selfie
- Chronic Pornography Use
- Compulsive Phone Checking
- Capturing every ‘moment’ through Instagram
The point is, our time is precious.
Where we devote our time often produces the sweetest fruits of our crop.
Bringing it back to the mental exercise on energy units, if you find yourself spending more units that you have, you’ll end up over drafting. This haphazard spending can put you in emotional, physical, and spiritual debt. Leaving you no time to devote toward rest and relaxation.